I recently had the stunning realization that I’ve been following DCI (Drum Corps International) for 30 years. Felt really old when I made that connection last week when I attended the Emerald City Music Games competition in Dublin, Ohio.
What is DCI?
My obsession with Drum Corps began while in High School Marching Band. For the uninitiated, Drum Corps is the equivalent of professional marching band. It’s not your typical half-time marching band show and the competitors aren’t high schools. Corps hail from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in the middle. Every year, dedicated kids age 13-21 spend an entire summer on charter buses, sleeping on gym floors, practicing on a football field day in day out in the boiling sun in order to perfect a show they perform night after night in stadiums across the US. The ultimate goal is to be as perfect as possible by DCI Finals the second week of August, which ends the season.
Here’s a sample from the 2014 Season:
I first saw DCI Finals broadcast on PBS, ah the good old pre-internet days. The first live show I saw was in Huntington, WV at Drums Across the Tri-State in 1986. Since that time, I’ve lost count how many shows I’ve seen live. I first watched DCI Finals live in 1990. I trekked with a group of college friends to Buffalo, NY and back to Columbus, Ohio in a crazy 24 hour round trip by car to watch The Cadets win. I managed to see DCI Finals in Madison, WI in 1992 and in Orlando, FL in 1996. The experience of watching 12 drum corps at the peak of their game compete at Finals is unprecedented. Watching in a cinema, or streaming at home is good, but nothing beats the energy of Finals Live.
Why Drum Corps? My fascination and admiration for the artistry and competitive spirit comes from the philosophy of many corps-competing against themselves night after night to perfect their shows. Having the highest score at a competition, even Finals is great, but the true spirit in Corps that I admire is watching these kids strive to outdo themselves night after night.
The feats achieved by the likes of The Cadets, The Canton Bluecoats, The Phantom Regiment, and The Madison Scouts year after year never cease to amaze. Music, motion, and theatricality on a football field. Nothing like it.
This week marks DCI Finals week and the competition at the top of the pack looks to be fierce. I so wish I could see it live. Regardless, every member of every drum corps is at the top of their game and should be proud of their accomplishments. These young men and women have learned invaluable lessons they’ll rely upon their entire lives. Good luck to all those competing in Indianapolis this week, and thanks for another summer of high quality entertainment.
I highly recommend looking up Drum Corps on YouTube sometime. It’ll be well worth your time. You won’t regret it.