Company Front – Issue 11
Drum Corps (truly) International
What started years ago as local community-sponsored (often by the local American Legion and VFW posts – and local parishes) corps has grown into an activity whose accomplishments, achievements, and fan base reaches all over the globe. While the fans may range from many different nationalities, the members themselves (for mostly financial and geographical reasons) are predominantly from North America – although currently DCI does boast members from 15 countries. As current affiliates join each other to prepare for another exciting season of music’s major league, I wondered, as a current expatriate, what are the opportunities for musicians around the world to be a part of a similar organization? With technology, the world is shrinking every day, and participation in activities like music especially helps bring people together. Recently, I was watching the local news and there was a story about drumming in the desert.
In Dubai, what started out as one woman teaching people traditional hand drumming blossomed into an eagerly anticipated yearly event which brings over four hundred people out into the moonlit desert simply to get together and play. In that spirit, my article will take you on a trip across the world to find what other students of music do for competition and experience. I should mention I was totally unprepared for the sheer number of bands and organizations that I found around the world. I’ve decided to concentrate this article on those groups that really stood out to me or were the most similar to DCI. If this subject or a particular region interests you, I would strongly encourage further research.
The first stop on our global tour is quick trip across the pond to Drum Corps Europe (DCE). The organization has many of the countries of the continent represented including the United Kingdom (who has its own DCUK), the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Italy. While names like Cavaliers, Cadets, and Vanguard are all familiar corps to us, do you know who the Black Knights, 6th Hove Scouts, the Blue Lions, Northern Star, the Senators, and the Pacemakers are? All represent a group of young adults striving to create the best show possible – just like here in the States. These groups are a bit smaller than the average corps size in the U.S. – but that doesn’t make them any less competitive. The DCE season stretches a bit later than August, with the most recent finals held in the Netherlands on September 29, 2007.
Also, just to show you how similar our two groups are, the rules that affect corps here, also have an impact and are important to groups there. DCE has stated for the upcoming 2008 season, the controversial and much discussed topic of electronic amplification will not be allowed during their shows.
Furthermore, 2008 boasted the first year for a group similar to our WGI (Winter Guard International) in Europe. Formed as the EIAA (European Indoor Arts Association), the group was officially formed in the fall of 2007 by Winter Guard United Kingdom, Drum Corps Germany, Unik Star (France), Xpression (France), Blue Lions (France) and Color Guard Nederland. The new organization is a joint venture between the organizations to promote Indoor Percussion and Color Guard in Europe and to facilitate contests in these countries.
Finals for the Indoor Percussion this year are held earlier than the ones in Dayton, and the group expected over 250 performers from all over the world for the finals in Belgium on March 30th.
Leaving Europe, our next stop is South Africa. Unsure what opportunities I was going to find on the continent, I was very pleasantly surprised to find the Field Band Foundation in South Africa. In a region with limited marching opportunities, I think it’s a wonderful that an organization exists to promote the marching band experience. With over 3,000 members, this excellent group boasts itself as an “innovative, imaginative and exciting organisation with a strong track record for youth development through music and dance.” Their target audience is disadvantaged youth who come from communities where unemployment is high and access to youth-oriented educational activities are limited. From their website, the information states: “the Field Band Foundation currently employs 60 part-time musicians from the communities and dancers from townships all over South Africa. All musicians and dancers have the opportunity to learn music notation at weekly classes; a set of instruments serves the bands with access to instruments on alternate days. As part of our self sustaining drive, performances are given to local communities. Through partnerships with the Norwegian Band Federation, individual tutoring for the betterment of skills is available for our tutors.”
Furthermore, I was very impressed at the development of students once they started with the program. There are guidelines outlining discipline, instrumental skills, and overall growth. Graduates of the program have gone on to many great successes and achievements around the world.
In the fall of 2007, the group had a National Championships festival in Turffontein to celebrate their tenth anniversary. The festival involved ensemble and solo competitions for percussionists, dancers, and brass, as well as field band performances by over fifteen groups.
For more information, I encourage you to please visit their website at http://www.fieldband.org.za . If, after reviewing their goals and members, you feel inclined to, they are raising money to involve 6,000 youth across South Africa and to buy 20 sets of instruments to share between the bands.
Continuing our trip, let’s move from Africa to Asia. Drum Corps Japan (DCJ) is the next stop on our world tour. Names like the Tokyo Phoenix, the Jokers, and the Cherry Blossoms are some of the competitive corps. Those DCI members and fans who were in Pasadena last August were also able to see one of the DCJ members compete in the international division, the Yokohama Scouts. Members of the Scouts also participated in the Individual and Ensemble Competition. Their season is also a bit different from ours, with competition taking place throughout the fall ending in early December. The rules are slightly different as well. Like WGI, groups perform indoors on a thirty-by-thirty meter floor, marked every five meters, instead of outdoors on a football field and the shows are shorter. Rehearsals are year-round, but usually only on weekends and holidays. More of the corps are all-age. The Finals, which most recently took place in Yokohama had a number of judges from North America.
Please visit: http://www.dcjpn.org/ for more info on Drum Corps Japan.
Our final stop is down under to Australia. While they do not have a specific corps experience, per se, they do have a number of students involved in marching band. Each state has their own band association, with all the winners competing in a national competition once a year. With their seasons running opposite to ours in the northern hemisphere, their summer is coming to an end soon, and the Australian National Band Championships are coming up shortly in the third week of March in Brisbane. This event, which lasts four days, will encompass marching exhibition and competition for full marching groups as well as solo and ensemble performers. Writing this article definitely made me aware that if you look hard enough for it, you would be able to find some group competing at almost any day of the year!
For more information, please visit: http://www.qba.org.au
So, if you are planning any travel in the upcoming future, why not think about making some arrangements ahead of time, and connect with another student of music somewhere else in the world? If you’re here in the States and don’t have any trips planned, why not try and find a pen pal from another nation? Or, if you’re looking for employment opportunities, why not spend a semester or summer abroad teaching the skills you’ve learned as a member of DCI to the rest of the world? Who knows what opportunities for a current or former DCI member exist? After all, music is a universal language.
Company Front is a regular series of articles and essays, written by a group of young authors that have published books related to the marching arts. You’ll find all of the issues of Company Front by clicking here.
Twenty-something author Courtney Brandt proudly declares herself a ‘Jill of All Trades’ and is the author of The Line. Even though the author’s latest adventure takes her far from the marching field, Ms. Brandt is still humbly developing a fictional voice for the under-represented Band Geeks of the world. Although Courtney has enjoyed writing a number of Young Adult fiction novels on the subject, she looks forward to exploring individual nonfiction stories within the world of Drum and Bugle Corps. The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author, who may be reached by writing to cbrandt [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com?subject=Question%20from%20DrumCorpsPlanet">cbrandt [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com.