As the DCI Tour marched through Minneapolis in July, more than 50 middle school musicians had the opportunity to perform alongside members of the Madison Scouts in front for thousands of Drum Corps International event attendees.

This new Minneapolis event for student musicians marks one of the newest branches of the BANDtastic Honor Band program, spearheaded by Drum Corps International in locations across the country.

“BANDtastic is an experience tailored to students going into high school who are making the decision whether or not they want to continue in music and possibly even pursue music as a future career,” said DCI event operations manager Chelsea Broekema.

BANDtastic students pose for a photo outside TCF Bank Stadium on July 8 in Minneapolis.

“We're trying to give them this experience at the point where they're making decisions about whether or not they want to stay in band,” she said. “That's often the point where most students drop out of music programs and don't pursue them.”

Students who participated in the action-packed all-day experience on July 8 at the University of Minnesota, also had the opportunity to participate in leadership development workshops, get up-close with drum corps performers both in the warm-up lot and in the stadium, and meet and play with members of the Madison Scouts during a special intermission performance.

After working with the BANDtastic students at TCF Bank Stadium, Madison Scouts trumpet player Austin Armstrong said the program succeeds in sparking long-term enthusiasm for the arts in young musicians.

“As a future music educator, it's really cool to see kids get involved with this kind of thing,” he said. “They're very enthusiastic about being with us. It would be a very big deal for me at that age as well if this program existed when I was in middle school.”

Students got to meet members of the Madison Scouts as part of their BANDtastic experience.

“My brother did the INpact Indiana's Future Band (an offshoot of the BANDtastic program), and he came back just full of enthusiasm,” Armstrong said. “That's really essential, I think, for getting these kids involved not only in their middle school bands at the age they're at now, but also kids going into high school and hopefully into college so we can get more educators out there. I think it's imperative.”

The process of becoming a BANDtastic performer starts with middle school band directors who nominate their students to participate. A different panel of band directors then evaluate applications and choose at least two students from each school.

“The evaluations are based on the band director's discretion — Who they think needs the experience or who they think would enjoy it most,” Broekema said. “So it could be the student who has a lot of musical ability, the student who doesn't have as much playing ability but really loves band, or the student who isn't excited about band at all but the director wants to spark that interest and keep them performing into high school.”

BANDtastic students and the Madison Scouts perform together during an intermission of the DCI Minnesota event.

The growing BANDtastic program aims to inspire as many budding musicians as possible across the U.S. WIth additional opportunities in the works to be held in conjunction with future  DCI Tour events, more and more young performers will be able to share experiences with corps members in the future.

“One of many great things about the BANDtastic program is that the students often get to perform with corps members,” Broekema said. “So their experience has a drum corps tie-in as a foundation, and it's cool to see them star-struck as they get to meet and play alongside these professional marching musicians.”

Also run as part of the BANDtastic program, the 2017 INpact Indiana's Future Band, made up of more than 500 middle school musicians from across the state of Indiana, will gather this August for two days of educational sessions, rehearsals and performances around the DCI World Championships and SoundSport International Music and Food Festival in Indianapolis.