Drum Corps International
Bringing the (Drum Corps) World to Indianapolis

Bringing the (Drum Corps) World to Indianapolis

by Chris Weber


A few of the more than 140,000 photos archived
in the Drum Corps World collection.
One of the most significant donations Drum Corps International has ever received will help to ensure that the visual history of drum corps past and present will live on well beyond this year's 40th anniversary season. DCI Hall of Fame member Steve Vickers, the longtime publisher of Drum Corps World newspaper and also a member of the Madison Scouts' board of directors, has donated his entire photo archive containing more than a half-century of marching music history to Drum Corps International. The collection, believed to be one of the most comprehensive in existence, has been a labor of love for Vickers, who got his start in drum corps in the 1960s as a member of the Jets, the feeder corps to the Sky Ryders of Hutchinson, Kansas. He got involved in the publishing industry at the age of 24 when Jim Jones, founder and director of the Troopers and Don Whiteley, DCI's first director of public relations, brought Vickers on board to work for the fledgling Drum Corps World newspaper which the two drum corps titans co-founded. In 1974, Vickers purchased and took sole control of Drum Corps World, transitioning the publication to a magazine format and expanding its coverage to encapsulate the entire "world" of the drum corps activity. Featuring a combination of news and information about Drum Corps International and the all-age competitions of Drum Corps Associates, Drum Corps World also reports extensively on international activities in Europe, Japan, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and anywhere else where drum corps exists on any scale.

Steve Vickers during his 2007 DCI Hall of Fame induction.
Vickers' Drum Corps World collection of more than 140,000 photos is still growing, as he continues publishing monthly issues online. More than 600 drum corps are identified and represented in this current archive, which covers all types of marching groups throughout the world, many of which predate the formation Drum Corps International. Also included is a series of behind-the-scenes shots of performers, fans and other personalities that Vickers says helps to tell the more personal side of the drum corps story. "There's a well-known series of pictures by longtime DCW photographer Moe Knox of the 1960s Smithtown Freelancers from Long Island. While a corps member was marching in a show, his pants started falling down. In the last photo, he's gallantly playing his horn with one hand and holding his pants up with the other!" Another one of Vickers' favorite photos was taken at a competition in the 1970s. "A nun in a black habit is standing at a relish table adding condiments to a hot dog. There's something about that picture I just love. It's shots like these that tell the full story of the far-reaching nature of the drum corps activity in addition to what's happening on the field."

The Drum Corps World archives were transported to
Indianapolis in December of 2011.
Though he takes great pride in representing as many corps as possible in print, Vickers estimates that over the course of 40 volumes (approximately 800 issues) of Drum Corps World—in addition to the four massive drum corps history books he's been responsible for—only about 19 percent of the photos in the collection have been published. Over the decades, Vickers has worked with a dedicated crew of professional and amateur photographers who have contributed to the thoroughness of the collection. With an intimate understanding of each photographer's style and the subjects of interest, Vickers says, "If not labeled, I can frequently tell who the photographers are by the kind of photographic paper they were using at the time." Impeccably organized, there are only a small number of photos in the assortment that remain unidentified by corps name and/or year. A photo of practically every performing unit during each of DCI's World Championships is included in his 2007 coffee table book, "Drum Corps International: The First 35 Years in Photos." The Drum Corps World archive was transported in mid-December from Vickers' home office in Madison, Wis., to the Drum Corps International headquarters in downtown Indianapolis. Packed into some 30 boxes, the compilation of photo prints, 35mm negatives and color slides, along with CDs and DVDs containing JPG files from the rise of digital photography to the present day, safely and carefully made their way into DCI's possession. Now unpacked, the collection resides in a series of cabinets in the DCI warehouse adjacent to the organization's extensive video and audio archives.
These notes by Steve Vickers give a basic outline of the contents that were shipped to Drum Corps International.
The donation came at an opportune time, as Vickers looked to downsize his office space and saw the 40th anniversaries of both Drum Corps International and Drum Corps World as the perfect opportunity to donate and relocate his collection. "I've known several photographers and collectors whose drum corps belongings have unfortunately ended up in the trash dump, only because they didn't realize there are people who would be very interested in taking care of their collections," Vickers said. "Other times when people pass away, their families—who might not have been involved in the activity and weren't aware of the significance of their relative's collection—don't necessarily know what to do with or where they can send their loved ones' belongings. "I wanted this collection to be permanently housed in a place that I can trust, knowing that it will be cared for, utilized and eventually shared with the public. I know there are several people involved with DCI who are very deeply interested in preserving the history of drum corps from its inception on the battlefield all the way through the current-day art form. I hope that this donation will provide the foundation of a much larger collection, grown over time through the generosity of others who will contribute their own materials to the archive." Following the relocation, Drum Corps International retained the services of an Indianapolis-based professional appraisal consultant who reviewed the expansive assortment of materials and provided a valuation for the entire collection. The resulting appraisal was affixed well in excess of a quarter-million dollars, making it one of the largest and most significant gifts ever presented to DCI. "The drum corps activity—and preserving its history through Drum Corps World—has been a lifelong endeavor for me," said Vickers. "Those who are familiar with me and the workings of the publication know that what I have done and continue to do is not financially lucrative. I'm truly passionate about preserving this important history." Drum Corps International is making plans for the digitization and archiving of the entire contents of the Drum Corps World collection. A similar project is currently underway with DCI's own photo archives dating back to its founding in 1972. "I have been talking with DCI for many years about someday having a marching music museum with drum corps as the centerpiece," Vickers said. "I'm hopeful that this donation could serve as the impetus for a project like that." View a sample gallery of the diverse array of photos in the Drum Corps World archive. Subscribe to Drum Corps World's free online edition. Learn more about drum corps historical preservation efforts. Inquire about donating your collection of memorabilia to the Drum Corps Collectors and Historical Society.