Season of Drum Corps Competition
Parent to Parent by Patti Hermes – Ah July … the dog days of summer are here. Some days it’s too hot to move.
And yet, plenty of people are doing just that, all across the country. Out in the hot sun, all day long, practicing, rehearsing, and moving, sometimes very, very fast! What am I talking about? Drum Corps.
What is Drum Corps?
It is almost indescribable to the uninitiated. From the marching fife and drum corps of the American Revolution, it has evolved into a competitive audio/visual performance like no other. Primarily a youth activity, the modern drum and bugle corps were often run by local VFW and American Legion groups as a sort of keep-the-kids-off-the-street-and-instill-some-military-discipline type of club. They then showed off their marching precision skills in local parades, which inevitably led to some friendly competition.
Fast forward to today, and the activity has exploded. Corps range from cadet corps with kids as young as elementary school-age all the way up to the senior or alumni corps, where there is no age limit at all (that’s right, senior citizens still like to play, too!). But the biggest competition is between the world class corps, comprised mostly of up to 135 college students and some extremely talented high-schoolers. The instruments have changed somewhat over the years, but they still fit into the categories of brass or percussion (no woodwinds). While still utilizing mainly flags and rifles, the guard employs often exotic costuming, athletic dance moves, and will carry practically anything that they can either spin or throw in unison. They are limited only by some pretty creative imaginations.
Creativity is at the heart of drum corps. No two corps are ever alike, even when playing the same music (rare, but it does happen). Some corps specialize in classical music, some stick to jazz and some like to present original music, but all put on a show that will bring the audience to its feet. No matter how many times I see them in action, I still leaving wondering “how do they do that?”
They are instructed by professional staffs, but require an army of volunteers in order to put the show on the road. And they travel, often coast to coast, all summer long, rehearsing by day, performing almost every evening, and sleeping on buses or school gymnasium floors between cities. They will perform their show up to 40 times, leading up to Finals Week, where they all come together to compete for the DCI Championship in Indianapolis in early August. The DCA Championship, for all-ages corps, is held in September (in Rochester, NY this year), extending the season for the fans who can’t get enough of drum corps.
Drum Corp Shows
Shows are held throughout the country, at stadiums both big and small, and even an odd baseball field here and there. You can probably find a show near you at DCI.org and DCA.org. If you’ve never been to a drum corps show, this is an event the whole family can enjoy. Most corps also travel with their own mobile souvenir shops so you can buy t-shirts and other merchandise to support your favorite shows.
Audiences of all ages have been enjoying drum corps shows for generations. There’s a little something for just about anyone, with all the different styles of music combined to make up each show. If you fall in love, as many do every year, maybe you or someone in your family can join in the fun by either participating or volunteering. Is this the year you, and your family, get hooked on drum corps?