Drum Corps International
A Talk with Sal Salas

A Talk with Sal Salas

by Drum Corps International

I had the pleasure this past weekend of seeing Madison Scouts over two nights during their camp in Whitewater, Wis., including a run-through in full uniform There's been quite a bit of talk the past few weeks over the presence of a female character in the Scouts 2005 show, "The Carmen Project." I was interested in hearing corps director Sal Salas explain how the corps developed the program and how the Carmen character came to be. The following are Sal's own words. I called the designers and asked them to think about it first, to think about the show featuring a female character and then to call me back the next day. I knew that in order to do "Carmen," we would need to have a person portray the main character. We got together and started storyboarding the whole program and concluded that to DO "Carmen," we needed a female Carmen. So, that meant we would have a young woman in the show. When we decided we would do this, we definitely made sure that the people we looked into knew exactly the role they would be playing in terms of character. However, first and foremost, they also were told they would be part of the family. That's what we preach here in Madison. There was no conflict to me as we live by family. Women have been in Madison shows twice before -- when Bill Howard's daughter, Bonnie, marched as "Alice in Wonderland" in 1971 and when we utilized three girls in the American flag squad for the VFW Nationals in 1980. It's really interesting -- the board of directors were aware we would have a guest performer and no one objected. None of our alumni have contacted me regarding the situation. I think that people are waiting to see just how we do it. From a programming standpoint, she comes in at about three minutes into the show, and well before we hit the nine-minute mark, she's gone. So, there's plenty of the show where she's not on the field. We're still the Madison Scouts: We're giving you a 72-man horn line -- our biggest ever, and the great drums and exciting guard -- everything you've ever wanted from the Madison Scouts. From the beginning, we decided the horn line would be loud and entertaining. Carmen plays a part in the program and she doesn't have any issues with being part of the family. We don't label her any different. When I talk about the brotherhood, I don't break it down by staff and members. It's all about being part of this brotherhood. She considers all the guys to be her big brother. To find Carmen, we had a search. We looked at some baton twirlers from Japan and had asked some winter guard instructors about their best performers. The woman playing Carmen actually walked into a rehearsal to watch the corps -- believe it or not, while we were playing the "Fate" theme. Her two sisters had marched Capital Sound. She had no idea we were looking for a Carmen. We knew the moment we saw her that she was it. I looked at Michael Cesario. He looked at me and we knew she had to be Carmen. We found out she was a great dancer. We told her about "The Carmen Project." We asked her if she would be interested in auditioning. She said she would think about it. We had her come in and audition with choreographer Lionell Moore and her talent blew us away. She was classically trained and an excellent hip-hop dancer. She could mimic every move he showed her. We definitely hit paydirt. We had her speak to the corps and all the guys just welcomed her into the family. She is the nicest person you could ever meet. Of course, we will treat her with the utmost of respect, befitting the Scouts tradition. We'll make arrangements for her to shower by herself and she'll have her own sleep area with Kelsey, one of our guard instructors. It's the way I would want to be treated as a male in an all-female organization. We ARE still an all-male corps. This is not any different than 1971. Madison Scouts is not a Boy Scout Troop. We are chartered as a venture crew, which can be of mixed gender. We renew that charter every year. This -- utilizing a woman in our show -- is a one-year thing. There is no discussion about changing who we are. When you think about the Madison Scouts, you think about the excitement, the power, the entertainment. We have no desire to take away what the Madison Scouts has always been. It just so happens that the show developed for this to be the situation this year. All I can guarantee is that the show will be exciting. It will be the Madison Scouts.