An all-star DCI cast from 30 different corps invaded Disney properties in Orlando, Fla., this past weekend to tape a segment that will air on ABC television's Walt Disney World Christmas Day parade.
Ninety-nine members and a handful of DCI staffmembers rehearsed and prepared to march in two parades: A traditional parade through the Magic Kingdom (which took place Friday night, Dec. 2, through the Magic Kingdom) and a staged, choreographed production on Saturday, Dec. 3, which was taped for the television broadcast. The parade will be hosted by venerable TV personalities Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa. "The staged production was much like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade once groups get to the reviewing area," said DCI executive director Dan Acheson. Acheson said that Disney and DCI had been working on the Honor Corps concept for quite some time. "Our longtime partnership with Walt Disney World Resorts keeps us in regular contact with Disney's Magic Music Days program on an ongoing basis. The idea came about in a conversation that occurred literally a year ago when Magic Music Days reps tossed out the idea," Acheson said. The instructional staff for the DCI Honor Corps included JD Shaw and Tom Santino (brass); Rich Viano, Eddie Capps, Tom Hurst and Lee Hansen (percussion); Jamie Oakley and Joe Martinez (color guard); Kevin Ford, Howard Weinstein, Bob Barfield, and Jon Zollo (visual); and Sal Salas (director). On Thursday evening, Dec. 1, from 11 p.m. to roughly 1 a.m. the Honor Corps rehearsed the music, the Christmas classic "Sleigh Ride," arranged in a rocking drum corps format by JD Shaw (brass arranger, Phantom Regiment) and Rich Viano (percussion arranger, Boston Crusaders). "We rehearsed that night until we understood the concept of the song," said Jonathan Parsons, a Spartans trumpet player. On Friday morning, Dec. 2, the group rehearsed drill, which was designed by Kevin Ford, a former Boston Crusaders drill designer. Jamie Oakley of the Bluecoats was the color guard designer and instructor. "The rehearsal schedule wasn't bad at all," said Alexandra Andrews, a Carolina Crown trumpet player. "The staff made the rehearsals fun and relaxed, but they were also serious and determined to get things done, which drove the members to work hard. As a result we did very well in all the things they expected of us in such a short time span," Andrews said. From 2:15 p.m. through 6 p.m. on Friday, the Honor Corps enjoyed the attractions at the Magic Kingdom for free time. Then the corps marched in Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party parade. On Saturday, the Honor Corps rehearsed in the early morning and began taping the choreographed segments for the Walt Disney World Christmas Day parade. By 8 p.m., the taping was complete, and the group was free to explore the Disney theme parks. Sunday, the Honor Corps was free all day to tour the Disney theme parks. "Dan Acheson told us at the beginning of the weekend to "work hard and play hard." We worked hard in a great supportive environment of understanding staff and were able to play hard all weekend during the performances," said Chris Madaio, a baritone player from the Boston Crusaders. Others noted the strong work ethic on display among Honor Corps members. "This was the hardest-working group of kids I've worked with in a long time. We knew our deadline and what we had to get accomplished, and did so," Parsons of the Spartans said. And how did the group perform? "You know you're a powerful group when a little girl exclaims, "Mommy they're hurting my ears!" I thought that was cute," said Mark Graves, a trumpet player also from the Jersey Surf. Camaraderie Despite the intense rehearsal and taping schedule, Honor Corps members bonded and formed close friendships with members of other corps during the long weekend. During the taping on Saturday, Boston Crusader Madaio captured a performance touchstone. "I especially enjoyed looking over at the contra player from the Blue Devils right before the taping for ABC and knowing exactly what he was feeling. We gave each other the "performance nod" and I said to him, "Do it up, man." I had just met him a day and a half before and we were sharing a bond that can take all summer to develop. Everyone that was there shared the same love of performing, and that is what brings us back to this activity year after year," Madaio said. Other Honor Corps members noted that despite on-field differences and rivalries, DCI members do share a bond. Pamela Tsing, a Vanguard Cadets bass drummer, said, "I left with a sense that the families that exist inside each individual corps can extend to all corps across the country. Though we come from different places, all of us have shared an experience so unique that brings us together in a very special way." Ashleigh Rosiles, a Phantom Regiment color guard member, noted that all members shared many similarities. "I learned that we are all from different corps but we all have the same drive to be the best and have the same goals. I learned no matter where we were from we all had the same work ethic," Rosiles said. Chris Tanner, Colts cymbal player, observed the respect that all Honor Corps members displayed. "Everyone really does almost the exact same thing and everyone has such a mutual respect for each other. The drum line consisted of members from the top drum lines all the way down the field. Each one of us really respected one another, and there was never any idea of "lesser talent" because your corps did not take top three in drums. "I will take away the thoughts that everyone around the drum corps activity really busts his own chops to get to the main goal of excellence, even if you only have five hours of rehearsal together and less than a week to know a show and cadence. A mutual love for everyone and anyone who does the activity from the top to the bottom is evident, where many people believe it is not," Tanner said. Free time Lest you think the weekend was all business, Honor Corps members were allowed plenty of free time to explore Disney's various sights. Ben Cornejo, a Pacific Crest trumpet player, noted that the group was allowed plenty of down time. "We actually had a good amount of free time throughout the weekend. By far the best part of the weekend for me was Saturday night when some of the members and I were able to really get to know each other. We had the chance to go out to Downtown Disney and then we were able to spend time hanging out in the hotel. That was when we were able to establish a close friendships," Cornejo said. "I experienced Disney World (for me, for the first time) with people from all different corps, reminisced with old corps members and made new memories with people from other corps," said Elissa Reitz, a mellophone player from the Lake Erie Regiment. Rachael Waggoner of the Blue Stars color guard outlined her Saturday evening off. "Most of the corps headed out to Pleasure Island to dance and party in the many dance clubs. It was fun meeting up with groups of people from every corps and dancing the night away. This is where I made the majority of new friends. After taking the bus back around 2 a.m., a lot of us hung out in various rooms until 4 or so." Waggoner then continued in much the same vein on Sunday. "I started the morning with some friends that I had met over the weekend. We went back to the Magic Kingdom to ride Space Mountain and do some shopping. I then proceeded to Epcot and explored everything there was to do there. "I took lots of pictures, but most of my friends had early flights, so by 3, I was alone in the park. That didn't stop me from having a good time, and about 6 or 7 p.m., I headed back to the bus stop. When I got there, there were four guys in corps jackets. We started talking and ended up hanging out the rest of the night. They were from Spartans and one from Academy, so we talked about Division II & III for a while and all our different experiences," Waggoner said. Overall, participants worked and played hard during the entire proceedings. "I think most members averaged about two hours of sleep a night," said Eric Shriver, a Bluecoats snare drummer.
The DCI Honor Corps