August 10, 2019
Today will be the final competition for DCI this season. Yesterday’s Semi Finals competition has resulted in a close race within the ranks of the top 12 corps. The top scoring corps was once again the Blue Devils from Concord, CA, the perennial champions having won eighteen since their founding in 1957, the most of any corps. Their mission statement says it all: “BD Performing Arts permanently enriches the lives of young people through a commitment to youth development and performance excellence, while providing enjoyment for our local community and audiences worldwide.” This statement could apply to the entire activity and all of the corps.
Second place finisher last night and first place finisher on Thursday at the preliminary event was the Bluecoats. If I were to take an informal pole, this is the crowd favorite show of 2019, hands down. Performing the very recognizable and much-loved music of the Beatles, and they have captured the gist of the 60’s counter culture with their colorful psychedelic regalia and creative visual presentation. Everyone around me jumped to their feet singing the refrain from Hey Jude in unison at the closure. Oh, how I wish they would extend it longer to capture the entire stands in the enthusiasm. I just caught a chill while recalling and writing this. Third place finisher Santa Clara Vanguard was the 2018 champion, followed by Carolina Crown. The Crown brass is like no other and the power was intense. In fact, the intensity level of each of these contending medalist corps keeps ratcheting up every day and it will be a close call tonight to see who will be the top three. Another tight competition has been 5th and 6th place between the Cavaliers and the Boston Crusaders. It seems that the last three years, these two corps have been back and forth. Blue Knights, Blue Stars, The Cadets, Mandarins, Crossmen, and Phantom Regiment round out the competitive corps that will perform (in reverse order of my listing) this evening in the Lucas Oil Stadium. I will once again take my seat at the 50 for the last performance of the season.
I’m sitting here absolutely overwhelmed by the people that I have been meeting since I’ve been here at the finals. Getting back to my theme of love and family, I have met more moms and dads here supporting their kids at the final performances. One such person is GleeAnn, a drum corps mom from Illinois. I met her in the hotel parking lot while I was putting ice in the cooler and rearranging the gear and clothing salad in the Volvo. Her son Jason is a soloist trumpeter with Legends. We quickly found common interests and decided to walk downtown together. I was headed to the food trucks in the Pan Am Plaza and possibly some drum battle. As it turned out, we found the Claddagh Irish Pub and texted to Jason to join us for lunch. I have become a regular here since this was my third year in a row for lunch. What an awesome opportunity to interview a member about the experience of summertime marching in drum corps. Jason’s final performance for the season was on Thursday. He advocated that the open class corps have amazing shows and more interest in them is worthy. We agreed that supporting more public performances and promotion in more communities will help build a following. All kids in the junior corps work hard and excel and Jason is no exception. Being a section leader is no surprise, when you meet him you get a full sense of his confidence and level of commitment to excellence. He aspires to try out for Carolina Crown in the coming seasons. On an interesting note, mom told me that he inspires her. Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, Jason overcomes his affliction marching and soloing in the Legends 2019 program. Mom showed me a clip. Maybe you can check it out online. This is just one example of the thousands of great kids from across the country and beyond who are here in Indianapolis this week. Love and family abounds.
After lunch, we split and I went in search of a piano. As I was peering in the side entrance doorway window of the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Louisiana Street, a well-dressed gentleman behind me said, “Come inside and look around.” He was the banquet manager. I asked if there was a piano available for play and he said, “Yes, it is just sitting there. Follow me.” Down a long corridor there sat a fine medium sized grand piano. I had a great session, amid the rumble of a passing train floors above, for this hotel is formerly Union Station. Maybe you can check it out on my YouTube channel (Kevin Russell Solo Piano), a collection of sessions recorded on fine pianos found along the way on my travels. I digress.
A couple of hours from now, I will be sitting at my choice seat in the “Oil Can”, Lucas Stadium to watch the final performances of DCI’s top twelve. The battle for first place is intense with the Bluecoats and Blue Devils at one and one so far this week, and down the line up are some other great races. Anything can happen on finals night. I know one thing for sure that will happen – I will be blown away! I have my hanky ready.