Based in Hawthorne, Calif., the Open Class Gold Drum & Bugle Corps was formed in January 2005 under the name "Hawthorne Gold." While their shortened 2008 season was limited to a California tour, their show "29,029 Feet – Everest" caused notice among fans with a unique concept and well-polished finish. The corps provided a look into the dangers of scaling the tallest mountain on Earth from the actual climb to reaching the summit. The color guard wore mountain gear including goggles and even the regular uniforms were augmented with blue climbing rope instead of sashes. And after another successful season in 2008, the corps knows survival, whether on Mt. Everest or in our current economy, is paramount. Christina Mavroudis-Dempsey interviews Gold director Dr. Donald Flaherty about the organization and the corps' 2008 season.

Gold's 2008 mountain-themed color guard costumes
incorporated climbing harnesses and goggles.
How old is the corps this year? This was our 4th year as a drum and bugle corps. Have you been the corps director all four years? Yes. Since day one. How did the corps come together? Gold came together as part of an evolution of our indoor percussion program which we started first. Becoming a DCI corps was a way to service more kids and expose them to a positive youth activity. What's the story behind the name? We had to buy a full set of horns to start the drum corps and to be perfectly honest, gold lacquer horns were a lot cheaper than silver-plated ones. So we just turned the lack of money into a marketing tool for the corps that made us stand out from the rest of DCI corps. Plus the Gold name allowed us to market the group outside of the drum corps world and perform in lots of other venues. How does Gold support itself? We are sponsored by the Centinela Valley High School District, and then like every other corps we finance the group with a combination of member fees and fundraising events (lots of fundraising events!) We also have several corporate sponsors. What's your favorite memory of the corps attending their first DCI World Championship last year in Pasadena? As a new corps we had always performed early at events, and when we finally got to perform under the lights in Bakersfield, Calif. right before the World Championships in Pasadena, it was a pretty special, awesome night.

Members of the Gold front ensemble before their 2007 World Championship performance.
What do you think is the most critical area for the survival of Open Class corps? Money, money, money. It always comes back to a lack of money and/or the massive amounts of debt that corps take on to stay on the road. We are trying to keep Gold financially out of the black hole that unfortunately sometimes drum corps find themselves in. And thus far we have done OK on that front. We have little debt and a good base of operations at this point. Unfortunately all that can change in a heart beat in this activity. So we are trying to hedge our bets and stay on top of a very fluid economy. I have always made it an operational imperative that if we had to shut down tomorrow for any reason, we could pay off all of our bills.

A 2008 Gold tenor drummer.
The Gold show design for 2008 had a very interesting theme about climbing Mt. Everest and included unique visuals. Can you discuss how this concept came about? The original concept of Everest as a show theme was from Mark Pirie, a long time friend and an excellent designer. Once the theme was chosen our arranger Travis Larson took the idea and ran with it musically while the rest of the staff threw in their ideas. It was a very collaborative design process and everyone on staff had a part in the creation of the show. How did the corps do overall this season – the progression from the first show to the last? The corps had a good run this year with a strong preview show in Brea, Calif. From our first to our last show in Fremont, Calif., every performance seemed to be stronger than the last. We had a great group of kids who believed in our product and in their ability to pull it off. What does the future hold for Gold? Do you have any plans to go to DCI World Championships in 2009? We are planning to keep growing slow and steady. Every year the corps has gotten a little bigger and a little better. It's a tough economic environment out there for every corps, so we are taking the slow approach to growth and just trying to keep out of debt so we can build a strong financial and physical base for the corps. At this point the 2009 World Championships are a possibility but not a necessity for our corps. We are trying to grow smart. Photos by Francesca DeMello, Johnny Gilbert, Jolesch Photography.