A few weeks ago, the DCI office staff and a number of family and friends gathered to treat DCI executive director Dan Acheson to a surprise party in honor of his ten years at the helm of Drum Corps International. Check out a video of the gathering. Wow, how 10 years goes by fast. It seems like yesterday that there was serious discussion about DCI entering insolvency due to massive financial problems. The average fan might be shocked to learn just HOW massive the problems were in those days. Indeed, it almost seems like a bad dream now. Things did indeed look bleak. Like someone who would have volunteered to rearrange the deck chairs of the Titanic, Dan, then the DCI chairman of the board, accepted the challenge to try to put a beyond bankrupt DCI back on track.

Dan Acheson
The first few years weren't easy. Belts had to be tightened. The board of directors had to take a good close look at DCI's mission and make adjustments to continue to meet that mission. New revenue streams had to be explored. The Internet had to be exploited. Now, it's hard to believe we ever went through that period. DCI has marketed the corps into many new regions and onto ESPN and has an outstanding relationship with organizations such as Disney. Fans have gulped up digital recordings of all the finalist shows back to the beginning of the organization. DCI.org explodes at the seams each year with new merchandise that flies out of the warehouse. Dan came to the position of executive director after serving 10 years in the top leadership position of the Glassmen. Under his watch, the corps improved upon its previous year's competitive finish 10 years in a row, a feat unparalleled in DCI history. Fran Kick of Instruction & Design Concepts was charged with putting together a new Glassmen management team in 1985. He refers to Dan's "highly professional approach," something all who know him would concur with. With a dream and a vision, "Dan said he was willing and jumped in with both feet, moved his family, dragged his brother in as well and the rest is history." And in pushing Glassmen out of obscurity into a status as a perennial Division I finalist, Dan became noticed by the other directors for his business-like approach to the activity, his low-key demeanor that kept the focus on his corps and not himself, and his optimism that good management would result in success for the entire activity. Those qualities led the DCI board of directors to elect Dan as chairman of the board in the mid-1990s. Come 1995, Dan was asked to tackle the position of executive director to make some serious decisions about the future of the organization. His prompt work to refocus the board on making the activity accountable to all -- especially the kids -- led to a resurgence of faith and optimism that DCI could be put on track. I remember being at a DCI board of directors meeting in Dayton, Ohio, Dan's first year, during the Winter Guard International World Championships. Dan had asked all the directors to answer the question, "What sucks about DCI?" There was instantly a collective nervous giggle through the room. It seemed that the directors had never been encouraged to openly and boldly state what they considered to be negatives about DCI. And from that exercise of building trust in one another, a new DCI order evolved that would put the problems of the past to rest. Blue Devils' executive director David Gibbs states that in those early years of Dan's command, Dan "had to be a mediator and physiologist" for and between the various personalities running their own corps, with "many uncomfortable meetings and situations we endured together." Dave goes on to tell Dan, "You are a good man to make it through 10 years of dealing with us," adding that Dan's "leadership abilities and calming tones made us stay on track" and his "thoughtfulness, steadfast conviction and dedication were inspiring." But Dan's greatest attribute, according to David, is the following, as addressed directly to Dan. "The best quality they you have always exhibited are your morals and ethics. You are a great person with honesty and integrity. Your loyalty and support has made all of us better people and directors." Patrick Seidling, director of Phantom Regiment, concurs with David. "Dan has an amazing ability to exhibit empathy to us directors. The fact that he just 'gets it' is comforting. He's been there -- as a member, director, parent, booster, driver, teacher, you name it. When I approach Dan with a problem or issue, I instinctively sense that he truly hears me. His advice is then just that much more valid and important." We should hear from Dan's wife, Linda. Without her support, Dan would never have picked up stakes and moved to Illinois to take on the challenges of DCI. "It has been an incredible journey being Dan's partner in life. His visionary mind has always amazed me. Dan takes a mental concept and manifests it into physical form. As the director of the Glassmen, as well as DCI, Dan's focus has always been to create the best performance arena for the kids to participate and perform in. If the corps members are having a great experience it naturally transitions through their performance giving the audience a great show. "His greatest asset is his enormous heart and passion. He is incredibly honest and humble. I'm sure he'll be embarrassed we're even noting the occasion of his 10 years of service at DCI. How lucky is he to be able to touch so many, in such a great youth activity." Brandt Crocker is not just "the Voice of DCI," he's also a DCI tour event partner. Brandt states, "Like most of the show promoters, I have enjoyed and appreciated his openness and honesty in dealing with us. Overall, I like his being approachable, open personality, friendship and honesty. Dan shares information. He communicates. We all have a feeling of the job he has to do (especially those of us who were superintendents of school in the public sector and worked with boards). I understand what he has to deal with and he does it well." Brandt mentioned the word "friendship," which comes up often when you ask someone who works with Dan to explain his success. Sal Salas, director of Madison Scouts, goes straight to the heart of Dan's humanity in saying, "Dan Acheson -- what an incredible individual. In my drum corps experiences, he truly epitomizes the meaning of friendship." And for so many of us, Dan truly is a friend -- of ourselves, of the corps, of the fans, of all the activity. Having him as executive director almost seems to be a bonus. Many of us are delighted to wish him a happy 10th anniversary. Like Brandt Crocker said in his e-mail to me, "I hope he stays in the job."
Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.