Alumni Spotlight: Lee Reiff

What years did you march in the Blue Knights?

I marched Contrabass in 1996 and 1997 and I was the Drum Major in 1998 for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps.

Where did you attend high school?

Central High School in Cheyenne, WY

Education beyond high school?

I received my B.S. Degree in Electronics Systems Technologies Management from Southern Illinois University in 2003.  After that, I attended Colorado State University (Go Rams!!) and received my Master of Science in Business Administration degree with an emphasis in Computer Information Systems in 2013.

What is your current occupation?

I currently work in Fort Collins, CO for Larimer County as a Business Relationship Manager.

Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?

One of the visual staff for my high school marching band was a former Drum Major for the Troopers, Rick Brown.  When I started talking to him about my desire to audition, he highly recommended the Blue Knights to me as he knew Mark Arnold and had tremendous respect for the organization and the talent they recruited.  After my first camp (which was way more difficult than I anticipated it being, by the way), and seeing the camaraderie among the vets, I knew I found an organization that would be a good fit for me as a performer and as a person.

What is your favorite drum corps memory?

Without question, my favorite memory is gathering after our finals performance in 1998 and singing ‘I Go On’ for the last time.  That was an extremely powerful moment, knowing that was the last time that immensely talented group of people would ever be together, and our corps song would never sound that way again.  Having a moment that is uniquely ours for all time is something you can’t help but keep with you.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever shed tears of joy and sadness like that since.  There absolutely have been tears of joy and there have been tears of sadness, but I can’t say I’ve had another life experience that resulted in the simultaneous rise of both pride of accomplishment and agony of loss that resulted in an emotional response that powerful.

How have the Blue Knights impacted your life?

Wow, where to begin.  First, let’s talk about this as a musician.  My experience as a Blue Knight has entrenched in me a love for music and for performing that stays with me to this day.  I’m currently involved in several organizations in which I perform as an adult musician.  Every summer I perform with the Cheyenne City Band, a volunteer organization that brings music to the hearts of Cheyenne.  From September through May I perform with the Foothills Pops Band, also a volunteer adult musician organization that presents several concerts a year and performs everything from big band to movie favorites.

I also have had the opportunity to perform with the Cheyenne Little Theater on a couple of occasions.  In 2017 I performed with the pit orchestra in the CLT production of My Fair Lady, a wonderful experience.  In January of this year, I’m working with CLT on a unique vaudeville production that is sure to be a blast!

And let’s not forget about the human connection.  Even though I may not speak to or see my fellow alumni for long stretches of time, it feels as though not a day has passed when we all get together.  The bonds we have created span great time and distance and it is wonderful to see the adults my fellow alumni have become and the immeasurable contributions they have all made to humanity.

What are some the Blue Knights’ core values/principles that have resonated with you in life?

Any time someone asks me about things I took away from the Blue Knights, the first thing I hear ringing in my ears is Jason Buckingham’s signature ‘Consistency of Approach’.  I practice this every day in my personal and professional life and have tried diligently to pass this principle on to others.  It sure is amazing the things you can accomplish and the influence you can have when everyone around you knows exactly what to expect form you.

There are, of course, many others.  The principle of personal accountability also sticks with me to this day.  Knowing that failing to put in the work and bring a positive attitude and polished product to the table will have a measurable impact on your team is something I really began to appreciate as a member of the Blue Knights.  Professionally, this understanding is invaluable and the personal accountability I began to cultivate as a Blue Knight has allowed me to become a successful professional.

And let’s not forget team work.  Few activities require the coordinated, choreographed, and extremely well practiced execution as a DCI field show.  Knowing how your efforts contribute to the overall vision, and having trust in your teammates to execute against the same vision are skills every human needs.  The Blue Knights provided solid foundations for these, and countless other life skills that I value tremendously and (hopefully) use every day.

What advice would you tell someone considering trying out for the Blue Knights?

Do it.  Seriously.  Stop considering it and do it.  That is all the advice you need.  There are really only two potential outcomes.  The outcome we all hope for is that you try and succeed, validating the hard work you have put in to your craft and giving you the opportunity of a lifetime.  But let’s say you don’t make the cut this time.  Sure, it stings to miss the bar you have set for yourself; that’s true for all of us in all things.  But never forget, you met new people who can join you on your journey and help you through this tough time.  You also learned new skills, and had an opportunity to learn from world-class instructors, educators and visionaries; how could that possibly be a bad thing?  That opportunity alone is something countless people never get the chance to do.  And most importantly, you will get real, honest and valuable feedback on areas you can focus on to position yourself better for the next attempt.  So, what do have to lose?  OK, maybe you’ll lose a couple pounds when you sweat your way through a visual block and maybe you’ll lose some sleep compliments of nerves or that really hard gym floor.  But is that really a reason to miss out on the opportunity to be a Blue Knight?

What are you looking forward to most about the 2018 Alumni Corps celebrating our programs’ 60th and 25th anniversaries?
OK, I’m going to be a little selfish here.  Being back on the podium is going to be unbelievable!   I can’t say enough how much of an honor it is to have been selected as a Drum Major and how amazing it will be to stand in front of the Blue Knights once again.  This is going to be more fun than conducting the encore in LaPorte, IN, having won the show and beat Phantom Regiment in front of what was surely a Phantom Regiment crowd.  For the alumni reading this from 1998, I still owe you all a sincere apology for the tempo of that encore…
I’m also really excited to meet alumni from different eras of DCI and discover how our experiences were different, and how they may have been the same.  I also must admit that I’m quite anxious to talk with more recent alumni to learn more about what it is really like to be on the field in the era of amplification, electronics and sound reinforcement.
And of course, the fans!  I’m probably most excited for the opportunity to entertain the Blue Knights fans, friends and family.  Let’s get ’em on their feet and throwing babies!  Does anyone still say that?
How would you like to see other Blue Knight alumni get involved in the organization?
Any way they can.  It’s hard and I know it’s hard.  The Blue Knights, and Ascend Performing Arts have been working incredibly hard for a very long time to get and keep alumni engaged.  Alex, GM and an amazing team have made this possible.  And every alumnus who signed up, recruited, or helped spread the message made it a reality.  I cannot overstate the importance of the work you all have done.  You all are truly wonderful!
While the cost of making a DCI tour a reality is staggering, and financial donations certainly help keep Ascend Performing Arts thriving, there are lots of things we can all do to help.  We’ve seen the calls for volunteers to help with registration at camp, and those are great hands-on opportunities to help with the perk that you get to see for yourself what the organization is up to.  But social media makes your ability to have an impact so much easier.  Spread the word about Ascend Performing Arts online and help drive traffic to auditions.  Let your friends know you are going to Drums and encourage them to join you.  Send words of encouragement and thanks to the performers during the season.  Stay plugged in and spread the word every chance you get.
Much like showing up for an audition, what’s the worst that could happen?

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