Who says “13” can’t be a lucky number? That’s exactly how many years it took for MBI euphonium player Elkin Navarro to realize his dream of marching in a drum and bugle corps in the United States.
Navarro, 31, is a long-time band director from Bucaramanga, Colombia, located some 250 miles north of the capital city of Bogotá … and nearly 3,000 miles south of St. Paul. The city of around half a million hosts a large clothing industry as well as a growing technological research effort specializing in energy, gas, oil, asphalt, leather and agro-industrial development tools, among other concerns. Located in the Colombian Andes, it is also a popular destination for tourists.
After some 15 years of teaching band, Elkin said he thought he’d better get on with trying to fulfill his drum corps dream. Looking for online videos of U.S. marching bands in the pre-YouTube days was a daunting effort, but he eventually stumbled upon videos of DCI corps. And watching videos of the Cavaliers only fueled his desire to participate. His first visit to the United States came two years ago when he played mellophone with the Medellin Gran Banda on a Sound Sport tour. That was his first experience playing a horn in an ensemble, he says; previously he’d played timbales with Latin orchestras in his hometown.
Suspecting in April it was too late into the season to get a marching spot with a DCA corps, Elkin wrote to several corps seeking a volunteer position, “and Colts director Vicki (Schaffer MacFarlane) was the first to answer with the beautiful YES!” he recalled. While with the Colts, from June 13 through July 29, Elkin was part of the props crew. “Vicki talked to one of the MBI staff members about my situation, and here I am! Just a month before DCA finals – I still can’t believe it!”
Back home in Colombia, Elkin receives support from brother Christian and sister Nathalia, his parents (Fernando and Mildred), and his “beautiful and wonderful” daughter Mariana, who celebrated her sixth birthday on July 29, the same day he left the Colts in Atlanta for the Twin Cities. “That wasn’t easy,” he says.
Even though he’s getting to play for only part of this season with MBI, Elkin says he wouldn’t dismiss an opportunity to spend an entire summer with the corps.
So how might he parlay his drum corps experience when he gets back home?
“I think that I should help instructor friends, members and marching bands in my city when I go back to my country,” he said. “Being with Colts and Minnesota Brass has given me a lot of information and a wonderful experience that I would love to help people [have] who want to live the same adventure.”