Some disturbing and questionable news has arisen once again in the DCI community. Before you continue reading, please read the following post put out by the now defunct drum corps Encorps.
December 13 at 11:21 AM ·
FINAL STATEMENT AND DETAILS REGARDING ENCORPS
As you know, the Board of Directors of Jersey Arts and Music has decided not to continue with Encorps DCI Open Class Drum Corps as a program offering. Instead of explaining all of this everytime someone asks, we have decided to lay out the facts and reasons for our decision in exact detail so that we may go on official record, and put to rest any questions or misinformation.
We want to preface by stating that we, the Board of JAM and Encorps, were fully prepared and had every intention of fielding a competitive drum corps in 2020. We were preparing in every way, from finances and budgeting, to infrastructure and staff. Additionally, we already held design meetings to plan our 2020 production, "Magic," all before our first Open House Experience Day which was to be held November 17th, 2019.
While we received excellent interest from potential members, and with an excited member base returning, we came to this prudent yet regretful decision because of the due diligence paid to the following issues and actions that were presented to us by DCI:
1) ENCORPS NOT ALLOWED TO TRAVEL TO DCI CHAMPIONSHIPS.
In phone conversations from DCI staff to Judy Ulchinsky, Executive Director, we were told that "our tour ends in Allentown," and we were not allowed to travel to Marion or Indianapolis for DCI Championships in 2020, which is merely a one-day bus trip from New Jersey to Indiana. While there is no written rule that precludes us from traveling to championships, and we understand that we have to be “invited” by DCI to attend, we were nevertheless very surprised and disappointed. Also, we were not advised of this decision via email that any committee vote, or existing rule precluded us from attending. This seems to be an ad-hoc decision that was made which had an adverse effect on our recruiting and retention, as members were expecting to take that step this season. We were surprised that this decision was made so prematurely, before we were given any opportunity to present our tour plan for 2020, or how we feed and transport our members (which is was handled very well in 2019). DCI said we could "appeal" the decision. Indeed, when we submitted our "appeal" as recommended, we outlined the travel budget and details, yet we received no response on a vote that was to happen for our appeal to travel. This is the first factor that directly influenced our decision.
2) LACK OF COMPETITIVE OPPORTUNITIES OFFERED TO ENCORPS.
There were initially around 7 shows offered to Encorps. However, 3 of those shows in the Northeast were unfortunately canceled. That left Encorps with only 4 competitive shows total. One of which would have required us to stay overnight, for which we were FULLY prepared. To put in all the effort to organize, plan and practice for only 4 performance opportunities in a season was also disappointing. This might have been acceptable if we were allowed to go to championships, but that was not the case. Again, this was another strong factor in our decision.
3) NEW OPEN CLASS MINIMUM FOR PARTICIPATION TO 55 MEMBERS
In the DCI policy manual, Appendix 216 - Participation Levels, there is a new policy put in place by DCI this season (October 2019). It explicitly states "Number of performers 55 - 154". Jersey Arts and Music/Encorps was never informed of the new 55 member minimum policy officially, in any way, after requesting it via emails to DCI. However, after having asked several Open Class directors, we finally received confirmation and written documentation in a direct email from a corps director that stated as follows: “The Membership Affairs Committee just ratified by the Membership that the minimum is now 55 members. The policy is 216 - Participant Levels – and is housed in the Policy and Procedures folder under Corporate documents in Backstage.” Upon reading this email forwarded to us by the other corps director, it confirmed to us the new 55 member minimum is indeed now in effect. This rule was concerning to us, having fielded 37 members in 2019. With no clear direction as to any consequence if we did not reach the stated minimum of 55 members, especially if we legally sign show contracts, this put the corps in a tenuous position. What would happen if by Spring 2020 we did not meet the minimum membership? Would we be allowed to compete? The consequences are not clearly stated or defined at all in the Appendix 216 policy. We were not going to take a chance of fielding a drum corps that possibly would not reach the 55 member minimum without knowing said consequences. It's not fair to our members. This was a HUGE factor directly influencing our decision.
4) NO NOTICE OF FURTHER EVALUATION OR STATUS
DCI's approval of our Open Class membership in 2019 stated the following:
"To approve Encorps for participation in DCI’s Open Class for the 2019 Season for no more than 5 single day trips. There will be further evaluation for any continued participation following the 2019 season"
As of November 2019, we were never informed in any way that our status would change for the 2020 season, or that any further evaluation would need to take place. We were not asked to provide any supporting documents to show that we could travel, or how we would feed our members. Indeed, we were being offered shows in which we were asked to sign contracts. This signaled to us that we are cleared to FULLY participate in the 2020 season, for which we were preparing. This is what made their decision to not allow us to travel to championships even more puzzling.
In conclusion, after taking all of this into consideration, the Board did not feel it would be prudent to field a drum corps. We did not have confidence that DCI was being helpful and supportive of our growth as a viable, competitive drum corps. We also feel that Encorps was not allowed to fully participate in the DCI experience competitively, which is the reason why we founded the drum corps in the first place. We had no idea that as we grew, we would have so few performance opportunities. The risk/reward of having such a short season and not being allowed to travel to championships, combined with the uncertainty of reaching the 55 membership requirement, did not justify the amount of expense and effort it takes to field a competitive DCI Drum Corps. This was a very disappointing and stark reality for our Board.
The Board of Jersey Arts and Music Inc. will continue to monitor future DCI decisions, statements and actions as it pertains to how rules are applied to the other Open Class Drum Corps vis a vis number of members needed, travel to championships, and participation in Soundsport for NEW DCI drum corps, which we were told we had to do as a first year member in 2018.
Jersey Arts and Music Inc. followed every guideline and rule that DCI mandated for the organization and we are proud of what we accomplished in our two years of existence. JAM will continue fulfilling our mission statement, by providing musical experiences to students in the New Jersey community with other worthwhile programs, including Youth Jazz and Rock Ensemble programs, Special Needs Music classes, and many other music ventures.
Jersey Arts and Music Board of Directors
This post is revealing. The statements in this post by Encorps should be very concerning to all of us.
Now I know what most of you will say this should be put in the open class forum. However, I think the central key reason why this should belong here is because of the fact that it is representative of DCI and its treatment of all its constituents. Furthermore, this incident could be just the tip of the iceberg that reveals what might be happening across the DCI community.
There are several key things to take from this:
1. "In phone conversations from DCI staff to Judy Ulchinsky, Executive Director, we were told that "our tour ends in Allentown," and we were not allowed to travel to Marion or Indianapolis for DCI Championships in 2020, which is merely a one-day bus trip from New Jersey to Indiana. While there is no written rule that precludes us from traveling to championships, and we understand that we have to be “invited” by DCI to attend, we were nevertheless very surprised and disappointed. Also, we were not advised of this decision via email that any committee vote, or existing rule precluded us from attending."
"We submitted our "appeal" as recommended, we outlined the travel budget and details, yet we received no response on a vote that was to happen for our appeal to travel. This is the first factor that directly influenced our decision."
This right here is concerning due to the fact that this may be representative of how DCI treats its members based upon status. According to the DCI rule/policy handbook, there is no division within open class corps; the only place where this existent is at the world class level ( WCP and WCM ). Simply put, Encorps status is equal to that of Blue Devils B. We heard earlier that Blue Devils B was approved to return to open class championship less than a month ago. This shows that DCI is responsive to petitions by corps to either do or accomplish certain feats and goals. Yet, when Encorps was denied going to open class championship and after Encorps submitted a petition to challenge that ruling ( which was actually recommended by DCI ), no response was given. In this case, and unless proved otherwise, I think that it is safe to assume that Encorps submitted their challenge petition to DCI quite some time ago. I don't think that Encorps would just submit their petition, wait one day, and then go out to say that DCI ignored them. So at this time, it can be concluded that DCI is being selective and partial towards those who are poised to be significant and worth their time; all others are to be left in the dust.
These actions by DCI can further be supported by the incidents involving Arsenal, Incognito, Pioneer, Oregon Crusaders, and the Cadets.
1. Arsenal was denied Open Class evaluation and DCI left it at that. It wasn't until people started to rally behind Arsenal that DCI went a step further and attempted to defend itself. The lesson here is that action only took place when DCI was under scrutiny.
2. Incognito is no longer listed as an active corps. Yet when Oregon Crusaders folded, there was a big announcement and coverage. Why is there nothing about incognito? What might they be hiding?
3. Pioneer's was pretty much brushed off until the threat of DCI's shutdown from possible lawsuits that may have erupted from the situation. Before hand, it was dismissed by the BoD until it exploded from the whistleblower(s) claims that were made public. Other whistleblowers from other corps came forward afterwards but DCI essentially did nothing in those cases. What has become of those other cases?
4. Cadets were immediately given special care throughout their situation just because of the fact that DCI thought that if anything major happened to the Cadets with regards to their abilities to compete as the result of a DCI ruling, people would lose their minds and the sanctity of the activity of itself would be jeopardized.
Even after all this simple statement of facts, there is more evidence to be found in the abrupt change of rules/policies.
Exhibit A: Open Class corps must have a minimum of 55 members.
- This is what DCI wants out of open class corps. While understandable in the aspect of trying to make the activity more competitive, they left no room for potential negotiations. In other words, DCI doesn't give a crap about the drum corps organizations themselves. They only care about having the best corps survive through what is best known as natural selection. Those who prevail, good for them; those who don't make the cut, they are left to rot away. This is also seen at the world class level with its similar requirements such as 110 minimum for members.
So far, here are all the corps that have died under DCI's iron fist:
Below are corps that potentially could collapse because of DCI and its brutal policies.
All the corps listed here are based upon membership from the 2019 season.
We still see basic promotions for all the corps and their audition camps, etc. However, it seems pretty clear here that the policy of drum corps natural selection has already been written into the future of drum corps. This combined with DCI's ineffective ability to properly manage its constituents should have all of us worried. It was less than a few years ago we saw corps like The Battalion, Shadow, Vessel, Encorps, Golden Empire, etc emerge from what was known as the rebirth of a golden drum corps age. Now, DCI is threatening all of that and God forbid, that with the way that DCI is treating its constituents, and the policies that it is enforcing without taking into consideration any outside views, that we don't end up with the beginning of the end of drum corps as we know it.
I have no doubt in my mind that stories like this will repeat itself, both at the open and world class levels.
The true question now is what can we, they, anybody do to stop this?