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Drum Corps International 2016

Mike Lawson • Features • November 11, 2016

The Next Level of Marching Music Artistry!

Drum Corps International (DCI) is adding new fans left and right as the world learns more about what it really takes to be a part of Marching Music’s Major League.

In early October, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson introduced his 56+ million Facebook followers and fans around the globe to the world of DCI with his live online premiere of “Clash of the Corps.” For the first time, viewers can peek behind the curtain to see what makes up the drum corps phenomenon.

The debut came in as one of the top Fuse TV premieres of all time across all platforms. As an instant hit, the show has generated enormous excitement around the elite activity that combines hard-core athleticism with exceptional musicianship and well-honed performing arts skills.

The series showcases the fast-paced, ultra-competitive, high-energy world of drum corps from the behind-the-scenes vantage point of the Blue Devils of Concord, Calif., and The Cadets of Allentown, Penn., and follows the season from spring training through the DCI World Championship Finals. Throughout the summer, the show’s cameras captured the joys and challenges of rigorous rehearsal schedules, life on the road, and thrilling performances across the country. The show’s audience sees the sacrifices and rewards of competing at the highest level of marching music performance.

As the show’s executive producer, Johnson explained, “It’s an extremely unique culture with very talented individuals, and we’re excited to share the passion and drive behind these kids who are battling it out to win it all.”

Each new episode brings more insight into the talent, grit, determination, and achievement of DCI’s young musicians and performers in their individual pursuit of the ultimate performance. Johnson’s involvement is validating for the musician athletes as he expresses his appreciation for the “passionate and inspiring world.”

“Clash of the Corps” is bringing DCI throngs of new fans, but they are just learning what hundreds of thousands of current performers, former marching members, fans, families, and friends already know.

Drum corps is the ultimate marching music experience.

As the gold standard by which all things marching have been measured for decades, DCI has always defined the epitome of marching music performance. Throughout its existence, aspiring young musicians have yearned to be a part of the unbelievable educational experience that fulfills dreams and changes lives.

Every year, the nearly 50 corps in DCI’s World and Open Class divisions surpass the previous year with creativity and new levels of musical performance. 2016 was no exception. The spectacular season featured wins by razor-thin margins, cutting-edge concepts, emerging stars, and trailblazing performances.

2016 will always be remembered as a record-breaking year with some of the most innovative and ground-breaking concepts in DCI’s history.

First, the attendance.

Following many years of steady growth including a stunning increase in 2015, DCI did it again in 2016 with record-breaking crowds throughout the season and again at World Championship Finals in Indianapolis – and not by a little. By several thou-sands.

The rise in attendance resulted from years of building on the established fan base while reaching out to new audiences through social media, traditional publicity efforts, and unprecedented partnerships with media outlets all over the country to showcase local shows. From long-time fans to newcomers just discovering what it’s all about, the numbers continued to climb in every region of the country.

Next, the venues.

The 2016 DCI Summer Tour crisscrossed the country from Southern California through the Midwest to upstate New York, over the Rockies to the great Northwest, and across the Southeast to Florida. By the end of the season, DCI had flooded 39 states with 113 events.

Adding to the impressive schedule, corps rehearsed and competed in spectacular collegiate and professional venues such as Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, San Antonio’s Alamodome, Nashville’s Vanderbilt Stadium, Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Every event had great lineups of energetic performances to captivate audiences of die-hard supporters and the growing number of new fans.

Then, the shows.

Open and World Class Corps staged an extraordinary mix of the traditional, the revolutionary, and everything in between. Audiences heard some of the drum corps classics such as Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” from The Cadets and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” from the Madison Scouts along with familiar tunes like The Academy’s “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers and the Troopers’ “Fix You” by Coldplay.

Each performing corps performed in unique and engaging ways that drew audiences into advanced show designs with imaginative props, sensational costuming, and theatrical performances. And, of course, music as only drum corps can play it.

First-time finalists The Academy won the crowds with their incredibly imaginative production inspired by a popular Tim Burton film. “Drum Corpse Bride” had all the elements of the quirky love story including an forgettable graveyard scene of skeletons playing xylo-“bones.” The Cavaliers “Propaganda” created a cacophony of motion and sound as they explored a timely theme of how technology has increased society’s constant exposure to information intended to sway opinion.

A new kind of originality emerged from the Blue Devils as they wove a fabric of multiple art forms into a masterful show using the classical literature of “The Tempest” as its backdrop. “As Dreams Are Made On” brought the imagery and fantasy of William Shakespeare’s last work to life with musical and visual potency.

Ultimately, though, it was the Blue-coats who took drum corps to new heights with the groundbreaking “Downside Up.” From the first moment they took the field at the tour premiere in Indianapolis, it was clear that things would never be quite the same in the world of DCI.

Inspired by the inventive UK modern dance company Motionhouse, this phenomenal show pushed the envelope with music from eclectic contemporary composers, unconventional uniforms, and dramatic slide set pieces. The corps literally created a 4-dimensional work of art using music, visuals, dance, and physical theater to transform the football field into a 100-yard stage – a new kind of experience that brought audiences to their feet time after time all over the country, amplified the level of show production, and earned winning scores all season long.

The uniform concept without headgear for the horn line and percussion generated intimate personal contact with audience members for each performer both as an individual and as part of the ensemble. The 10-foot-high quarter-pipe sectional props created multi-level performance stages that allowed vertical movement up and down the slopes to be a constant component of the show.

One of the most popular sections of the show was the lush rendition of “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd. The iconic ballad mixed jazz-fusion and blues-rock while featuring sensational soloists, a fully integrated trombone section, great ensemble support, and skillful staging.

Along with all the cutting-edge elements, though, the show still had all the foundations of traditional drum corps – marching precision, phenomenal sound, remarkable soloists, and exhilarating crowd appeal. The Bluecoats most certainly set a new standard as they became first-time DCI World Champions.

Throughout this year’s show lineup, creativity and innovation emerged across the spectrum, raising the bar musically and visually for the future.

Finally, the experience.

While 5,600 young people staged the pageantry and spectacle of the 2016 DCI Summer Tour, all of them will say the shows are just the icing on the cake. The auditions, rehearsal camps, travel, hard work, challenges, sweat, and tears all go together to produce this life-changing experience.

They will describe their time in drum corps as a journey of self-discovery and individual improvement that makes them become better performers and better people. Their fellow corps members become like family and the relationships last a lifetime.

As Bluecoats five-year veteran Josh Meyer put it following one of the year’s last performances, “If you get a perfect score, but don’t love the person marching the spot next to you, then you have missed the entire point of drum corps.”

Now, the future.

After the lights in Lucas Oil Stadium were turned off on August 13 after the DCI World Championship Finals, another great year was in the history books – a year that will go down as one of the best with many, many firsts. “Clash of the Corps” is giving fans their first real look behind the scenes.

2017 has already begun for the corps as they host day camps in preparation for formal auditions. With more than 10,000 performers having auditioned for available spots last year, early indications are that this year promises to eclipse that number by leaps and bounds.

Now is the time to get involved to secure a place the for greatest marching music experience in the world!

Audition Tips from the Top Practical Insight for Students and Band Directors

Every year, thousands of students audition to be a part of Drum Corps International. While every corps has its own specific requirements, many qualities apply to every new and returning member. Regardless of where you want to march, understanding expectations is essential. See DCI.org/audition for a complete list.

The Bluecoats – 2016 World Champions – share what they want to see:

Preparation. Have the musical and visual audition materials well-rehearsed to show your ability to apply talent.

Attitude. Be willing to work hard, try anything, and approach everything with enthusiasm and joy. Physical Fitness. Be prepared to perform physically at the highest level.

Commitment. Demonstrate the desire and ability to participate in monthly rehearsals, spring training camp, summer tour while working to build something special each season.

The Blue Devils – 2016 Silver Medalists and 17-time World Champions – gives students these tips:

Be yourself. With show design and performances based on allowing the performers to let their creative personalities and talents shine through, students who audition should relax and show the audition team who they are as performers.

Prepare audition materials. Read audition packets thoroughly and be wellversed in the audition process. This allows performers to be relaxed and ready to show their best.

Plan ahead. Make travel arrangements well in advance so your only focus is on doing your best and enjoying an exciting weekend.

The Crossmen offer pointers on nailing fundamentals:

Apply strong playing principles at every level – tone quality, articulation, technique, and dynamic control.

Practice marching with precise foot timing and proper posture.

To be the best musician athlete possible, isolate the two parts of the body – the upper (musician) from lower (athlete). Work on strengthening both.

Be open to constructive criticism/ feedback and demonstrate a great work ethic. The Academy add these tips:

Apply for membership early.

Study the technique packets to understand expectations.

Connect with the corps online to meet other prospective and returning members and ask more specific questions.

Be ready to learn, work hard, and have fun.

Some of the corps offer preparation mini-camps to students. For instance, the Blue Knights host the BKXperience instructional weekends, Carolina Crown has CrownLEARNING Educational Camps and Clinics, the Bluecoats offer The Blue Way Audition Experience Camps. It’s never too soon to take advantage of one or more of these learning opportunities.

Blue Knights Director Mark Arnold explains, “Auditioning can seem overwhelming, but keep in mind that many thousands of individuals have successfully faced these challenges and found it to be one of the most rewarding times of their lives. Don’t be afraid to try!”

Although corps requirements may be slightly different, it’s clear that the keys to a successful drum corps audition are knowledge and a willing attitude. Above all, be ready.

Bluecoats Director Dave Glasgow explains, “Talent is important. Preparation is paramount!” Students can visit DCI.org/audition for a general overview of the drum corps audition process, a list of audition dates and locations for corps across the country, and other tips and tricks.

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