As spring training rehearsals continue across the drum corps activity in preparation for the first competitive Drum Corps International season since 2019, those on the evaluation side of DCI’s return to competition had their own set of tune-up discussions during June 10-12 meetings held in Indianapolis.
For several years, judge training has been an essential piece of DCI’s pre-season puzzle, and with significant time spent away from the sidelines — not to mention a dozen new faces in the fold of adjudicators — that remained the case for 2022.
“We have 12 judges who are new to DCI, or going to be judging for their very first time this summer,” DCI judge administrator John Phillips said. “They joined us for some sessions that we held Friday. We do a lot of interactive things with them — everything from the nuts and bolts of how to travel safely, all the way to how to score and rank and rate the corps.”
Once new faces were introduced and given initial training, the full team of more than 100 judges met both in-person and virtually to discuss all things related to the upcoming competitive tour and recalibrate after the time they’ve spent on hold as a community of drum corps adjudicators.
“One of the key things for us is to help the judges refresh, review and renew their thinking about judging drum corps, because it's been three years since we've had this opportunity,” Phillips said. "We didn't have any competitions for the last couple of summers.”
Thankfully, as Phillips noted, several DCI judges have had recent opportunities to get back into the game; many are involved in the fall marching band and winter indoor percussion and color guard communities, which each returned to competition in the past six months.
“While some may say, ‘Well, they might be a little bit rusty,’ we're fortunate that most of our judges spend a lot of time throughout the fall and winter months involved in other marching arts activities,” Phillips said.
“I think everybody is in pretty good shape,” he added. “And given the exercises and activities we have them involved in this weekend, I think they're going to be ready for DCI 2022.”
While the June judge training meetings were an essential step in summer preparations, they were far from the start of the process.
Phillips noted that the judge community has been collaborating throughout the drum corps offseason, and has utilized helpful information from DCI’s participating corps to inform its decision-making and thought processes for the upcoming summer.
“We start several months in advance, we do some brainstorming sessions, we take stock of where we're at,” he said. “We take in ideas from the corps and we use our own thinking power to come up with a program that will help our judges work sequentially through all of the components to be ready to be successful in their judging activities this summer.”
Additionally, Phillips mentioned an ongoing impetus by DCI and its judges to create a more inclusive group of adjudicators across the Summer Tour.
“We've done that by encouraging new judges, younger judges, judges who represent a broader community, and we’ve put an emphasis on that in terms of our recruiting efforts,” he said. “We're pleased to see that it's starting to pan out; we're starting to see more diversity and inclusivity in our judging world.”