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How do we save Drum Corps

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Howzabout members who choose to join and bands that compete..... Coming from a non-competing band (for #### good reasons from the director) please don't lump MB = DC... And considering some of the comments you've directed towards the less competitive GSC corps from your day it's not being very complimentary to MBs today who do compete.

My comparison is between competitive bands today that have replaced local field corps of back in the day.

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We probably all agree that performances should not be inaccessible like the piece played by the BSO and believe that difficulty and excellence are not all that matter. We probably also agree that drum corps need not be the marching and instrumental equivalent of an "Up With People" concert, but the BSO's programing practices can be an example. In most performances, a contemporary piece is paired with a standard piece. Beethoven and Mahler may be paired with Harbison and Shoenberg with great success and a filled Symphony Hall. Audiences are exposed to contemporary sounds and entertained by old standards that are always freshly interpreted. Corps should make efforts to have this balance, and some do. PR, Crown, and Cavies did it with great success last year and audiences responded. Since we're talking about corps that placed 3-5 in finals, judges responded too. Similar efforts should be made when selecting who will perform in what show. Show organizers should make efforts to make sure that the corps that audiences love appear in shows along with potential winners at finals. If a corps has both the entertainment value as well as a chance at a ring and title, all the better.

When you see the BSO, you are seeing one performing group that covers a couple hours of concert-time. If you look at a multi-corps competition, you are seeing a number of units covering that time, each with their own style and type of show. A single corps is 10+ minutes of performing time. If they do one basic style, and then another corps does another, etc....you are getting that variety over the course of the performance.

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My comparison is between competitive bands today that have replaced local field corps of back in the day.

I noticed the 'competitive' in your posts. (Disgressing a bit) my point is with DC kids had/have a chance to get into the competitive area that they might not with MB.

Saying MB = DC (without the competitve qualifier as otheres have posted) I totally disagree with.

Saying todays competitive MB = local back in the day DC... well it's closer but too much of a broad brush on MBs and DCs no matter how they are qualified.

Edited by JimF-LowBari

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I noticed the 'competitive' in your posts. (Disgressing a bit) my point is with DC kids had/have a chance to get into the competitive area that they might not with MB.

Back in my local-corps days, pre-DCI, nobody came from more than one or two towns away from the corps. It wasn't that easy for a kid in an area without a local corps to march, even then, esp if they were, as many were then, not old enough to drive.

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Saying MB = DC (without the competitve qualifier as otheres have posted) I totally disagree with.

But that IS the point of those like myself. Trying to somehow resurrect old-style local drum corps by the hundreds is not only impossible financially or logistically, it is not going to happen beause there are thousands of competitive bands around the country that cover the need for so many. Those that want to compete but are not part of a competitive band can still join a corps, be it World Class, Open Class or DCA. It is not like all the Open class or DCA corps are totally full.

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Its funny that I just noticed this thread. I haven't really read through anything, but DCI did start a program called DCI Ambassadors. They are looking for volunteers to go around there local town(s) and promote DCI/shows. Heck, I signed up and I might be talking to the local boy scouts/cub scouts where I live (I might show them some clips of The Cavaliers or Madison Scouts). I also might talk to my old high school director and see if he will let me speak in his classes about what DCI is and talk about the Houston/SA show this summer.

I honestly think this is a good idea for DCI... lets hope it works.

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I remember in the mid-70s watching football with a new friend from the Boston area. During halftime, I made some remark about drum corps and was surprised by his response. I was from a small town in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia - far from drum corps and drum corps shows. He was from a hotbed of drum corps talent. He knew the 27th Lancers, the Crusaders and lots more. He said he'd been to lots of shows in his hometown.

And he hated them. Said all the corps, all the shows, were the same. Couldn't figure why folks made such a big deal about drum corps.

One man's opinion isn't truth, but neither is our selective - and hopeful - memory. We'd like to think that drum corps' greatest hits would be the great persuader, would win the hearts of audiences from the sea to sea. They didn't, and they won't.

I honestly believe that if I could persaude the Cadets to arc up on the lawn where I work so that all 2,000 staff here could hear them belt out "Phillip Bliss" and "Rocky Point" that my colleagues would pat me on the back and say "I see why you love it." I also honestly believe they wouldn't come to a drum corps show anyway.

Ours is an unusual affection. That was true in the 70s. It's still true today. The only difference is the dynamics of the communities in which our drum corps operate. Today's communities are more demanding and less obliging.

HH

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The marching band/drum corps debate will never be solved. I know in the past there were bands that were modeled after drum corps and competed in the same circuits as drum corps, at least here in Boston. I was a member of one, and we always made sure we never used the word "marching" as an adjective to describe our activity, even though we marched. The average band was as good as the average drum corps, but the best of the bands never topped the best drum corps, the best drum corps in our area being being BAC, St. Kevin's, St. Mary's Cardinals and later 27th, North Star, BAC again, and Defenders. The bands were pretty much gone when Diplomats/East Coast Jazz came on the scene. The bands were actually the preferred recruiting ground for the better drum corps. Even as late as the 1970's, some drum corps did not teach kids to read music, only to play the instrument. The kids in the bands, whether woodwind, brass, or percussion, were taught the rudiments and could be retrained for drum corps. There are also some that claim the bands had better marchers since the bands had individual counts and the moderately good drum corps marched in groups, but I know I'll get clobbered, especially if it's inaccurate, so I'll just say it's hearsay.

Today high school music programs feed into drum corps. Without feeder units, there is no other alternative. So the health of bands does have an impact on drum corps. That being said, private organizations do not seem to have better luck starting bands that are independent of schools and more than private organizations can start new drum corps. Perhaps musical programs are too closely associated with schools or school music programs, which are far better than in the past, are fulfilling the musical needs of the kids involved. Due to the close association with schools, I don't think we'll see bands compete in the summer or tour as drum corps do, but I'm not sure we could ever garner an audience either. There is something intangible and unique about a drum corps that's hard to describe that in my opinion a band cannot capture, even though as we all know, to many a parade watcher, there's no difference between the Casper Troopers and the Casper High School Marching Band.

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But that IS the point of those like myself. Trying to somehow resurrect old-style local drum corps by the hundreds is not only impossible financially or logistically, it is not going to happen beause there are thousands of competitive bands around the country that cover the need for so many. Those that want to compete but are not part of a competitive band can still join a corps, be it World Class, Open Class or DCA. It is not like all the Open class or DCA corps are totally full.

Are you saying the main reason why young people are not joining corps as much as in the past is because they are getting their "fix" in competative MB? I'd say it might be one of many reason and that' as far as I'd go.

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I am getting to this conversation late and some good points have been made. Here's my 2 centavos.

First, in my experience Drum Corps is different than high school marching bands because of the level of committment is much greater for even a small regional corps. The kids are there because they really want to. If their parents insist they take music of some sort an hour of band class or a piano lesson a week will suffice. Giving up 2-3 hours one night a week (starting in November or so) for a small corps represents a bigger committment, so the amount of effort willing expended will be greater.

Second, in my experience (Guardsmen '75 - '77) there has to be a critical mass of population in a given area to support a corps. The fact that Rockford, IL, for instance, has been so successful for so long is an exception. For that reason I like the small corps initiative. I found out my family was moving to rural GA between the prelims and finals show at nationals in '76 (Yeah, threw me for a loop). At that time the only corps I knew of in the south was Spirit. After moving to GA, and a county of 20,000 people, and absolutely no marching music tradition I did not give them a thought and traveled back to IL for the '77 season. The rural population pattern here, and the oppressive summer heat, convinced me that there was no future for drum corps in the south. However, the indoor, small corps format can negate both of those problems. This is an idea who's time has come.

BTW, so very happy I was wrong about Spirit, and I am looking forward to them having a GREAT season!

Excellent discussion, folks!

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