Drum Corps International’s Individual and Ensemble competition (I&E) has evolved since its inception in 1973. While the first decade remained fairly consistent with existing regionally-hosted contests that included traditional brass and percussion instruments, with the 1980s came the start of a number of changes that helped the event come up to speed with the evolution of the DCI rulebook and drum corps performances.
The Timpani caption is added and won by Crossmen’s Bob Morrison, a future DCI Hall of Fame member who took the title again in 1982.
Santa Clara Vanguard becomes the first bass drum line to formally enter the I&E competition. However, since there is not a separate bass drum category, they enter as a percussion ensemble.
I&E goes through its first major overhaul with five new categories becoming part of the annual competition: Bass Drum Ensemble (won by SCV), Cymbal Ensemble (Troopers), and, for a few years, Electronics (Chris White with Hudson Valley All Stars). The other two categories added were both visual focused including Flag (won by Kristi Vehrs of the Troopers) & Auxiliary (Tina Snyder of Glassmen).
As a side note on color guard, DCI Hall of Fame member Denise Bonfiglio recalls that individual and ensemble competitions had long been a part of the marching arts since the 1970s. “It was big when I marched!” she said. Back then, she worked with the legendary 27th Lancers rifle line and recalled a number of regional, associate, and WGI competitions. “I also remember having spin-off's with other corps in the parking lots after DCI shows.” So, though it took years for the guard to garner its due, there were outlets.
Woodwinds are added and cause quite the stir among fans. The category was added to respect the fact that, for many of the brass, percussion and visual performers on the DCI stage, their primary instruments in school are woodwinds. This gives them an opportunity to showcase those skills. Two Cavaliers baritone players, Errin Pauls and Jay Mendoza, compete on saxophone, while Oregon Crusaders timpanist Christine Bedard performs on oboe, and Pioneer’s Samuel Karafotis on flute.
While trombones are not allowed in DCI competition until 2014, I&E welcomed them for the first time in 2006. Alex Sears from Esperanza is the first trombone medalist. Meanwhile, in the Visual caption, Dance is added as a category for soloists and ensembles, won by Jennifer Russell from the Boston Crusaders and the Colt Cadets respectively.
The I&E competitions are split in half: World Class competitors compete in San Antonio mid-tour in July, while Open Class corps hold their own I&E at Michigan City High School in Indiana during World Championships Week in August.
During I&E intermission, four young men, dressed in their 7th Regiment uniforms, take the Open Class stage in the high school auditorium to do something no one had ever attempted at a DCI I&E competition: Sing.
Their full-voiced barbershop harmony performance, "Hello Mary Lou” made famous by Buddy Holly, is prepared by brass staffer Steve Wolf. They wanted to make a statement that vocals belonged. Vocals have a place in the lexicon of musical performance. And so they sing in exhibition. No accolades. No judges. Just for the sheer joy of performance.
During the off-season at the annual DCI Rules Congress, a proposal is brought forth to add a vocal caption to I&E competition. That summer in 2011, two new categories, vocal and vocal ensemble, produce four new medalists:
• World Class: Soloist Diego Froget (Boston Crusaders) and The Academy Vocal Ensemble
• Open Class: Soloist Jessica Fuller (Colt Cadets) and Spartans Vocal Ensemble
The DCI Performers Showcase continues to evolve adapting to environmental conditions by becoming virtual and opening up the competitive doors to everyone.
It’s been a long road for the I&E competition over the years, but as motivational speaker Jim Rohn said: “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” Change happens when a need presents itself and by adapting to these changes, evolving if you will, I&E continues to provide a showcase for the exceptional musicians and performers in the drum corps activity and beyond.
With assistance from Ed Dempsey, Denise Bonfiglio, Lauren Vogel Weiss, Andy Toth, Carol Abohatab, and Martha Garcia