Anticipation for DCI 2024

June 9, 2024, Along the Mill Brook

The skis have long been put away. The leaves have returned on the trees along the Mill Brook, and the school year is coming to a close. This is a time of year filled with anticipation as I await the return of Drum Corps International (DCI) junior drum and bugle corps competitions. Planning my tour for 2024 includes shows in these eight states: Michigan, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. This will involve traveling by plane, automobile, and maybe a train. I will once again traverse parts of the old Lincoln Highway in PA, OH, and IN. Along the way, I plan to hike a section of the North Country Trail and hit the links a few times. I will be on the lookout for a fine piano to soothe my soul on the many school campuses. I anticipate other adventures yet unknown.

High in the Green Mountains.

Looking back, the off-season was a productive one. My days in waiting were spent picking mushrooms, coaching golf, guest teaching in our public schools, skiing in the Green Mountains, and serving on three non-profit boards: North Country Trail Association, Mad River Valley Backcountry Coalition, and Friends of the Number Nine Schoolhouse. Of course, drum corps is a constant part of each off-season month as I repurpose these blog posts for publication in Drum Corps World magazine. This will be my seventh season to chronicle my drum corps tour experiences during the past eight years. We did not do 2020, alas.

Last summer’s rain was fruitful.

Having only my 27″ retina screen, my speaker system, and my favorite streaming service to enjoy the sights and sounds of drum corps for the past nine months has left me wanting. Wanting to hear the sound of an eighty-horn warm-up in the arc in person. That thirst will soon be slaked when the Boston Crusaders return to Castleton University in Vermont this month, a seventy-five-minute drive from my humble home along Mill Brook. Soon, I will once again catch Gino in the lot with his brass minions, giving him their full attention as they work through scale progression, warm-up pieces, and the corps signature pieces, Sweet Caroline, Theme from Game of Thrones, and Giant.

The Silver Bullet at an HS match.

This is also the time of year when the show titles, themes, and repertoires are announced. Slowly but surely, the season’s personality begins to emerge. Change is a constant in everything, particularly the creative approach to the marching arts. Old is also new as tradition blends with the forward motion of drill design, musical expression, and thematic pageantry of drum corps in the 21st Century. “What will they think of next?” one wonders. Alumni corps honor the past with familiar pieces that bring on that nostalgic feeling and the tears. I anticipate more Pat Metheny/Lisle Mays within the Crossmen Alumni Corps repertoire.

Ah, a Steinway & Sons in Fort Collins, CO.

As the composers and musical pieces are announced, my musical knowledge expands as I learn about the new and old masters. If you are a romantic like me, you already anticipate the crying moments. Drum corps is filled with many wow moments and those occasional moments when the excitement/pleasure meter spikes and the salty moisture glosses the eyes and flows. This is often accompanied by the visceral responses of prickly skin and the electric feeling of my hair standing straight up on the back of my neck.

To be at the epicenter of this highly stimulating experience, one has to act early on ticket purchases. Allentown tickets went on sale on October 1, 2023, at 10:00 am. I purchased tickets at 10:01 and will once again be in Section R of the J Birney Crum Stadium with my drum corps brother, Garry. However, the first phase of my tour will be the season opener in Rockford, Michigan. If I play my cards right, it will be followed by shows in Muncie, IN; Lisle, IL; and Mason, OH. For me and my brothers, this will be a tribute tour to our late friend and former DCI judge Sandra Bertelle. Last season, Sandy hosted us for shows in DeKalb, IL, and Whitewater, WI. No one matched her driving skills and the ability to find the best parking spot. I learned so much from her, particularly about the visual aspects of the programs. I never thought I would have been so affected by a cat lady from Kenosha. These are the people that I would only have met if it were for drum corps.

Most of July will be spent whiling my time away in the Green Mountains before heading on a flight to Nashville, TN, in late July for some fun in the city and the Masters of Summer Music Games in nearby Murfreesboro. This will be a rare match-up of the top four corps from 2023 for an outdoor show. If I play my cards right again, I will be at NightBEAT two days later in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the corps-packed home show of Carolina Crown. Last year, my plans did not work out for me to attend NightBEAT, so I donated my tickets to an aspiring young drum major and her dad.

My late-season auto tour of DCI shows begins with the East Coast Showcase in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on August 1, hosted by the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps. Carolina Crown, The Cavaliers, Santa Clara Vanguard, and The Troopers will compete with BAC, an excellent line-up for the Boston show. The next four nights will be rapid-fire with four final outdoor shows. Two nights of classic DCI entertainment in Allentown, then Reading, PA, and finishing the regular season at Innovation in Brass in Canton, OH. The final destination for DCI nation will be the World Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, for three nights of performances at Lucas Oil Stadium. Powered by the Silver Bullet, my seasoned Volvo XC70 will once again transport me across the landscape at breakneck speed for 3,000 miles to complete the circuit back to my humble home along the Mill Brook in the Mad River Valley of Vermont.

The author is in his Muchachos-style uniform with his kid sister before a parade (1972).

Of course, I will update this blog regularly throughout the season. Drum and bugle corps have come a long way since I was a snare drummer back in the early 70s. I plan to dive more into the inner workings of a drum corps, such as the member leadership structure while volunteering and interacting with the Boston Crusaders as our paths cross on tour. But you can bet I will be in the stands at the 50-yard line for some great shows. I will share my insights and give you my take on the corps and the show performances as they progress through the season. As in every previous season, spontaneity, happenstances, and unexpected events will be chronicled to try and give you a full picture of what it is like to be a DCI junkie on the road. And I will most likely salt the posts with some wit and wisdom, as well as stories from home. Meanwhile, I will be heading to spring training with BAC to experience that all-brass sound in the arc and to begin to absorb the music that I will be enjoying at eleven of their performances and an unknown number of rehearsals this coming summer.

I will keep you posted.



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