Drum Corps International
Blue Devils drum line reunites at PASIC 2017
Members of the Blue Devils drum line perform in the Indiana Convention Center's Sagamore Ballroom on Saturday.Photo by: Drum Corps International

Blue Devils drum line reunites at PASIC 2017

by Drum Corps International

The battery percussion section of the 2017 DCI World Champion Blue Devils reunited over the weekend to present an educational clinic as part of the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC).

The clinic, attended by well over a thousand convention attendees was held at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis on Saturday, November 11.

PASIC is the largest percussion convention in the world, featuring more than 120 concerts, educational clinics, master classes, and other sessions about anything and everything percussion. In addition, well over 100 exhibitors were on hand to show off the latest in percussion instruments, music, and various services.



Having not rehearsed as a group since the end of the DCI World Championships in August, drum line members arrived in Indianapolis on Thursday, November 9 to prepare for the session. In all, the 2017 group was missing just two snare drummers and one tenor drummer due to school conflicts. One bass drummer even flew all the way from his home in Italy to perform.

“The drum line showed up on Thursday and we had one rehearsal for two hours,” Blue Devils director of percussion Scott Johnson said. “To my surprise we sounded very good, and so I gave them the rest of the night off.”

Section leader Sean Clark, who completed his last year of eligibility and “aged out” this summer after six years with the Blue Devils organization, said that one of the biggest challenges in getting the group back in synch after three months off was remembering the body movements and other visual moves that are an integral component of the group's drumming.



Those body movements were one of a number of focuses presented in the corps' “lot style” performance at PASIC. Johnson explained “lot style” as having the drummers perform the essence of their visual movements in the parking lot, incorporating drill steps and movement into an extremely compressed space in order to make the warm-up as similar to a performance as possible.

In the approximately hour-long clinic, Johnson talked about the Blue Devils warm-ups and what high school programs can be doing to train the hands and the brains of their young members, so that every rehearsal and performance run-through is better than the previous one. He also explained the Blue Devils' “design by discovery” approach and how cross-section collaboration during the summer allows the corps' percussion parts and overall production to evolve during the DCI Tour.

Johnson also demonstrated how the Blue Devils drum line works in challenging parts of their drum book into their warm-ups in order to have more opportunities to work on those segments. If a particular pattern is presenting difficulties, it will turn up in a warm-up and the members will have the opportunity to have their hands and brains acclimate to the pattern prior to running through the entire show.



A particularly fun exercise for attendees was when Johnson had audience members answer him with their hands during a clapping exercise. Amazingly, the difficult patterns were easy for the convention hall full of percussionists. What was the biggest challenge were the easiest patterns that incorporated up to three counts of rests. In their excitement to respond, many members of the audience continually jumped the gun on clapping instead of waiting an additional couple of counts. This further emphasized Johnson's comments about the importance of warming up the brain.

The Blue Devils join a growing list of drum corps that have performed at PASIC in recent years including The Cavaliers in 2013, Santa Clara Vanguard in 2015 and Carolina Crown in 2016.

Johnson mentioned that many of the members of the drum line had never experienced PASIC before, and he was thrilled to have them witness it for the first time. “It's always great to get the crew back together.” he said.

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