Inside the Arc – “Don’t Know Much About His-to-ry”

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A very wise friend of mine named Jim Elvord once stood up at a corps staff meeting of a top national contender and asked the following:

Who are we?
Where are we?
Where do we want to go?
How are we going to get there?

Everybody wanted to skip right to number 4. That would have been a mistake. (Actually, it was.)

These things must be approached in priority order. It makes me smile when I read the thoughts of so many who feel they have discovered the one true and righteous path that the drum corps activity should be following, unwittingly revealing just how little they know of where it’s been.

Des Moines Junior American Legion Drum Corps - 1933 (from the author's private collection)

As Twyla Tharp so eloquently put it, “You can’t think outside the box unless you have a box.”

The box, of course, is the frame of reference, the history. Some folks are so very passionate about this marvelous activity, and that is a good thing. Most of us have felt that burn as well, at some point. But to be effective, passion must be tempered with perspective.

And now some facts of life:

1. Drum Corps has been around longer than any of us. Those who show no knowledge of or respect for its rich past have limited credibility in the present.
2. Things change over time, and must. Fresh blood and ideas are a sine qua non. Adapt or die.

Carolina Crown - 2011 (Google Images)

The game has changed, it’s true. Ruth and Gherig would have a rough time competing with today’s players in the present moment, what with the speed of the game, new rules, techniques and gear. The challenge would be no less daunting for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez should they be transported to the Bronx in 1929, given a dead ball and bat, a tiny mitt stiff as cardboard, and a 10 hour bus ride between games.

It seems clear each would appreciate the worth of the others. So let it be in this great game.

Horns up! One-two-three-four! Play Ball!


About the Author:
Frank Dorritie is one of the legends of the activity .... a performer, instructor, arranger, adjudicator, and observer over the past 5 decades. Frank has been playing the bugle and trumpet since the 1960s, and has performed with artists like Billy Cobham and Maynard Ferguson. He has instructed and/or arranged for the Blue Devils, Cadets, Santa Clara Vanguard, Cavaliers, Chesterton and Tenri High Schools, the Bushwackers, Bridgemen and a host of others. His audio production honors include 9 Grammy Nominations, 2 Grammy Awards and membership in both the World Drum Corps and Buglers Halls of Fame. He is active internationally as a clinician and adjudicator, holds the DCA Soprano/Trumpet/Tenor Individual titles for 2003, 2005 and 2006. Frank also chairs the Department of Recording Arts at Los Medanos College. His popular brass method book, “Power and Endurance”, is available from The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author.

Posted by on Monday, March 5th, 2012. Filed under Inside the Arc.