Jester, DCI, and the hope of SoundSport

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A few disclaimers ...

- Yeah, this is very long.

- This topic is centered around some old threads from 2006/2007 involving an inactive corps called Jester. There is a bunch of hearsay, conjecture, trolling, and accusation hurling that mentions people by name. It gets pretty ugly, but there's also a lot of "espirit de corps" among members and fans. I won't link it, but it's not hard to find.

- The last thing I want this topic to do is to dig up old gossip. The "juicy details" surrounding this group are no different than any other group that's inactive or that has had its share of struggles in the changing landscape. Rather, I'd like to get a discussion going on what it takes to field a start-up unit in 2015 vs 2006.

Moving on ...

I don't spend my time lurking old forums, but I had an insanely slow work-day and kept thinking about this group with a weird name.

I know nothing about Jester Drum and Bugle Corps, other than it was a small corps from Arizona that competed at some DCI events during the mid-2000s. It was the only other corps from Arizona besides The Academy (which, at the time, was a rising star that performed as an exhibition-only group for five years before competing in DCI in 2006). Both groups started at the same time, but Jester always seemed to be in The Academy's shadow.

For whatever reason, Jester inspired some heated threads during the competitive season. To sum up the debate in my own words ...

  • One side argued that this corps was too small and under-trained to even take the field as a DCI Division III corps. In their view, DCI (and drum corps in general) was better off not having another underfunded and understaffed corps.
  • As long as the corps passed its DCI evaluation and had the minimum 30 members, they had as much right to perform as the bigger groups. A lot of moral support came from Renegades, SoCal Dream, and other small corps people.

Obviously, there was much more to the discussion and I'm probably oversimplifying it, but that was essentially the conversation. This was back when DCI was three "divisions," as opposed to Open/World Class.

One poster named "musicdesign" argued the DCI evaluation process wasn't strict enough and allowed mismanaged corps to compete. Throughout the thread, this poster makes a bunch of dumb, insulting, and snobbish remarks (saying that he/she has a bunch of experience with corps administration without elaborating where or when).

There was one post from "musicdesign" that resonated though, emphasis mine:

Posted 11 July 2006 - 02:11 PM
Yes I have watched this corps perform and rehearse many times. your posting proves my point! In your own positing you are making my point!!!! If I have to tell you why it is embarassing then you must not have been involved in the activity for long and seen many corps! Yes there should be a place for these corps like these to perform and grow but not in the heat of competition. Maybe DCI needs to form a non-competitive and or evaluation division for corps like these with a totally different evaluation/scoring system.
Again I give all the kids props for what they are doing.

And Now The Point of This Needlessly Long Anecdote ...

As much as I hate this person's snobbery and overuse of exclamation points, they basically highlighted the reason for SoundSport to exist. There's finally a tier of drum corps where a group isn't summed up by a low score at a major show and forced to play an impossible game of catch-up against more established groups.

To see a corps like Southwind come back to DCI via SoundSport makes me incredibly optimistic for the future. I'm not going to say something saccharine like "who know's ... maybe we'll see Jester again ..." or anything like that. But maybe Arizona will have some more options for people that want to perform.

A few questions ...

- Since the arrival of SoundSport, has DCI's evaluation process changed at all?

- Are there any issues with SoundSport that you think need to be addressed and vetted? Is there a long way to go before we see more groups using it as a gateway into Open Class?

Go Jester

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So far Sound Sport has spawned the following corps Guardians, Southwind, and Watchmen (I'm forgetting one). There are also corps who compete that are in DCA Class A or DCA Mini-Corps such as Cincinnati Tradition, Star United, and The Rocketeers. There are some groups like mine, The Columbus Saints that compete in Soundsport and SDCA or Mon Valley Express.

In my opinion, Sound Sport is a great experience if you take advantage of what it offers. If you want to go from SoundSport to Open Class DCI will help you and get you on the path to build out your by-laws, grow your membership, develop your business plan and structure all while giving you a cheap way to get on the field and start recruiting.

The other component of SoundSport lies in marketing. As a member you gain some access to DCI marketing power by the occasional social media retweet, repost, highlight in a magazine and more. If you treat social media as an integral part of your membership strategy then Sound Sport is great because they love to see and repost corps generated media. They like to hear about the positive elements, the experiences, and things that let participating organizations make their own story.

With the Columbus Saints; we've been a community drumline performing in the HBCU style since 2003 until expanding in 2012 to add horns and competing at SoundSport Indy in 2014 with about 20 people. Since then we've grown 130% in less than a year; have acquired more instruments; started new community music programs through a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club; and continue to focus on keeping our members engaged while focusing on a local grassroots experience.

Thanks to Sound Sport we can tell our story to a wider audience, and then provide a good experience for our members. In the words of our founder "the kids that want to march World Class will march World Class. What about the other 75% who can't march; can't afford it; won't make it; or can't make the time and money commitment to a full tour? Who looks out for them? What about the ones with raw talent but need that extra help to get to that next level?"

Our Founder on the role of G-Men and community in Drum Corps:

The biggest complaint I hear about Sound Sport is the lack of rules and how it's not really drum corps. In my opinion this shows a lack of understanding or desire to understand what the concept is; and it's growth. In the last year they've had shows in China, Ireland, England and will have some in Columbia, and Japan this year. This is taking the DCI concept and inviting drum corps but also other marching arts ensembles to perform in a way that may fit their region. It also introduces a low impact; cost effective way to bring ensembles to the US to perform like Medlin Gran Banda. The other aspect of it is SoundSport isn't just an exhibition at a DCI Show. The goal is to take SoundSport and plant it anywhere that would fit with the performance style. That means, we could see a SoundSport competition during a national festival, or a huge sporting event. Something that having an Open Class Corps wouldn't work.

The thing is not everyone in SoundSport wants to move to Open Class. Those that do, and asked for assistance have done well and grown. If you're interested I can share more about our experience and yes there are issues but it's all about expectation. If you expect it to be DCI Open Class but smaller then you'll be disappointed. If you expect it to be something under the DCI umbrella that's very open around communication, support, and performance then that's what it'll be.

Edited by lcarlton
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  • 4 weeks later...

The Rocketeers formed in 2011 with the goal of becoming a Mini Corps. The only options for competition at that time were SDCA and DCA Mini Corps at finals. We did an exhibition that year at DCA Atlanta and went to DCA Finals to compete as a brass ensemble. We focused on growing our core group. In 2013 we heard about SoundSport. After talking with John DeNovi at DCI we were invited to play exhibition at the DCI show in our own hometown. This was the biggest springboard The Rocketeers have had. DCI began including us in all of their Sound Sport marketing. We were getting contacted by people interested in our organization. We have now done 3 SoundSport shows, Have 3 on the schedule for this year and we continue to grow. Are there little things that could be done better? I am sure there are. The best thing is when we have an issue or problem Erik and John are willing to work with us to get to where we need to be. Sound Sport is a great starting point. I think it will help the growth of SDCA in areas where there is currently no SDCA presence. That is my .02.

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Good luck with the Rocketeers!

Here is a pic of a corps called the Jesters, it may be what the OP was referring to:


I got if from this myspace page:

These days, with the combination of SoundSport and SDCA it should be more feasible to exist in some form at any scale, I would think.

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