This Thanksgiving, when the last scraps of turkey are cleared from the dining room table, most people will flock to the malls or turn on their televisions for the calendar year's biggest weekend of shopping and football. But outside of those Black Friday door busters and turkey sandwich leftovers, this weekend will also be celebrated by thousands of young musicians and performers who will be headed to their favorite drum corps' annual audition camps. By the time the weekend is over, prospective corps members will have traveled hundreds of miles for their shot at joining the elite ranks of Marching Music's Major League, and in the process they'll learn from some of the top music educators in the country, hone their skills, and meet many new friends with the same passion for the marching arts. Auditions for the member corps of Drum Corps International run from early fall all the way through the beginning of the New Year and sometimes even later. Getting a head start on the season, the Boston Crusaders were one of the first corps to host an audition early this November in the corps' hometown. Boston Crusaders executive director Tom Spataro says that the organization began its audition process so early in an effort to attract as many potential members as possible. "We have a number of 'round one' single-day events in November like we just had in Boston, and these serve as a low-cost option for students to see whether they are a match for the corps," he said. "The goal for our students is to be invited to our second round of auditions, which will take place in December." Whereas five to 10 years ago corps focused their audition camps primarily in the organization's hometown to attract a strong base of local membership, today's corps often offer multiple opportunities in a variety of locations across the country. A 2006 survey of World Class performers showed the average distance traveled by a corps member to a winter rehearsal sites is a whopping 553 miles! The Bluecoats of Canton, Ohio will start their season at home on Nov. 28 before holding auditions this December in Texas and for the first time in Southern California. "When we started operating camps outside our region it was about building the Bluecoats into a national brand and providing a more affordable opportunity for students from across the country," said David Glasgow, Bluecoats executive director. "This same thought process has gone into the development of the California camps for this year. Since we've traveled west two of the last three seasons, and because a number of our best instructional staff members are from Southern California, we feel that now is the perfect time to create an opportunity for West Coast students to audition for the Bluecoats without them having to shell out big bucks for flights to our Ohio or Texas camps." Other groups like the Open Class Legends Drum and Bugle Corps of Kalamazoo, Mich. won't hold their auditions until December. Executive director Ibe Sodawalla says that one reason his corps chooses this later date is to give everyone enough time to prepare. "We want to make sure that when our members and staff come out that there was enough time allotted so they can give 100 percent of their energy toward the first camp," said Sodawalla. "We have a number of staff members and other folks who work or participate in college and high school marching programs with seasons that literally ended only last weekend. Some college programs will even go until Thanksgiving." While each corps has its own special recipe for a successful audition season, no matter when or where the group chooses to hold its auditions, all organizations ultimately strive to make the drum corps experience accessible to as many students as they can. As a result, directors often keep schedules of other marching circuits, evaluate travel costs for prospective members and even keep track of the audition schedules of fellow corps at the forefront of their off-season planning. When the weekend of a corps' audition finally rolls around, volunteers and staff members will be working nonstop so that the camp experience runs as smooth as possible. Glasgow explained that the number one item on the Bluecoats' list before this weekend's camp is communication. "We will communicate with our applicants regarding the schedule for the weekend, what items they need to bring, when and where they will be picked up if flying or bussing into the area, and other last minute details. We also communicate with representatives from the school facilities we are using and with our own staff regarding schedules, meetings and goals for the weekend." In the weeks leading up to Legends' audition camp, Sodawalla finds himself reminding prospective members to focus on their audition preparations before worrying too much about what it'll be like on the road with the corps in the coming summer. "A growing number of questions we receive are usually not so much what to expect during the audition process but more about the summer commitment. I remind them that when they come in for the 48 hours of an audition camp, they want to be there first to understand what the drum corps experience is about." Of course, once camp preparations are complete and the weekend goes as planned, there will always be time to look back and celebrate the successes and opportunities ahead. "We had great weather for our Boston-area audition, to the point that we were able to do a visual rehearsal block outside, which is unusual for November," said Spataro. "Two years ago for the same camp we unloaded the truck in snow and ice!" Learn more about the drum corps audition process including dates, locations and more.
The Jersey Surf will be one of 11 corps hosting
a Thanksgiving weekend audition camp.
a Thanksgiving weekend audition camp.