Drum Corps International’s Open Class division continues to grow, with two new corps approved to perform as part of the DCI Tour this year—Shadow from Oregon, Wisconsin and The Battalion from Salt Lake City, Utah.
“DCI’s Open Class has seen some amazing growth on several levels in recent years,” says DCI Open Class Coordinator David Eddleman. “Many existing Open Class drum corps have been enjoying unprecedented attendance at audition camps and have more than enough qualified candidates to fill their rosters.”
The Shadow Knows
Shadow members learn drill formations during a recent rehearsal.
One of the two new corps approved to join this summer’s DCI Tour is Shadow, a program of the Oregon, Wisconsin High School band program that is fully supported by the school district and band boosters. Executive Director Nick Lane is the head of the Oregon High School Shadow Armada Marching Band where over a number of years he’s successfully led the group into Mid-America Competing Band Directors Association summer field competitions.
“About 70 percent of Shadow this year is members from the Oregon School District,” said Lane. “Tantamount is our future goal of maintaining at least 50 percent of our membership from the district.”
Lane says that the corps is on track to have 118 performers on the field in 2016 with a goal set to have a full complement of 150 corps members by 2020.
Unique to Shadow is its strict age limit, which allows for members to participate up to the summer after they graduate high school. That age limit was set by the school district in order to fit into the district’s K-12 educational mission. Lane hopes that many members who “age out” of Shadow will enjoy the DCI experience so much that they will go on to march in other corps for their remaining years of eligibility.
2016 Tour Stops
July 10, Madison, WI
Members of the Battalion brass section during a rehearsal in Utah.
The other Open Class unit joining the DCI Tour this year is The Battalion from Salt Lake City, Utah. Director Dallin Hatch says that since 2014, the corps has focused on developing a dedicated board of directors and a solid corporate infrastructure.
According to Hatch, “The founding body was made up of a strong mix of local music educators and business professionals who believed Utah deserved its own drum corps.”
The organization is aiming to field 105 to 115 members in its first year of competition. Catering to the corps’ recruiting base, The Battalion will not compete on Sundays in order to allow corps members to take part in community outreach and service projects.
“In the short term, we hope to build a corps that serves our community and represents it well to the world,” Hatch said. “In the long term, we aim to build an organization that has staying power and continues to provide world-class learning and performance experiences for our members, and meaningful, impactful shows for fans.”
2016 Tour Stops
July 1, Auburn, WA
Michigan City, Indiana will host the Open Class World Championship Prelims and Finals this August.
Two other corps investigated approval to perform as DCI units in 2016, and each will be using their knowledge gained after going through the Open Class evaluation process to prepare their corps to possibly join the DCI Tour in 2017. Horizon from Odessa, Texas, and Indy Ignition from Indianapolis, Indiana are both working on establishing a strong board of directors and support staff and in the meantime will continue to participate as SoundSport teams in their hometown regions.
Eddleman anticipates that in the near future, many additional new corps will become Open Class units, and DCI’s SoundSport and DrumLine Battle programs will continue to serve as low-cost, low-barrier entry points for those startup ensembles.
According to Eddleman, new and established corps are wisely following a slow and calculated approach to operating and expanding their organizations. “The current models used to start drum corps employ a plan with much less outlay for capital expenditures at the start. Much of the equipment is borrowed or rented from other local organizations, such as school band programs or winter drum ensembles. Travel is kept to a minimum for the first few years.”
The positive effects of that approach are already starting to be seen in new and developing Open Class groups across the country.
Guardians, a Texas group that started out as a SoundSport team in 2013, competed in its region in 2014 and 2015, and will make its very first trip to the DCI World Championships this coming summer. After competing regionally in 2014 and 2015, the Louisiana Stars of Lafayette will also make its inaugural trip to the World Championships. Impulse, a well-established Open Class group that has focused on events in its Pacific region in recent years, is set to make its first trip back to Indiana since 2008 this August.
“The model is working,” says Eddleman.