Drum Corps International
Corps staffers put competition aside at annual summit
DCI Artistic Director Michael Cesario addresses drum corps staff members in San Antonio.Photo by: T. McCourt, DCI.org

Corps staffers put competition aside at annual summit

by Andrea Neff & Lauren Wilcox

After their corps performed for a record-breaking crowd last night in San Antonio, instructors of DCI’s World Class corps put their competitive tendencies aside Sunday morning for a day of professional development.

More than 300 were in attendance at the meeting at the Alamo Convocation Center just outside downtown San Antonio. 2016 marked the second year of this seminar that is organized by DCI’s Rules and Systems Task Force.

DCI Artistic Director Michael Cesario, who delivered opening remarks to the group said that the genesis of the meeting came about as a way to reach both new and seasoned instructors at a time when they’re hyper-focused on the drum corps activity.

“There’s an electricity here today because these instructors are in the middle of the competitive season,” Cesario said. “During the summer you’re mainly living in your competitive bubble with your own corps, but here they have the opportunity to come together, hear some great speakers, and get an understanding of what’s happening on the judging side of things. It’s a good mid-season catch-up but it also brings everyone together and helps diffuse what might be the wrong side of competition. We’re a competitive group, there’s no argument about that, but the idea of making it a healthy competition is part of why we do this.”

While last year’s meeting focused primarily on rules and the interpretation of new judging sheets, this year’s meeting brought two guest speakers in to address those in attendance. John Madden, a professor of music at Michigan State University and DCI Hall of Fame Member Shirley Dorritie had the opportunity to watch each corps’ San Antonio performance on Saturday and record commentary on their productions, unrestricted to usual judging rhetoric.

“The idea here was to give corps input that will give them the opportunity to get a whole different perspective from folks outside of the judging community as they continue to refine their productions in the last part of this season,” Cesario said.
 
On Sunday, Madden took his observations from the night before and suggested paying close attention to individual member talent which will result in overall success.

“What I want you to focus on is the formula of independence: when you can play your part 100 percent perfectly, then, and only then, will we be able to progress to the bigger picture and the collaborative spirit that needs to come together to create that,” Madden told the audience. “There are four levels: the participant, player, musician and artist. The artist comes to rehearsal with skills of the musician, but to renew life and what’s possible within the art. What I heard last night was artistry - those felt like [Finals night] performances.”

Dorritie encouraged instructors to make sure each fine detail of their programs can be seen from every part of the stands by slowing down and exaggerating each step.

“Work the extremes,” Dorritie said. “How can you stretch the expression, those dramatic moments? Every single program has some spectacular moments, and every single one of them can grow. Find the extremes and see what you can find from the visual dynamic range, just as well as the musical range.”

DCI Judge Administrator John Phillips closed out the session reminding instructors of the important part they play in the continued success and creative development of the marching arts.

“Our goal is not to change the direction dramatically that your corps will take this summer,” Phillips said. “Know that as you hone your craft and find new and innovative ways to do what you do as instructors, I think that is one of the main reasons that DCI has continued to fill up stadiums and to thrive. It’s because of you.”