Drum Corps International
Open Class continues to bloom with new corps evaluating
Photo by: Drum Corps International

Open Class continues to bloom with new corps evaluating

by Chris Weber

Four organizations from across the United States have applied to participate as Open Class units on the 2016 Drum Corps International Tour.

The prospective groups include Shadow of Oregon, Wisconsin, Indy Ignition of Indianapolis, the Battalion of Salt Lake City and Horizon of Odessa, Texas.

The applications of these groups comes at a time when Drum Corps International’s Open Class division has been experiencing year-over-year growth. In the last six years, 17 new or re-emerging corps have performed at DCI Tour events.

Open Class Coordinator David Eddleman credits this continued growth to a number of factors including objectives in Drum Corps International’s business plan to engage students in the drum corps experience in addition to the success of DCI’s SoundSport and DrumLine Battle programs which serve as a low-cost, low-barrier entry points for startup teams. He also acknowledges a strong sense of community among current Open Class corps to provide mentorship and support to first-year groups.

“New corps these days are starting using a number of models,” Eddleman says. “One is as a scholastic organization associated with a high school or university. Another is using equipment borrowed from schools in order to keep initial capital expenditure spending to a minimum. Some groups have started as an outgrowth of a winter guard, drum line or SoundSport team.”

While the following groups aren't guaranteed to make it as Open Class drum corps in 2016, they are taking the next steps necessary to become performing ensembles under the Drum Corps International umbrella. Prospective groups were required to submit an application this winter outlining their intentions to take part in the DCI Tour including a detailed business plan indicating that the group has the necessary financial and administrative backing and infrastructure to supports its members.

“Our goal here is to make sure that we are doing everything we can to support the growth and development of these groups,” Eddleman said. “It takes time to learn everything one will need to know to operate a successful Open Class drum corps, and we can help provide the guidance, assistance and resources to make that happen.”

Next, prospective drum corps will be required to submit corporate documents and other materials to be reviewed by DCI officials. During this review period, the corps will work to prepare their boards of directors, administrative and instructional staff members, and student performers for the requirements of summer travel and competition. At a pre-determined point in the spring, a DCI representative will visit the corps' rehearsal camp for a final pre-season checkup as part of the evaluation process.


Indianapolis Ignition

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

Origins: Indy Ignition got its start in 2015 as part of Drum Corps International’s SoundSport program. “Since I completed the DCI Tour as a participant in 2007, I knew I wanted to help bring an active junior drum corps back to my native Indiana,” director Paul Warner said. “I gathered a group of educators, friends and supporters who shared a similar goal.” 14 members strong in 2015, Ignition put together a three-week tour last summer participating in a number of events in and around Indianapolis.

Goals: With a focus on serving members in the organization’s local community and state, one of Indy Ignition’s main goals is to provide performance opportunities and programming for disadvantaged young musicians. “Regardless of the level in which we compete this summer, our goal is to continue to provide our marching participants with a great experience and prepare them to perform an engaging and energetic show,” Warner said. 

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The Battalion

Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah

Origins: The Battalion’s history starts in 2014 when a group of music educators and business professionals got together with a goal of giving the state of Utah its own drum corps. Slowly ramping up by hosting educational events for students and running a number of fundraising initiatives, the Battalion held its first auditions in November of 2015.

Goals: “We aspire to build something worthy of both our community and the drum corps activity, and are laser focused on creating fantastic experiences for our members and patrons,” director Dallin Hatch said. “In the short term, we hope to build a corps that serves our community and represents it well to the world. In the long term, we aim to build an organization that has staying power and that continues to provide world-class learning and performance experiences for our members, and meaningful, impactful shows for fans.”

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Horizon

Hometown: Odessa, Texas

Origins: Horizon, organized in 2015 as a group called the Western Vanguard, is another success story out of Drum Corps International’s SoundSport program. Focusing on recruiting performers in the local community who wanted to extend their playing into the summer months, the group rehearsed on weekends and made its debut at the DCI Southwestern Championship in San Antonio last July. As interest grew throughout the summer, members pushed the corps’ management to offer a more intensive summer tour experience.

Goals: “Short term we are hoping to get as many students involved as possible especially from our local community,” director Paul Garza said. “We don’t have a specific number in mind, we just know we want to impact as many students as we can.” Garza says that more than competition, his organization’s priorities are on the education of its members. “We do a great job of putting ‘winning’ on the back burner,” Garza said. “If we do our jobs right, and if we are organized, if our education staff teaches well pedagogically, as well as teaching standards such as work ethic, punctuality, pride, and grit, and if we ensure that our members get the absolute best experience, the winning will come.”

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Shadow

Hometown: Oregon, Wisconsin

Origins: Shadow is an organization with a genesis all the way back in 1972. Starting as the Oregon High School Summer Marching Band, the group performed as part of the Mid-America Competing Band Directors Association. As that competitive circuit grew smaller over the last 25 years, staff members saw the opportunity of membership in Drum Corps International’s Open Class and participation in the annual DCI Tour as a way to keep students involved and engaged throughout the summer while continuing the rich history of the organization.

Goals: “Our primary motivation to enter Open Class is simple,” director Nick Lane said. “We want to provide an unparalleled summer music experience to the students of Oregon, Wisconsin, and beyond, and we want to foster the stability to do so well into the future.” As part of that goal Lane says that his group will strive to keep its roots firmly planted in the community, maintaining at least 50 percent of the corps’ membership from the Oregon School District. “We are on track to march about 120 members this summer and intend to march a full corps—150 members—by 2020.”

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