August 11, 2021
I’m sitting in row 13 at the 50-yard line, thanks to publisher Steve, who had some extra seats not taken. The DCI Celebration is in its second day. The touring corps are performing, intermixed with age-out ceremonies and solo performance by the talented musicians who have come so far. The Cadets just played an encore of Dave Mathews’ “Ants Marching,” a fitting tribute and joyful tune enjoyed but the kids performing it and the adults and the stands alike. These additional performances break up the full-show performances nicely, allowing our minds to reset as well and ample time for the corps to prepare. Now it’s time for a 94-horn melodic stand-still presentation of La Vie en Rose by the Blue Stars. Literally music for my ears. I wonder if DCI will allow for larger corps in the future. This corps painted the field with sound.
Earlier in the day, I was once again a BAC groupie and drove to a rehearsal with a couple of the board members. It was hot, but that did not deter the kids from doing their usual hard work to perfect their part in the show. Even though there is no scoring, there is still and intense desire of every individual to be the best he or she can be, so that all 154 plus members working together can have those moments of magic. You know, when things just snap into place, like the slap of dozens of rifles being caught simultaneously, precisely at the end of a musical phrase, or during a quiet moment for even more dramatic effect. Or, when there is a disassembly of random marchers that seemingly are mingling about but then suddenly, before our eyes, they magically come together in a company front, the horns and drums punched to maximum volume as this impressive wave of humanity and sound steadily advance toward the fans who at that moment go completely bonkers with excitement. How impressive was it to see The Cadets executed this maneuver to our great joy, with each horn player having one hand on the shoulder of their fellow marcher beside them in one impressive act of unity. I wonder what the experience is like for the marchers on field to observe the fans spontaneously leap to their feet with such exaltation when they bring that power of presence and sound.
Up until this evening, I have been disappointed with the audio quality of the indoor arena, having been completely spoiled by the six perfect outdoor shows of the past two weeks. Being low and in the center of the action in the Drum Corps World block of seats was much better. This much sound in such a large, cavernous space with the hard surfaces of the roof above, continues to bounce around for a few seconds before it dissipates. Outdoors, the sound is not held captive and escapes into thin air so that each subtle note or strike is heard clearly without the mush-effect of the echoing. However, the volume and intensity are not diminished, and It is completely enjoyable, especially down front at the 50. I will certainly keep this in mind next year when publisher Steve offers up the opportunity to purchase seats within his gaggle of drum corps writers and friends.
The drum corps that seemed to be having the most fun was the Bluecoats. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is permanently lodged in my hippocampus and I cannot stop singing it to myself along with all those other familiar Beatles’ songs from my past that they mashed up with the most interesting musical arrangements. Fist-bumps, high-fives, peace signs, and hugs were all part of this very natural presentation of psychodelia from the past. General effect is a strong suit for this very energetic and confident group of young performers, who really seem to enjoy embellishing the highly creative work of the adults in the room.
Of course, it is impossible for me to verbalize or write here all the things that sparked joy and excitement during the day-long event. Even without the presence of Carolina Crown, Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard, who chose not to tour this year, I have been completely satiated by those present. There is such a thing as overstimulation, and we reached the brink of that last night. I know that after tonight’s final acts, I will have completely scratched my drum corps itch and will once again drive home to Vermont with that wholesome feeling of contentment. This of course will be tinged with a sense of loss as it will be almost 10 months before I will have that itch scratched again. Once again, we will be left with only YouTube to tide us over.
Oh, how I wish that the DCI content was more available to me and the other people in my life that I try to explain the activity to. There is nowhere to send them to check it out other than the pirated content on the web. In my humble opinion, I think that DCI and the Corps are too tight with their content. How do they expect the activity to grow and perhaps become more mainstream if they are not able to share the experience more broadly? I know that it is not for everybody, but there are a whole lot of people out there that would enjoy it if they were exposed to it. I am about to give up trying to explain it to my friends without somewhere to point them to. What does DCI do to promote this to young musicians? As a requested substitute teacher at my local high school music department, I have had the pleasure of showing some clips and talking about drum corps. Otherwise, they have no previous knowledge of it. The director of music has lamented that kids are dropping out of music at a fast pace. It is harder and harder to get kids interested due to so many other competing interests in the digital world. Covid-19 has clearly had a devastating effect and we all need to step up and promote youth music education in our schools and communities and to help break down any barriers to getting kids interested. DCI plays a larger role here by getting content and messaging into the hands of the music instructors. We can all do more.
Stepping off my soapbox for now, I will see what the day brings on this final DCI Celebration of the return to drum corps. Thursday’s theme was drum corps past, yesterday’s theme was drum corps’ present, and tonight is drum corps’ future. After having such a great year at several successful shows and observing the commitment and dedication of those who work and volunteer to bring it together, I am very confident that the future is bright. March on! I will keep you posted.