By Stephanie Schell/Who’s That? editor

While most of Eastern’s community used last weekend by hanging out with friends, going home to catch up with family, doing laundry or having fun with Eastern’s First Weekend activities, Mike Pickrell had a different agenda.Pickrell used his weekend to expedite a passport.

Pickrell has big plans for the upcoming month.

From October 15-26, he will travel to Japan with select members of The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, the all-male, six-time national champion marching band.

Not to discriminate, but the all-male tradition has been passed on since 1948.

The Bugle Corps originated from Boy Scout Troop 111.

They were taught to play instruments by founder Don Warren.

There are all-female and co-ed bugle corps.

Pickrell was introduced to The Bugle Corps at an early age and has dreamed about being a member since he was a child.

The selective group originates from Rosemont, Ill.

More than 600 musicians from all over the world tried to become a member of this diverse and elite group, but only 135 were selected.

“You feel like a rock star,” Pickrell said of The Bugle Corps performances in front of massive crowds. “It’s a great fan base.”

Pickrell said after shows people have asked him for autographs.

Of those 135 men chosen for The Bugle Corps, no one is guaranteed a spot forever. An audition is held every year and everyone must try out.

No one is older than 22; this is the age limit for The Bugle Corps.

That means after this year, the 20-year-old Pickrell has one year left before he is forced to retire.

But before he leaves The Bugle Corps, Pickrell has a journey of a lifetime to take.

He will travel with 80 selected members of The Bugle Corps to teach aspiring musicians in Japan.

The round-trip to Japan, sans passport and spending money, has been coming out of Yamaha’s pocket since the mid- ’80s.

Yamaha is the maker of many products, including horns.

Clinics, performances, parades and educating are a few things that will occupy Pickrell’s time in Japan.

“It’s good public relations for Yamaha; they’re going to sell horns,” Pickrell said.

But he can’t complain. He said paying $180 (for the passport) for 11 days in Japan isn’t bad.

The trip to Japan will not be all-work and no-play.

Pickrell said there are plans for the 80 chosen members to tour the country and get a feel of the culture.

The only thing Pickrell is asking for is a picture on Mt. Fuji.

The journey to Japan has not been a bed of roses for Pickrell.

According to him, the demand comes from trying to play at such a high level.

“It’s 11 minutes of all-out sprinting while playing,” Pickrell said of The Bugle Corps performances. “We illustrate what the music is doing.”

There is a difference in concert band and marching band. A concert band sits and performs, able to sit while playing, may affect the way the music sounds in a positive way.

The Bugle Corps uses this technique with its marching.

Pickrell said national competitors have acknowledged and use The Bugle Corps concert band technique.

Pickrell said they must stay in great shape for the performance to have the affect they seek. They are designated a personal trainer to stay in top-notch shape.

The training would be useless without a balanced diet. Pickrell uses both means to stay healthy and strong.

Pickrell is a junior music education major from Monticello, Ky.

His instrument of choice is the French horn, which he also plays with the Marching Colonels.

Pickrell has been with the Marching Colonels for three years. And just because of the big trip across the Pacific in October, he isn’t putting the Marching Colonels on the back burner.

He thinks highly of the Marching Colonels.

He enjoys the occasional away game, hanging out with the opposing band, the open invitation to all Eastern musicians and getting paid for being an active member.

Pickrell does distinguish the difference between The Bugle Corps and the Marching Colonels.

The Bugle Corps is “competitive.”

The Marching Colonels are “entertainers” and do not compete. Their purpose is to keep crowd spirits high.

Auditions are not held for the Marching Colonels, as they appreciate all talented musicians of any instrument, according to Pickrell.

He suggests anyone interested in becoming a Marching Colonel get in contact with the music department.

“We love non-music majors,” Pickrell said of the Marching Colonels.

Pickrell has his reasons for choosing the French horn.

Being a music education major, he can “fundamentally play any instrument.”

Why the French horn?

“It’s easily recognized,” Pickrell said of the curly, brass instrument. “It’s the hardest instrument to play. There’s a lot of literature (for the French horn).”

Pickrell could use his future to teach French horn literature, because that is what he wants to teach one day, possibly at the high school level.

“I love to perform,” Pickrell said.

But he does not see himself doing it forever.

For now, Pickrell will focus on the 13-hour flight that will take him to the other side of the world.

He is preparing for his biggest teaching lesson yet.

“I will learn just as much from the students as I will teach them,” Pickrell said.

Reach Stephanie at

stephanie_schell@eku.edu