MCDC volunteer Mark Watkins message to other parents: “jump on in!”

Music City Drum Corps’ success depends upon a team of volunteers who fill many key roles, including feeding hungry corps members and staff during weekend camps. First-time volunteer Mark Watkins of Maryville, Ill. talks about his experience helping in the kitchen at the February camp and why you should consider volunteering, too. Watkins’ daughter Chloe is marching trumpet with the corps in 2018.

Q: Why did you decide to volunteer for Music City’s weekend camp?

Mark Watkins: Well, this was Chloe’s first year to try out for a drum corps. I was very proud of her when she was awarded a contract after December audition. She had put in a lot of time practicing, as I know all the kids do who are trying out. When January camp came around, a request was sent out on Facebook for volunteers. Chloe saw it and asked me if I would help and I said sure. I figured I was driving her there anyway and I could either spend two days laying around a hotel or go help, find out more what Music City and drum corps is all about, meet some other parents and kids, and stay at the school for free. I was very impressed with the way things were run at Music City and had a fun time with the other volunteers. As a result I came back in February and plan on volunteering each month.

Q: Was your experience volunteering at weekend camps what you expected?

MW: I really didn’t know what to expect, but I would probably say I kept busier than I expected. The monthly, weekend volunteers are mainly involved in meal and food preparation. The kids work hard in the short time they are there and get very hungry. I was surprised at the portions and the quality of the meals. I expected a lot of cold cut sandwiches and chips, but they get nice hot meals. There is quite a bit of prep and cleaning up involved but we have fun doing it, and it’s very clear the kids appreciate it.

Q: What was your favorite part of your weekend?

MW: I’d say my favorite part is just getting to know the other parents, staff and kids at Music City. Everyone, without exception has been super friendly and willing to point me in the right direction if I need help with something. Plus, you get to peek in on the kids from time to time and see just how much work they put into getting ready for their summer tour. Also, it has brought Chloe and me even closer together as most shared experiences do with your children, and that’s always a good thing.

Q: What would you say to other Music City parents and family members who are considering serving as a volunteer in the future?

MW: I would tell them to jump on in! I don’t think they will regret it. I feel like with anything in life, you get out of experiences what you put into them. This gives you a chance to see operations behind the scenes if you haven’t, or if you are new to drum corps, as I was. Also, not everyone stays the whole weekend like I have, some just pop in for half of a day. The staff, kids and other volunteers appreciate any and all help. If you can’t come during a weekend I know they will need lots of help over the summer. It’s never too late to start volunteering at Music City.

To learn more about volunteering or to sign up for a couple of hours or a couple of days, contact Music City’s volunteer coordinator Chelsea Stringfield at In addition to food prep and meal help for the March 16-18 camp, the corps seeks a dozen volunteers with tools and skills to help with equipment trailer renovations. Watch the corps’ website and Facebook page for future volunteer needs.