As printed in Drum Corps International Magazine. Putting together the pieces of a good drum corps performance is no easy task, but it would be impossible without the time and energy of the caption heads—the staff members charged with leading an individual section of a drum corps. The position comes with huge responsibilities—caption heads are part instructor, part confidant, part administrator—but delivers huge creative and personal rewards. "Being a caption head forces you to look at the big picture, to look after logistics and to keep time tables," says Jason Carter of Citations. "You manage the schedules of your staff, and keep them on task." I must consider the performers' ability, the staff, the schedule and ultimately, every aspect of the performance repertoire that can contribute to the overall vision of the program. The specific responsibilities each caption head takes on depend on the needs of each individual section. "As caption head for the color guard, I must consider the performers' ability, the staff, the schedule and ultimately, every aspect of the performance repertoire that can contribute to the overall vision of the program," says Scott Chandler of the Blue Devils. "There is give and take at every turn of the process, and finding the right balance of all those considerations can be quite the juggling act." "The thing I enjoy most about being percussion caption head is being in charge of the musical big picture as it relates to percussion," says Ron LaGrone of the Colts. "Over the span of a summer season, you are basically in charge of the direction of the show as it unfolds. A percussion judge might recommend a mallet choice in the ballad from your front ensemble; a music ensemble judge might tell you to line up the phrasing between the battery and wind sections: Within one to two nights, your goal is to evaluate those suggestions, weigh them against the integrity and intent of the music, and find a new path for whichever direction you may choose." A caption head's responsibilities often extend off the field as well. "One moment I'm a life advisor, the next moment I'm a project manager," says Stephanie Colby of Pacific Crest. "Throughout a typical day I act as a manager, advisor, mother, scheduler, comedian, life-trainer, teacher and friend." But a good caption head must also leave room for other staff members to do their thing. "Perhaps the most important aspect of caption management is for the caption head to convey to the instructional staff (and ultimately to the corps members) that he or she has faith in them to execute the plan ... thereby ensuring the success of the whole," the Jersey Surf's Tim Bartholomew says. The caption head serves as a bridge between the director, looking at the big picture, and the staff and corps members each charged performing his or her specialized role.
"If the caption head becomes a micro-manager, that caption is likely to fail in meeting their objectives," Bartholomew continues. "Once hired, the various section instructors need the room to teach their sections in the manner most comfortable to them—as long as it fits with the overall philosophy of the caption." Challenging as it seems, the position offers tremendous personal payoffs. "The things that I really love about my position," Carter says, "are knowing that these kids are your responsibility; the rewards that you get from seeing their growth as musicians and as young adults; the exposure to other instructors, and the opportunity to constantly grow as a teacher by learning new methods and techniques." According to Carter, nothing compares to "knowing that when the performers hit the field, your job is done. And if you did your job well, gave them a strong fundamental base, and instilled them with sound musical knowledge and a passion for their performance, they will have a great show. Nothing will ever be able to take the thrill of that performance away from them."
Jennifer LeSeth, Carolina Crown's caption supervisor, offers some instruction.