Canton Ohio's Bluecoats didn't have to wait until finals week in Orland, Fla., to get a standing ovation. They didn't even have to wow over a crowd at an early season show. Corps director Bill Hamilton said that the corps earned a standing "O" from a crowd (including a local baseball team) during an April camp.

Bloooo sky: The Bluecoats rehearse under perfect weather conditions recently.
"At our recently completed April camp, the full corps was in the stadium, under the lights, in perfect weather to do their final run-through of the first four minutes of the show, which they had just learned that weekend," Hamilton said. "In the stands were the entire staff, all the cooks, sewing ladies, parents, friends, alumni and even a few baseball players from the school. Halfway through the opener, every single one of them were on their feet -- even the baseball players that knew nothing about drum corps. I think we're going to see a lot of that this summer," Hamilton said. The buzz around the Bluecoats started in late fall, when the corps reported that a staggering number of 700 people showed up to audition at the corps' Texas and Ohio locations -- Hamilton called it part of the corps' "most successful winter in recent memory. The corps worked steadily through the winter at both the Texas and Ohio locations with an abundance of talent and enthusiasm." In addition to the huge showing of newcomers at audition camps, Hamilton reported that many veterans are returning to the fold. "The large number of returning veterans really helped the corps to bond much earlier than in past years," Hamilton said. Likewise, the Bluecoats' instructional staff is also one of continuity. "Our design team has been more or less in tact for the last three seasons. The chemistry and communication they have has now become second nature. The addition of Mitch Rogers as the visual designer has added just the right amount of creativity and inspiration with his enthusiasm and professionalism," Hamilton said. "We pride ourselves in our in our instructional team, in that most of them have either been with us for a number of years, or they marched as members of our program recently." The Bluecoats' section leaders and drum majors, meanwhile, took unusual initiatives to keep tabs on the members of their sections over the winter. "The section leaders and drum majors make it their business to keep in constant contact with the members of their section to monitor progress on such things as music, physical conditioning, transportation, finances, school work, winter guard and winter percussion. The constant communication really helps to get everyone primed for the season," Hamilton said. Organizationally, Hamilton is taking the Bingo game as a successful fund-raising venture for the first time in 2003. "We are one of the few corps in the country who hasn't relied on Bingo as a major source of our funding in the past. However, in 2003 we are now in our fourth month of a two-night-per-week game that has never seen a smaller crowd than 150 people per session. This new income stream has helped our cash flow and allowed us to plan more reliably for our future. We can now concentrate in more improvements to our infrastructure such as our new and improved Web site," Hamilton said. Hamilton reported that the corps has only suffered one unexpected occurrence – a bus breakdown. "We pride ourselves on efficiency, so if anything unexpected comes up, it's because we didn't plan properly. Transportation though, is the area where if anything can go wrong, it will -- and it did! Our Pennsylvania bus, which regularly runs to our Ohio camp, is no exception. But after a much-needed engine replacement, our old standby bus is purring like a bus. Fortunately for us, the summer tour will be handled by four charter buses in which we expect to be very comfortable.
Hamilton also explained the corps' 2003 program in a little more detail. "The 2003 Bluecoats will bring to the field an intriguing idea both visually and musically in the production we call 'Capture and Escape.' Audiences will be mesmerized by the various "traps" and "narrow escapes" depicted in the drill design. Our music designers will once again rely on "melody" as one of the strongest musical elements to communicate the tension and drama of 'Capture and Escape.'"