From Jan. 24-27, instructors of Drum Corps International member corps and the DCI Board of Directors will meet in Orlando to consider 10 new rule proposals. columnist Michael Boo breaks down each of the items that will be considered and gives his insight and opinions on how passage of each rule might affect the direction of the drum corps activity.

Part V of this series looks looks at several proposals including one to increase the age limit of marching members, one to increase the allowed length of a corps performance, and two proposals related to judges.

Extended age limits

Of the remaining proposals to explore, this is the one that is of interest to many current drum corps members, since some would have longer eligibility if it were to pass. George Hopkins of the Cadets submitted the proposal, for implementation in 2009.

Currently, members of DCI corps may march during the season provided they do not turn 22 before June 1. This rule was put in place in the mid 1990s, replacing an earlier rule that prevented members from marching if they turned 22 anytime during the season. Even if a member turned 22 on the day of the World Championship Finals, they would be ineligible to march during any part of the season.

One of the reasons the max age limit changed, was because it was considered that a set date each year would be fairer than a date that moved every year. Members could figure out their years of eligibility in advance without regard for the date of the World Championship Finals. Since corps don't compete prior to June 1, members can presently march a season even if they turn 22 before the first show of the season.

This new proposal allows for 22-year-olds to participate, no matter when their birthday is during the calendar year. As long as they don't turn 23 prior to the following January 1, they may still march. It adds several months worth of eligible members to the recruiting pool.

The rationale presented in the proposal is that with less than 50 percent of college students not finishing college in four years, "the jump to adulthood is perhaps stalled a year or so." Also presented is the idea that more members are coming to drum corps later in life, once they're well through or almost through college.

For reference the average age of members in top Drum Corps International units is almost 19.5, while the percentage of full time college students is well over 70 percent.

It also is interesting to note that more than 8,000 students audition for fewer than 3,500 spots in top corps each year. If increased age eligibility will keep current members around longer, will that decrease the opportunities for the 4,000 some students who don't necessarily make it into a corps? Perhaps.

A point is made in the proposal that with the time corps have to spend making marchers proficient, potentially getting another season out of them is a better return on the investment of the corps staff.

Some will feel that any increase of membership age eligibility is a slippery slope, and kids have to face the real world at some point. Allowing even more 22-year-olds into what is generally referred to as a youth activity may seem counter to what the definition of "youth" is to many.

But if one is a member who would gain that extra year of eligibility, this proposal is possibly a godsend. It's also possible that the little extra time will allow some students to raise the money necessary to march one last season, or perhaps even their first and only season.

Increase time of performance

Cadets director George Hopkins has submitted a proposal that the length of shows be increased from a maximum of 11 1/2 minutes to 12 1/2 minutes, with the same minimum of 10 minutes as is currently allowed. This proposal, to be implemented in 2009, would bring drum corps more in line with the earlier years of Drum Corps International up to the mid-1980s, when corps shows could last as long as 13 minutes.

Hopkins wrote in the proposal that with the shorter time allowances for shows, corps have "become less sensitive, less expansive in their thoughts, and less complete in their ideas ... it is all about how fast we can get from one idea to the next."

Some feel, for example, that ballads don't have a chance to develop the way they did prior to the shortened time frame, that connective tissue in the shows has been surgically removed and corps are primarily left with a series of hit points, and due to this, we don't experience as many "ahhhhhhhh" moments of spectacular beauty.

A question remains as to how corps shows might be scheduled for step-off times, or if increasing the length of shows would mean that events will take longer. In some cases with stadiums located in residential areas, the end of drum corps events push up close against noise curfews. This will all be good fodder for discussion on this proposal in Orlando.

In a moment of humorous honestly, Hopkins wrote in the proposal, "The idea that we spend 90 days [on tour] on 11 minutes is a bit odd to me. But then, 90 days on 12 minutes feels just as odd."

Elimination of the Percussion 2 judge

This proposal is submitted by George Hopkins and looks at eliminating the Percussion 2 judge, a position added a few years back that was intended for one person to sample the percussion from on the field, and another person to evaluate from further back taking in the percussion section including the front ensemble and marching percussion as an ensemble.

Being that we've seen judges added, judges deleted, captions continually modified...and after every change there are still things deemed to be changed; any judging system is one that can be depended to be continually evolved and never set in stone. We may witness the Board of Directors decide that the Percussion 2 judge is expendable this year and is essential in some future year.

Double the panel of General Effect judges

This proposal by Ron Hardin (and presented by the Cadets) would add judges to the panel used at the end of the season.

While the judging panels would remain identical to how they are already staffed, (with the possible exception of eliminating the Percussion 2 judge), two music effect and visual effect judges would be used for the World Championship Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals. The scoring allotment would remain as it is now, but the two effect judges on each caption would have their scores averaged for the final score.

Rationale used in the proposal is that drum corps "spend more than $500,000 to create a product that people will enjoy. That said, because of the inexact nature of music and visual representation, this activity is an art. It is impossible to argue why one person likes something and one person does not." Since effect judging is relatively subjective, this is something that will be debated no matter how many judges sit on a panel.

Noted is that this proposal would limit the possibility of one judge having the sole ability to affect what corps proceed on to the next show, or to affect the outcome of any of the final shows. On the other hand, it could be argued that a corps that would have made Finals with one judge would end up sitting in the stands with two on the same caption.

No matter what system is employed, there is always the possibility (and probability considering the tight races we've seen in recent years) that any system will inadvertently help out some corps while sucker punching other corps. And under a different system, the same thing might happen, but in reverse. This is why the judging system is continually being tweaked, reinvented, reprocessed, folded, spindled and mutilated to achieve the goal of ultimate fairness.

However, it is likely that no matter what system of judging is used, there will always be spirited debate about which corps came in what place and why. That's part of the fun of being a fan, and because of that I don't believe that any system is going to bring people together in a massed spontaneous performance of "Kum-Ba-Yah."

Read Part I: electronic instruments.

Read Part II: amped brass & water on the field.

Read Part III: no amplification of any kind

Read Part IV: limit amplification to the pit; sound board operation

Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than a quarter century and serves as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International print and Web projects. Boo has written for numerous other publications and has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating.

As an accomplished composer, Boo holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition. He resides in Chesterton, Ind.