year teachers can win a stock show, and for custom drill, small
bands only pay $35 per page. With discounts, the price can be reduced
to as little as $20 per page. That means you can have a 20 page
show for as little as $400.
|I spent three great years in one of the
worlds best drum and bugle corps, The Phantom Regiment. As part of that
group I had the opportunity to perform on national television, and in
front of huge audiences. Imagine playing for a crowd of 40,000
screaming fans who all came just to see the show. It was
As great as that was, it
wasn't centered on music or education. It was about competition.
Drum corps spend at least eight hours a day practicing a ten minute
show. They work the music by rote, and spend hours and hours
refining and memorizing very subtle nuances in a competitive
effort. It is not and cannot be an exercise in spontaneous
creativity or ongoing education, not if the corps wants to win.
Bands read new music and
play lots of tunes, they practice scales. When they play a phrase
they follow a conductor. Bands teach tone, intonation, blend,
balance, rhythm, style and interpretation as elements of musical
performance. When Corps teach those things it's as they apply to
raising the score at the next competition.
Band should be, about
forming young musicians into expressive artists.
Drum Corps is usually
about working a three year plan to win DCI.
As much as I love drum
corps, I prefer band.
In the three or four years since I first wrote the above statements,
I've received a lot of mail from passionate drum corps veterans who
insist that their personal experience in DCI corps was different.
They've told me how marching band is great, but that corps, or at least
the one they marched in, focused on teaching concepts of music for
I enjoyed reading the letters, and was glad to hear that some corps,
like the marching bands that surround them, are more concerned with
music than with winning. I should point out, however, that none
of those letters came from people who had marched in corps that
consistently place in DCI's top five. It's sad but true.
But that's why band is nine months and corps is three months.
Lets not throw out the baby with the bath water. I'm not anti
I also get letters from a people who say that DCI is destroying the
drum corps movement. I have a strong opinion about that
too. To read about that, click here.
Let me reiterate what I was trying to say back then. Please,
please, please, don't try to model your marching band shows after the
drum corps you see on TV. It can't work in the long run because
in your band's limited rehearsal time, with its smaller instructional
staff, it isn't fun for the kids in the short run. Make your
marching band a place where you foster of love of learning and a create
a lifetime thirst for music. That's what band can do best.
It's good for us, good for our students, and good for
civilization. That's a noble cause.
I've had a pretty good time these past 14 years. Drum corps
changed - a lot. Band changed - but not so much, and in some
pretty important and positive ways.
Back in the day (as we old timers say) marching bands would move
a little, then stand and play, then move some more, then stand and
play. Gradually over the past two decades, drum corps figured out they
could do that too, IF they threw in some "body choreography." So
they march a little, then pose, and stand and play - lather rinse
repeat. The Blue Devils have made an art of it. The running joke
among their rivals (who they keep beating) is that they march well and
play well, but hardly ever at the same time.
I think this has been good for the activity. More music is better.
Marching bands are doing it too, and wise directors are choosing to use
limited choreography vocabularies to accomplish it. To see an
example, check out Red Lion's 2014 show. I wrote the drill to the
director's specifications, and they won the Cavalcade of Bands 4A State
Championship in Pennsylvania. Notice that they don't march as
many pages as a drum corps. They also take smaller steps in general.
That's so they can play great music. They did a great job.
Here's a link to the design animation - http://youtu.be/j4HCurz9zB8
And here's a link to an actual performance - http://youtu.be/wrrGoFotX40