Directors: Help Your Students Set Their Sights on Excellence – And a Season of DCI!

Mike Lawson • Percussion • October 5, 2017

Share This:

Now is the time of year when thousands of young people audition to be part of Drum Corps International.

While each corps has its unique process and requirements, directors and staff agree on the basic skills and personal qualities you need to be successful. The most important thing? Preparation, preparation, preparation.

First Things First

Prospective members should know and understand the expectations of the corps where they are auditioning. The right information is out there – they just need to do the research.  Start with for the complete guide to DCI auditions along with a comprehensive list of dates and locations for auditions for ensembles across the country. Students should then follow through on finding out exactly what their chosen corps wants to see through the audition process. They should get to know that audition packet forward and backwards. The more they know, the better impression they will make, and the more comfortable they will be during the weekend rehearsal “camps.”

Next, assist them by making the most of YOUR knowledge and resources; you can provide your high-achieving students with invaluable support on multiple fronts – music, color guard, movement, and the process itself. After all, you’ve been through many types of auditions and can share your insights with your students as a trusted advisor.

The more they know, the more successful they can be. DCI directors and staff will all tell prospective members to focus on developing their complete marching music performance skill set:

Aptitude – demonstrate proficiency on their instrument or equipment through strong fundamental principles at every level.

Precision – march with precise foot timing and proper posture.

Physicality – be the best musician-athlete possible, isolating the upper body (musician) from lower body (athlete) and strengthening both.

Competence – rehearse audition materials well and perform them convincingly.

Commitment – demonstrate strong personal work ethic and dedication to improving skills.

Cooperation – display willingness to accept constructive feedback on performance while working with other members and staff.

Beyond the Basics

While underlying skills are extremely important, there are additional qualities the corps want to see in would-be members. Directors from some of the top corps share their thoughts on successful auditions. Blue Devils Corps Director/Tour Manager Pat Seidling stresses the importance of technical preparation, the ability to learn quickly, a positive attitude, and availability to attend the required events. But there’s more.

He explains, “We want to learn about your unique ‘performer’s personality.’ Show what YOU can bring to the table as a performer!” What’s more, he says, is showing off your specialties: “Be comfortable and confident and show us that skill that you have uniquely mastered. You may be filling – or even creating! – a specific role on the field that no one else can do.”

Santa Clara Vanguard Executive Director Charles Frost explains that auditions for a drum corps are beyond just talent and skill of the instrument or equipment. He gives insight on the importance of the weekend auditions and why performance throughout the full camp is important.

“We are evaluating the entire weekend. Did the potential member retain information from Friday night to Sunday morning? On Sunday morning, after two nights of long days, is the potential member at his or her full capability?”

He continues, “These audition weekends simulate what it’s like during the summer – long days with critical information given hours before a performance. Skill and talent are important, but can the performer follow directions and execute instructions? Can he or she focus while drums are playing in the next room? Can he or she stand in front of a crowd of peers and toss a rifle…and catch it?”

Most importantly, Frost says, “The audition experience is a learning atmosphere. Sometimes we see members audition two or three consecutive years before they obtain membership. Our goal is for a young person to leave us with more knowledge than when they came.”

The Bottom Line

So not everyone who auditions makes their “first-choice” corps on the first try. The good news is that there are many World Class and Open Class corps and SoundSport ensembles throughout the country which provide excellent educational opportunities for their members.

It’s about excellence – you will be a part of the fastest growing activity in the country, which continues to raise the bar of marching music performance. It’s about experience – your students are successful just by going through the audition process itself. It’s about education – prospective members will learn new things and improve their skills just by being there.

Last, but certainly not least, encourage your students to:

• Plan early. Register with the corps and schedule travel/housing.

• Be prepared. Period. No excuses.

• Arrive ready to learn.

• Listen and take notes.

• Make new friends and learn from them.

Whether this is their first DCI audition or they are drum corps veterans, the most important thing is to soak up the experience and have fun!

Barbara Nash, APR is President of Barbara Nash & Associates LLC and supports Drum Corps International through fully integrated strategic communications and market engagement services. She has a broad background in music and performance, and has two sons who each marched with DCI. 

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!
Optimized by Optimole