DCI Direct – Inaugural Edition

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As we launch the new “DCI Direct” project in cooperation with Drum Corps Planet, I think it’s important to provide a bit of an introduction, in order to set the stage for the features to follow, and to get some of the “spirit of full disclosure” stuff on the table right from the onset.

Since becoming one of the first 750 subscribers to DCP back in 2002, I’ve read through and have even participated in my share of “interesting” debates in the drum corps forums, nearly all of which were fueled by an uncommon passion for the drum and bugle corps activity in all of its various shapes and forms. Over the course of the past seven-plus years, there have been a number of times when it seemed to me that some of the opinions being expressed in these forums were being misrepresented as facts, setting off a trail of passionate discourse that I’ve felt has often been founded in perceptions and misconceptions rather than based on solid information.

In other examples, the absence of reliable information flowing from DCI caused the creation of pages and pages of dialogue which was far less than productive. It is our sincere goal to change that, by providing greater access to information on topics which matter most to those engaged in the world of Drum Corps International and its member corps.

Several years ago as a then-Division II corps director with a background in marketing, I joined the DCI Marketing Committee as a volunteer… which eventually grew into a professional consulting relationship between my firm and Drum Corps International. Now that the Jersey Surf has become a World Class DCI corps, I have a gained a unique perspective on a number of topics within the drum corps universe… first as a fan who never had the opportunity to march in a drum corps despite having had the dream of doing so; then as a corps director who has invested a large part of the past 20 years of my life helping to grow an organization “from scratch;” ultimately juggling those responsibilities while serving as acting director of marketing for the sanctioning body and event management company known far and wide by the letters D-C-I.

Our goal in providing a “direct connection” between the readers of Drum Corps Planet and the Drum Corps International headquarters is to help provide access to reliable and useful information directly from the source. It is not my intention to be an apologist or a spin-doctor. Although I certainly have my own opinions, my commitment is simply to assist in facilitating dialogue on topics of interest to fans of drum corps throughout the world. I look forward to the productive conversations that await us in the spirit of moving forward together into Drum Corps International’s next great period of growth.

In this inaugural edition of DCI Direct, I’d like to share with you some of what’s been going on “behind the scenes” as it relates to the listening environment within Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Drum Corps International World Championships.

It is certainly no secret to regular readers of Drum Corps Planet that the 2009 World Championships, staged at this multi-million dollar, brand-spankin’ new professional football mega-stadium, provided both unique opportunities and unique challenges for those in attendance. With sweeping, unobstructed sight lines, a variety of “creature-comforts” including climate control, wide concourses and many other state-of-the-art amenities, Lucas Oil Stadium provided a spectacular backdrop for the more than 80 performances which were staged over three days last August. Not everyone was thrilled, however, over the choice to stage marching music’s biggest event in this “indoor” venue.

The rationale for moving the World Championships for multiple years into Lucas Oil Stadium as a part of DCI’s relocation to Indianapolis is perhaps another lengthy topic worthy of discussion. Considerable strategic planning was a part of that decision, as well as the decision to stage the World Championships in a new venue without the benefit of prior sound and visual experimentation and analysis. For the purposes of this column, however, we’ll keep the attention focused on what’s been happening with regard to improving the sound inside the building and to fulfill the vision of creating an environment which is the ultimate performance venue from which to showcase the performances of Drum Corps International’s elite ensembles.

Depending on the location of your seats within the stadium, you may have enjoyed a spectacular World Championships experience by every measure… or you may have been disappointed by the reflected sound of the corps as it reverberated throughout various parts of the venue. A number of surfaces, including plate glass windows on luxury boxes, concrete walls within the stadium seating bowl and the steel roof structure provided ample opportunity for sound to bounce around, ultimately diminishing the highly personal experience for a number of ticket holders.

Recognizing that the “listening environment” inside the stadium is the very essence of the drum corps experience for participants and fans alike, Drum Corps International has joined with experts from within and outside of the drum corps activity, including Hall of Fame drum corps designers, professional adjudicators, award-winning sound engineering and television production experts, stadium logistics experts and city representatives in an aggressive continuing effort to identify, understand and address the challenges and to vastly improve the quality of the sound inside the stadium.

Some may ask, “Why not just move the Championships to another venue?” With a commitment to an incredibly valuable long-term partnership with the city hanging in the balance along with the enormous logistical and planning requirements which support a World Championship event several years in advance, all resources are focused on a systematic series of improvements which will result in an unparalleled stage worthy of “Marching Music’s Major League.”

– Based on the input of experts attending the 2009 event, combined with detailed feedback from corps directors and performers and the results of the comprehensive research with ticket purchasers conducted on behalf of Drum Corps International by an independent consulting firm, a number of detailed issues relating to acoustics have been identified and punch lists are already well in the works to address and eliminate many of the concerns. Strategies are being developed to eliminate and/or minimize as many of the sound reflection points as possible within the seating area and to take advantage of the one-of-a-kind opportunities offered within the facility to create “the ultimate drum corps performance venue.” Fans will notice some of the changes immediately upon entering the stadium next summer, while others will be less obvious.

– Meetings have occurred and will continue with stadium and city officials who have repeatedly expressed and demonstrated their commitment in creating the finest environment for seeing and hearing the world’s most elite marching music ensembles.

– DCI representatives and consultants have also attended numerous meetings and live events at Lucas Oil Stadium, making detailed observations as to the quality of sound and the viewing perspectives from literally hundreds of different seats located on every level on the “concert side” of the stadium.

– A series of articles outlining discussions with each of the experts from their unique points of view will be published on DCI.org over the next several weeks, and there will undoubtedly be additional discussion within the forums of Drum Corps Planet as well. Included in the interview series are perspectives from:

• Composer/Arranger and DCI Hall of Fame member Jay Bocook
• Percussion Arranger and DCI Hall of Fame member Thom Hannum
• Brass Arranger, Former DCI Judge and Judge Administrator and DCI Hall of Fame member Jay Kennedy
• Percussion Arranger and DCI Hall of Fame member Ralph Hardimon
• Program Designer and DCI Hall of Fame member Marc Sylvester
• Michael Fox, Stadium Director at Lucas Oil Stadium
• World Drum Corps Hall of Fame Member and Grammy Award-winning audio engineer Frank Dorritie
• DCI Adjudicator Curtis Costanza
• DCI Adjudicator Allan Kristensen
• DCI Adjudicator David Starnes
• Emmy Award-winning television producer Tom Blair

As you might imagine, testing the results of the efforts-in-progress prior to the 2010 World Championships is a challenge. The sizable expense and logistics involved with temporarily rigging additional sound-dampening materials throughout the stadium for such a test is one issue, while scheduling a corps to perform on the field in front of an audience of sufficient size to accurately simulate the conditions at the Finals in August is another. Although professional expertise and computer modeling can help to narrow the search for acoustical perfection, the ultimate proof won’t occur until the audience is filled with the enthusiastic fans of those performing at the 2010 World Championship events.

The refinement process will continue as the days count down to the return of the Drum Corps International World Championships. It is apparent that each of the many professionals involved with this effort is committed to learning more and making the adjustments necessary to achieve the goal of creating an environment which is considered to be the finest in the world for seeing and hearing the best of the best. The discussions are exciting and the passion of those working together is obvious, and we can all look forward to enjoying the results of their efforts.


You can discuss this article in the DCP Forums.

Posted by on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009. Filed under DCI Direct.