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About BranchHill

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  • Birthday 05/29/1954

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  • Your Drum Corps Experience
    Fan, Volunteer, Writer
  • Your Favorite Corps
    Hopefully, the next one I see
  • Gender
  • Location
    Pensacola, FL and Horton, AL
  • Interests
    Reading, writing, baking, connoisseur of the Buffalo Wing and of bourbon, public radio. DCI/DCA/BOA/WGI. War Eagle! Musical interests far-exceed the reach of drum corps, but I only have drum corps to thank for opening my ears (and eyes) to so many genres. Collect nativities from around the world; "Some Children See Him."

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  1. Thank you for the clarification. Clearly I did not fully research the program. My apologies. I read a great piece on AXIOS' website earlier today, about "giving circles." The gist is that "Philanthropy tends to center on a small number of affluent donors, but a grassroots movement known as "giving circles" — in which more modest donors pool their resources — has been gaining popularity. The big picture: Giving circles are still a drop in the philanthropic bucket, but proponents say they open the field to younger and more diverse donors — and broaden the reach of giving." Might work well in drum corps, in any non-profit pageantry organization. (I tried to include a link to the story, but three strikes -- attempts -- and I was out. Sorry.)
  2. These are all pertinent questions. Questions that, I fear, were not vetted internally before the "challenge" was issued.
  3. Let me weigh in on the $500-per-vote "challenge" from the Scouts. I was a fund-raiser for 30 of my 40-year-career; nothing good comes from this. I am not vindictive, but honestly the idea that alums pool their resources to grab board votes is not a bad one. At least, if you want to show leadership just how wrong-headed this is. Does the gift/vote have an expiration date? Does the vote include board membership, indeed every decision made? Has not anyone considered the ethical fundraising breach built into this? We are all familiar these days with "quid pro quo." Like the incident in the national news, this version of it is rife with the worst kinds of outcomes. The industry needs fundraising help; you good folks on here report regularly about the less-than-handful of organizations that are solvent. I hated reading about this "challenge," but then, I have hated most of the last several years of the beloved Madison Scouts organization. I'm old; I want to hold onto this corps mattering.
  4. Reagan, and Blue Springs, another likely BOA finalist, are in Macy’s parade next week.
  5. Over-produced? You betcha; often. And those programs do not compete as well. Focused intent competes. Always has. As to this weekend's BOA Championships: there are 91 entries. Some will not be competitive at all. I remain fascinated by trends. New ones often show up on summer fields. Love to know the source material. One man's observations.
  6. I was just about ready to give up on this topic thread (thanks MINT for the comprehensive staff change list in another thread), when I read this story in The New Yorker on fans, and their potential for impact on the mediums they follow. Made me wonder about all of the folks here, come together, for a united cause. I read logical explanations of business models, of inclusion, of safety protocols, even some plausible, if unlikely, notions about desired music and show themes. I read that in Drum Corps International's latest post-season survey, Drum Corps Planet is mentioned as an information source. What if, I have been thinking, consensus was gained around some/any of these over-arching topics, and presented as entree to a DCI board seat? Representation. Official recognition of the minds, and efforts, expended here 365/24. To the article: “When it comes to stans (Eminem's moniker for stalker fans) and how they operate on social media, it’s crazy to witness,” .... “These people really think that they’re doing some due diligence by the (medium).” Are you? Are WE? Is our pastime, arm-chair quarterbacking, back seat driving, unsolicited advice, due diligence? Might it resonate if coalesced, and presented professionally? "Now that couch potatoes have social media, they have risen up and become active, opinionated participants. As a result, movie studios and TV showrunners have to cater to subsets of diehard devotees, who expect to have a say in how their favorite properties are handled." Us, too? More of this? Less of that? Eliminate. Add. Multiply. Can we? Could we? "Fandom ... "is born out of a mix of fascination and frustration. If you weren’t drawn to it on some level, you wouldn’t be a fan. But, if it fully satisfies you, you wouldn’t need to rewrite it, remake it, re-perform it.” That's why I'm a fan; that's why I have followed drum corps for 48 years. You, too? All of us? Together? “There’s a fine line to tread on how much you listen to fans, because fans aren’t always right, either. But there are certain things where you should listen to them, because they’re smarter than maybe the super-high-up execs are going to think.” Or ... as it played out at Comic-Con: “One of the things I think we all love about Comic-Con so much is the fact that we all accept each other,” (the speaker) said, to groans. “Think about it! We all accept each other’s fandoms. We all accept each other’s idiosyncrasies.” More groans. (Bold type is mine.) Coalesce. Emerge. Present as a unified DCP brigade? Possible? Even desired? Or ... do we just love flexing our ideas, our connections, our "knowledge base" to each other? I have been wondering about these things a lot of late. I'd love to see the "pros" here become our collective mouthpieces to the organizations that matter most.
  7. What absolute fun this has been, N.E. Brigand. Thank you, again, for extending our drum corps season a few more weeks!
  8. Each generation must get on the same old merry-go-round, only disguised in a fresh coat of paint. American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist, Katherine Anne Porter, had the best-selling novel of 1962. It pertains here: "Ship of Fools." And I am not talking about staff changes. I expect the top six corps, stable or with "lifts and tucks," to amaze. Nothing less than jaw-dropping (it is amazing when they do not, and more often than anyone wants to admit, they do not) will be acceptable. I hope for shows to challenge the top six who bewilder. From the Blue Knights and Stars, from the revival corps Cadets and Phantom. I look forward to innovations that delight from Mandarins and Crossmen. What I am excited about: the rest of the field that amazed this season in ways that we often don't witness from non-finalists and at least the top of the Open Class. Staff changes here matter the most. Annual fresh coats of paint help no corps, but that is often the route taken -- by choice, by circumstance -- among 13-25th place units. It's the rite of passage here. But think of it: last year's off-season musical chairs yielded Pacific Crest's triangulated triumph, the Trooper's gorgeous musical relaunch, Jersey Surf's water wonderland, and the Spartans' goosebump/smile inducing championship. Among others. So don't *yawn*, please, when I am excited about a recent James Logan High School alum taking over as guard caption head; nor *dismiss* a percussion section that will be lead by an up-and-coming indoor group's designers and educators. This roster; found, recruited, hired, and given space to grow will shape the activity's future. (Bless your hearts when long-time, top six staff begin to retire. It's coming, likely sooner than you can imagine.) Oh, and the single thing I am most excited about: the prospect of a 2020 summer season as scintillating, as sizzling, as this one! Amaze us: one and all.
  9. I am going to be a contrarian, both to myself and to the general consensus of this board. First to myself, and the 1980 championships. The Blue Devils' redo of its remarkable championship and record-scoring 1979 show was tepid in comparison; this was to be the Lancers' year! But nerves got to 27th, and the finals night performance was robotic, rote. IF ... the millions of "ifs" in the history of drum corps ... the judges had realized it, just possibly The Bridgemen won the night. And I was no fan of Bayonne, at the time. (Read my thoughts on it, here.) As for 1989, I cry a little every time I watch both Vanguard and Phantom. Kind of like watching the Blue teams at the top of this year's leaderboard. All four shows are championship caliber, if only. Vanguard's revival of "Phantom" was, as has been said here, a "monster." And to me, so far superior to the year before, there is simply no comparison. The dramatic through-line was clearer, and certainly the performance was at a higher level. So then to Phantom, and the signature Dvorak: It has always seemed to me that the luxuriousness of the production, and the music, came to a dead stop three-quarters of the way through, for a drum break. It killed the forward motion of the finale that followed. That has, for me, been the difference in the two. Kingsmen, 1974. Please.
  10. For me, the words that mean the most here are: Denise Bonfiglio, Corps Director. One of only 6 women in the DCI Hall of Fame; out of 130. Her father was an inaugural member. This is drum corps royalty come back to the Northeast. I hope that this relationship sticks, because it has the ability to erase memories and mentions of .... (As for the numbers 6 and 130; Women in DCI has a long way to go to even be on an even field. I continue to wish the effort -- no matter how it came to be formed -- godspeed.)
  11. Here the five that led the Devil-of-a-decade, at least for me: 5/ "E=mc2" (Carolina Crown 2013) Signature championship show. 4/ "Ghostlight" (Blue Devils 2019) Championship by a thousand cuts; chipping away to victory just as they did with "Ink." 3/ "Down Side Up" (Bluecoats 2016) When this drum corps phenomenon dominated the season, I was just sure it would have been at the top of this kind of list. 2/ "Babylon" (Santa Clara Vanguard 2018) Speaking of season-long domination. (Horn snap) 1/ "Felliniesque" (Blue Devils 2014) Drum corps of this era at its masterful peak! Either the first, or second, best drum corps production I have seen in 48 years. (Give me two more years to weigh in with a half-century of favorites. Please ; )
  12. ... and all along, I have thought it was Pacific Crest who received the short end of the judging stick. *SHRUG*
  13. My absolute favorite in all of this: N.E. Brigand's taking the time to roll out this meticulously researched and articulated list. Thank you! The list, I am sad to admit, underscores my waning knowledge of Open Class offerings over the entirety of the decade. I began to make up for it in the past three years, learning that some of the most precious jewels in the drum corps necklace shine on Monday and Tuesday of championship week. With my admission also comes an apology: if the methodology I have chosen to tackle this task leaves out obvious gems, I'd love to be told of those omissions, so I can catch up! I decided to take the place listings and offer up my favorite, and a second helping of mighty good shows at each competitive finish. As Mr. Crocker says: "In 25th place:" "Off the Grid," Seattle Cascades 2019. When I realized that this production, which the members thread-the-needle performing with such exuberance, would likely be the lowest-scoring of the World Class offerings, all I could do was smile. All is well in the drum corps world. (Spartans, 2018: "DaVinci's Workshop" was the type of show we have all grown to love from the Northeast Open Class powerhouse. What came next ... Whoa!) 24th place: "FantaSea," Jersey Surf, 2019. A lesson, it seems to me, in smart programming. Design what can be achieved, the rest will fall into place. As it did in this very fine, entertaining, voyage. (Genesis, 2018: "RetroVertigo." Another signature show and style that was upended just a year later.) 23rd place: "Corps Prayer," Pioneer, 2010. The last appearance in the Top 25 for a corps and its members, both current and alumni, who always deserved better than the denouement that lurked for years. Pioneer was, at its apex, one of the most vital, competitive, corps in the activity. I will choose to remember it well, especially iterations from late 70s and early 80s. (Mandarins, 2012: "Prophecy." And here they come!) 22nd place: "The Blue Hour," Oregon Crusaders, 2011. Watch it again, as a precursor for Pacific Crest's breakout 2019 show. Good staff, better performers, solid show. (Vanguard Cadets, 2012: "Heroes and Legends." Even with a greatest hits playlist, this show underscored that Open Class only means open to anything ... wonderful!) 21st place" "Song of the Siren," Legends, 2019. An exotic tale as old as the seas themselves. I couldn't take my eyes off this show. (Pacific Crest, 2017. "Golden State of Mind." California was dreamin' and dreamy, in this easy to love coast-to-coast tour.) 20th place: "Sinvitation 7," Teal Sound, 2011. The corps' last championship appearance, before the truncated season to follow. An out-of-the-box musical mashup of "sin." (Mandarins, 2015. "Resurrection." When the Asian culture esthetic was the centerpiece of the corps, it moved us all. The corps' last thematic offering of the sort. To be remembered well.) 19th place: "Experiment X," Spartans, 2019. The winner and cham-PEEN! For all of the wonder of this spectacular production, I was hooked at the first phrases of the opening's "Balkan Dance." The rest was drum corps gravy. (Blue Devils B, 2018. "The Other Side." Devils' magic, in only a slightly different veneer. Just when you thought you knew what was coming ... MAGIC!) 18th place: "Off the Wall," Vanguard Cadets, 2018. Loose. In the groove. Of the moment drum corps. A gold medal moment, at that. (Troopers, 2019. "Beyond Boundaries." This show was not a threat to any competitor, save for the organization's brand, which is, after all, the most precious of all. The rebranding worked; a beautiful score, well-played. But for my enthusiasm here, it will all come down to 2020. Space Troopers likely will not hold up for a second year. Storm Troopers? State Troopers? ; ) 17th place: "Full Circle," Crossmen, 2010. When the X-Men excel, the corps has a vibe. This had a vibe. "First Circle," in its umpteenth iteration, was singularly effective. (Madison Scouts, 2019. "Majestic." The end of a majestic drum corps era. To a monumental new one!) 16th place: "Forging An Icon," Spirit of Atlanta, 2010. Perhaps the most under appreciated Spriit show ever! Not by me, though. ( Colts, 2011. "Deception.". Oftentimes, the Dubuque corps can seem as provincial as its hometown. For me, this show broke through like a jagged edge.) 15th place: The Academy, since the corps owned half a decade's worth of fifteenth-place finishes. "Academic," 2018 was a level grade up, what with the theme from "The Imitation Game" right off the desks. "(RE)," 2011 was the corps' vanity fair brand at the time, but I will admit that I'm a honk for "Mary Poppins." And "Feed the Birds," from 2015's "Step in Time" takes musical flight for me, often. 14th place: I would have loved to have seen both of these shows on Saturday night. "Everglow," Pacific Crest, 2019. No one was prepared for the scrumptious wonderfulness that this show brought to the field. Perhaps even, the judges? (Colts, 2015. "... and a Shot Rings Out," I love this dinner theater-style murder mystery! This was well beyond the usual drum corps realm.) 13th place: Finalists in every way, except final placement: "Inside the Ink," Mandarins, 2017 and "Knock," Spirit of Atlanta, 2018." There are another fifteen or more shows that I could have included on this list. Thanks, again, N.E. Brigand for the memories.
  14. I'm a fifth-place kind of guy: a solid performer, gets the job done, can inspire. Probably why I love fifth place drum corps shows so much. I have for almost 50 years; including this past decade's competitive ascendent/descendent productions and shows. The best thing about fifth place -- fifteenth, twenty-fifth -- somebody loves them. The best part of being a fan: it's our prerogative to love what we do and wonder in fury or amazement how our personal favorites landed where they did. Here are some of my fifth-place favorites; each one landed right where it should have: my heart. The Kilties 1973 outing was my first time to steam at a corps' fifth-place ranking. What's not to love when you hear "Roundabout," the legendary "Eli's Comin'," and the corps' trademark "Auld Lang Syne"? I only saw the Troopers' championship runner-up show on film, so The Long Blue Line's '74 recanting of much of it would have to suffice. Fifth place. Long-form musical arrangements got a mighty good early airing with the Blue Star's wonderful 1975 show that included the symphonic "Canzona," music by "Chicago," and Billy Joel's namesake, "The Legend of Billy the Kid." "Spartacus," the first, 1981 Phantom Regiment. And not only in retrospect. Madison had quite a fifth-place run in the 80s with some of the corps' most adventurous choices: "Strawberry Soup," the "Colas Breugnon Overture," and music from the Broadway smash "Cats." (Hold that thought.) The fifth-place eighties sported such signature shows as the original "Planets" by the Cavaliers in 1985 and its seminal "Firebird" in 1988. (Not that other, strange, gasping-for-air "Firebird" from 1997.) The signature sound of Suncoast Sound was on spectacular field-wide display with its highest placement for Stan Kenton's "Adventures in Time." (And that, just a year after its sixth-place original symphonic travelogue "Florida Suite.") I have always thought that the Cadet's 1989 "Les Miz" was under-rated, but that was a tough year to stand out from the top two. The Scouts again, 1993, with the exuberant "City of Angels," an approach that I thought the corps might take for a while: musical theater (See "Cats," above). Santa Clara's undulating "La Mer" should be on everyone's best list. Vanguard's "Ballet for Martha" was a fifth-place phenomenon in 2009, as was Boston's 2000 "RED." Before I weigh in on this decade just past, I have to go ahead and put it out there: my personal favorite fifth-place show in DCI history. I watched it just a few minutes ago, as I pondered this post: "Imago" by the 2001 Glassmen. The extended solo that was woven throughout the show is pure brass hypnotism. Ahhh ... ________________________________________ So to the 2010's, and the stellar top-to-bottom fifth-place finishers. I'll top my list with: Third/Fifth: The Cavaliers' "Wrong Side of the Tracks" 2019 Second/Fifth: Santa Clara Vanguard's "Music of the Starry Night" 2012 First/Fifth: Phantom Regiment's stunningly-dramatic "Juliet" 2011 See now, don't we all love us some fifth place drum corps?
  15. I voted for "Le Reve," one of the Blue Stars' best outings to date, at least for me it was. But I am writing today to additionally sing the praises of "Phantasm." When I saw the show in early season, it looked like a runaway train, too often leaving the performers behind. Man, did that show move! But I thought: well, if they get their feet under this one, and perform the show instead of chasing it, this might break out. Danged it: the old "two more weeks rule" applied: the show was just-about-almost a breakout, that just might have stuck for future development. As it was, the show seemed destined to play to folks too much like Oklahoma's Broken Arrow High School Band from whence "Phantasm's" designers hailed. Thing was: with fewer folks on the field, those designers had much more leeway than the crowd control that the mega-bands require (too often). Still, I wish that show had worked. The Regiment might already be on an upward track.