2011 DCW On-Line: West Chester, Pennsylvania

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by Bob Fields, Drum Corps World staff (rfields25 [at] aol [dot] com)

With just two two days to go before the DCI Eastern Regional in Allentown, PA, this show at West Chester University gave a great preview of what we can expect Friday and Saturday Night. It was wonderful to see old

friends from the Midwest and the West Coast way out here in Pennsylvania once again.

The show sponsored by YEA! was packed with fans wanting to witness the seldom-seen Western corps and The Cadets, not been seen in the East other than their preview show before they left for their non-stop national tour to the California and even up to the beautiful Northwest.

Those of you who have been reading my articles since the 1970s are aware that I am a transplanted Californian. There is a real fondness in my heart for the California corps dating back to those days when I was involved with many from the Bay Area and the Central Valley. I also loved those groups from SoCal, as well as the Northwest corps. Having driven buses on tour for a number of California corps, it still tugs at my heart strings to see names like Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard out in the parking lot — and even more to see old friends who are still involved.

It was a beautiful evening for what would have turned out to be a monsoon had they not hurried the show because of the impending rain. As you may have read, Blue Devils won with just five tenths over The Cadets. I have known director Dave Gibbs since he was bus captain for one of the BD buses I drove. I asked him what is yet to be done to get them ready for Indy.

Blue Devils, Concord, CA, Drum Corps World photo by Ron Walloch

“We still have a few changes and MANY details to keep adding to the show to bring it to its full effective potential,” he said. “The staff is very experienced and we have a plan to follow over the next few weeks. These kids are amazing. They are great people who are extremely committed to each other and their collective performance. We are excited for the final two weeks and want to congratulate all the AMAZING corps this summer for the inspired productions and competition.”


Personally, I was not too sure that this music would work well as a drum corps show. But the production musically is exciting and also a visual delight to behold. The uniforms are just amazing and building a house on the field works well with their choice of Bacharach songs.

This being a home show for The Cadets, the crowd welcomed them with a standing ovation. This was another show I wondered about when I saw it at the theater presentation back in June from Texas. I know many of us have seen too many North versus South shows and I got to wondering it this would be hard to sell. After watching their shows for years, I can honestly say that this is the best of best. Classy, exciting, constantly causing you to scan across the field to catch all the little nuances.

It has humor when it needs to, a beautiful angel dressed in white, the devils in opposing burgundy-colored uniforms. Real power with the horns and brass, this is a wonderfully-crafted show that is a real challenge to the other two corps that are so close to the top.

The Cavaliers at the theater presentation from Texas had not yet added all the great tricks we saw tonight. The San Antonio show high camera did not yield much more of what we were expecting to see. And then we lost the online broadcast for the top three corps at that show in the theater I chose to view that event.

I spoke briefly with Tour Director Mark Ackerson at the corps gate. He told me that they have made some tremendous headway crafting the show closer to the final product that will be seen at Indy. This production is one to be seen more from the top rows than down on the track where we were this evening. Volume-wise, they also seemed a little more subdued than the others. We kept expecting them to blow some socks off the young high school students in the stands at the band camp held each year at the college. As usual their drill is incredibly fast to watch, extremely precise and thrills the crowd. Keep it going, boys!

Jeff Fiedler, executive directdor of the Santa Clara Vanguard, also was at the gate and said he was very proud of the way the corps members had worked hard to make the changes needed to bring their show up to speed. Early reports on Drum Corps Planet, etc. made it sound like they had a major rewrite of the show.

“Far from it,” Fiedler said. He told me that they took the judge’s comments to heart, made changes and got the corps members much more comfortable in their roles. We could not keep our eyes off the WGI award-winning guard and the fabulous drum line. This is a well-thought-out production that may only suffer from the confidence that they need to keep it moving up the ladder.

Chris Komnick, execiutive director of the Madison Scouts, told me, “Up through the first half of the season, the Scouts continued to make minor adjustments to the show in response to performance and feedback from the judging community. The audience reactions throughout the tour have been exceptional and we feel privileged to have shared this show early-on with our East Coast fans. After the San Antonio regional, the corps retreated to Natchitoches, LA, at Northwestern State University for five days of cleaning and enhancing the show for the Atlanta regional.

“We sought to provide visual and musical clarity to certain areas of the show, to take the audience on a journey from normalcy of everyday life to the unexpected tragedy to mourning and then the perseverance of the human spirit.”
They have added a big finish to the show using those large barrel-shaped Latin drums and many pairs of cymbals played by the guard. Lots of great guard work, beautiful flags and a much better illustration of that they were trying to portray has all added up to a dynamite and powerful show.

Jersey Surf has accomplished some real cleaning and given the kids the confidence to really sell their show. “With a younger and slightly smaller group this year that what we’ve fielded in the past several years, our focus has been on improving our consistency from rehearsals then performance to performance,” according to Surf Director Bob Jacobs. “We are very pleased with the progess we’ve made this season and are thrilled to know that we will end this season in our best form since entering the World Class three years ago. Each section of the corps has done a great job this year and both halves of our summer tour have been efficient and a lot of fun.

“The summer of 2011 will be one of the great years in our history and we’re very pleased to have been able to “Share the Love” with a new generation of performers, instructors, their families and the fans we have encountered along the way,” Jacobs added.

Raiders, Burlington, NJ, Drum Corps World photo by Dave Valvo

The Raiders were the only Open Class corps here tonight. They are much stronger than when last seen several weeks ago. Sampling seems to have been added to help the fans to understand the show better. I was impressed with their drum line and the guard especially. The entire package is coming together nicely for them and they are working to finish at DCI Finals again.

Director Tommy Maiello told me the corps has made finals every year since they took first and are shooting for continuing the trend. He also noted it is tough for an Open Class corps in this area since they have to travel so far to find other Open Class corps to compete against. With a new home in Burlington, NJ, and a very excited staff and membership, I predict this corps will continue to be a crowd favorite, as well as being nationally-competitive in Open Class!


And then the rain came in buckets after we were all on the way home.

Good luck to all the corps in the next two weeks!

Posted by on Friday, August 19th, 2011. Filed under DCW On-Line, FrontPage Feature.