California, home to 12 Open and World Class corps, is a hotbed for drum corps talent.
Three of those ensembles — Golden Empire, Incognito and Watchmen — all of which are young Open Class corps on the rise, follow an abbreviated tour schedule that keeps them relatively close to home in their Pacific region.
While none of these corps have plans to attend this year's DCI World Championships in Indianapolis, they have been active in recent weeks performing at a number of California events. Despite rehearsal schedules that are typically limited to the weekends, these corps have been putting on exceptional performances as part of a season that will be over for them by the middle of July.
“It's really hard to put together our entire show when we're only rehearsing on weekends," said Luke Uyemura, who serves as the captain of Incognito's front ensemble section. "Everyone comes from all over the place, so it's really difficult to meet, but we do it, and we get the job done."
A three-year veteran of Incognito, Uyemura said his corps remains steadfast in its mission to grow and entertain while doing so.
“It's just a lot of fun,” he said. “I've been in Incognito for three years, one in 2014, last year and this year. This is my age-out year and I wouldn't know any other corps I'd rather be with.”
Meanwhile, members of Golden Empire of Bakersfield, California, have been putting up numbers in their first few competitive events of 2017 that rival those of perennial Open Class finalists.
Golden Empire trumpet player Rigoberto Enciso says that the short length of the corps' season is a great motivator to excel on and off the football field.
“We have a shorter season than most corps,” he said. “We may end earlier, but I push my section just as hard. What makes it even better is when they push back harder on me. They motivate me, I motivate them.”
One positive that the corps like these with a shorter tour schedule enjoy is their members' ability to experience the drum corps lifestyle to its fullest — not only as performers, but also as spectators.
According to Watchmen drum set player Trevor Thompson, having the opportunity to see other World and Open Class groups perform at various events is one of his favorite parts of touring with his corps.
“I really appreciate being able to do drum corps even though we won't be going all the way to Indy,” he said. "It gives me the experience I need, but it also lets me watch other groups that I really enjoy, like Santa Clara Vanguard and the Blue Devils."
Golden Empire will spend this week in the Pacific Northwest, with appearances scheduled in Hillsboro, Oregon, Shoreline, Washington and Tri Cities, Washington, before heading back to California for a trio of events July 14-16 in Bakersfield, Escondido and Bellflower. Watchmen and Incognito will limit their action in the coming weeks to California, with a number of events scheduled between July 8-15, before wrapping up their seasons on July 16 at the So Cal Classic Open Class Championship in Bellflower.