Some of the most indelible memories from a summer of drum corps come at the very end of the season, just prior to everyone leaving the World Championships stadium for the last time.
The anticipation of these moments puts a pit in the stomachs of corps members standing at attention on the field, and when the placements and scores are announced, fans sometimes react with a sustained volume that threatens to short out the stadium’s speaker system.
These are the moments—springing forth from the proclamations of longtime DCI Hall of Fame announcer Brandt Crocker—that stick with us for years. They’re moments that define an entire season in our memories and provide us with an exclamation mark at the end of a weeklong story that continually builds suspense until the very end.
When that end comes, the fans, having waited all summer for that moment, can’t hold in their reactions any longer. The euphoria that comes with an especially surprising finish that is endorsed by the masses rings in the ears long after the stadium lights cool down and stop vibrating.
Here are a few of those special, memorable moments.
1980 DCI World Championship Finals Birmingham, AL | Legion Field
When Brandt Crocker announced these scores and placements, it was the first time in the course of DCI’s nine Championships that the names of every corps were of prior finalists. There was only eight-tenths of a point separating 1st from 4th place, the smallest such spread in history. Many expected Revere, Massachusetts’ 27th Lancers to become the first group from the East Coast to take the title, and you’ll hear some chants of disapproval when the corps was announced in 2nd. Don’t miss the split second camera glimpse of the Blue Devils as soon as “27th” exited Brandt's lips. In the backfield you’ll see Blue Devils staff members run toward the corps. Note corps founder Jerry Seawright next to the Blue Devils drum majors, soaking up the joy of the fourth DCI title for a corps that was just nine years old.
Brandt Crocker’s take: “I miss the corps that no longer exist; each being identifiable by the program they presented. When announcing, I have always read each score twice so the fans could write them down. In the early days the score recaps weren’t made public until the drum corps newspapers came out much later. It became a habit, and I still read each score twice.”
The announcement of scores this year flew by quickly because of the constraints of the live televised broadcast. It sounds like Brandt was under the gun to wrap things up quickly, as one corps’ placement was barely announced before he had to go on to the next. Suncoast Sound made the Finals for the first time, and the home state crowd is obviously pleased to hear the corps finish in the top half of all corps. The Garfield Cadets are warmly acknowledged by the fans for the corps’ first DCI title, and upon the reading of their score, the 20.65 spread between 1st and 12th place became the largest in DCI Finals history. At the end, you’ll hear broadcaster Steve Rondinaro briefly get the reactions of his co-color commentators; Broadway choreographer Patricia Birch and jazz performer and composer Chuck Mangione.
Brandt’s take: “It was fun to see the upward moves of a number of corps through this period.”
1992 DCI World Championship Finals Madison, WI | Camp Randall Stadium
Famed sports announcer Curt Goudy was Steve Rondinaro’s co-anchor on the 1992 World Championships broadcast. Note the casual attitude of Velvet Knights’ drum majors, sitting on beach chairs until their score was announced. Star of Indiana had won the Quarterfinals competition and slipped to 2nd in Semifinals; so being announced in 3rd in Finals sparked a huge reaction from the audience. Many of those fans suspected this might be the Cavaliers’ first DCI title and responded noisily when the Cadets of Bergen County were announced in 2nd.
Brandt’s take: “I remember that one because so many Cavaliers parents put my announcement on their home answering machines. I thought that was cool! I remember the beginning of the Cavaliers’ march to the top spot beginning in 1989 and in my hometown of Ankeny, Iowa no less.”
1996 DCI World Championship Finals Orlando, FL | Citrus Bowl
This was the first of DCI’s three straight trips to Orlando for the World Championships. Crossmen and Magic of Orlando both tied for 8th place, and you can hear some fans gripe when they heard there was a tie. Little did they know that later on, Brandt would announce over the PA system, “In 2nd place, which is actually a tie for 1st place …” Phantom Regiment had been in 2nd place four times previous, and the audience seemed to realize the significance of this achievement. When DCI Hall of Fame broadcaster Michael Cesario mentioned there had never been a tie before, he was only referring to 1st place, as there were ties in other placements in 1977, 1987, 1990 and 1994. Particularly captivating is seeing the drum majors of Blue Devils and Phantom Regiment co-conduct the massed corps in the finale performance of “America the Beautiful/O Canada.”
Brandt’s take: “You have to love the ties! The crowd hates them, but I could sure have some fun with them behind the microphone.”
1999 DCI World Championship Finals Madison, WI | Camp Randall Stadium
You’ll hear Steve Rondinaro announce that next year’s DCI World Championships were moving to the new Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Washington D.C. which is now FedEx Field. (That move fell through when new owners bought the Washington Redskins NFL team.) 1999 marked the first time the Boston Crusaders earned a spot in the Finals competition. The audience warmly embraced the hometown Madison Scouts when their score was announced, and most seemed to be surprised when Crocker announced a tie for 1st place between Santa Clara Vanguard and the Blue Devils. Over Rondinaro’s wrap-up, you’ll hear many in the stands loudly chanting, “SCV, SCV, SCV …”
Brandt’s take: “1999 I remember well because that was my first year back on the road with a corps, and I spent it with SCV. I was so impressed that I predicted their first-place finish. Corps director JW Koester made it more meaningful when it was all over by pushing me into the circle of brass players for the corps’ encore performance of ‘Send in the Clowns.’ Wow.”
2000 DCI World Championship Finals College Park, MD | Byrd Stadium
The finale was rather typical until getting to another tie for 1st place; the third in five years and the second year in a row. The tension in the stands was palpable, with fans wondering how the Cavaliers’ “Niagara Falls” show would ultimately stack up against the Cadets and Blue Devils. Brandt threw the audience a curve ball by spurting out, “Receiving the gold medals…” The fans seemed to not know how to react. Despite the popularity of Cadets’ “We Are the Future” show, the audience was eerily quiet during the corps’ announcement, and it wasn’t as loud as might be expected during the Cavaliers’ announcement either. Sitting in the stands during the announcements was still electric in a way, though it seemed the audience was actually hostile to the idea of yet another tie.
Brandt’s take: “Another tie.”
2008 DCI World Championship Finals Bloomington, IN | Memorial Stadium
For those in the stands at Indiana University, the top-three score announcements will be ingrained in our memories forever. The 2008 season was steaming hot, with the Cavaliers spoiling Blue Devils’ undefeated season just a week prior and Phantom Regiment’s “Spartacus” show launching into overdrive during the final two weeks of the summer. In the Quarterfinals, the 2nd place Cavaliers were just 0.375 under Blue Devils, the exact same margin Phantom Regiment attained when knocking off the Cavaliers in the Semifinals. The audience sensed something electric was in the air, and it was said that the fans seemed to be willing Regiment to win. Watch how so many in the audience jumped out of their seats when Blue Devils were announced in 2nd; not as a slight to the Devils, but in recognition of Regiment’s spectacular surge at the end of the season. The miniscule spread of a quarter of a tenth of a point was even more shocking.
Brandt’s take: “2008 was such a close result, and Regiment was so on that night. I can't imagine if they hadn't won.”
2009 DCI World Championship Finals Indianapolis, IN | Lucas Oil Stadium
Much of the electricity in the audience in 2009 wasn’t about what was happening at the top of the rankings, but what was happening further down. Fans seemed to be so supportive of the Troopers in 2009, and the news that they had earned a spot in the Finals for the first time since 1986 was the biggest story coming out of the Semifinals. It was a particularly proud moment for Brandt Crocker, who came into the drum corps activity as a Troopers instructor and has been married to one of the corps’ guard sergeants for almost five decades. When it came time to open the 2009 Finals competition with a performance by the Troopers, Brandt couldn’t help but deviate from his normal script to welcome the corps members to the biggest performance of their past quarter century, and the joy in his voice is evident.
Brandt’s take: “I just thought the corps deserved something special after not being a part of Finals for so long, and yet they were one of the major founders of DCI.”
Which moments (either included or not included on this list) would you classify among the most electric audience reactions in DCI history?
Whether it’s an underdog making a move to the top or a perennial powerhouse doing what it does best, each year’s Drum Corps International World Championship showcases an excitement and electricity in the stadium that’s unlike any year before — An experience that truly needs to be seen in person to be believed.
The 2013 DCI World Championships will return to Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium this summer, Aug. 8-10. Individual-night tickets for the Prelims, Semifinals and Finals went on sale this week through Ticketmaster, and great seats are still available.