As the calendar turns to November and audition camps get underway across the drum corps activity, DCI.org caught up with a number of corps leaders to learn more about what it takes to join a drum corps and for some helpful tips on what to expect during the audition process.
1. What are the biggest benefits of marching in a drum corps?
Legends CEO Ibe Sodawalla: When participating in a drum corps, you surround yourself with like-minded individuals in an environment that pursues excellence.
Mandarins director J.W. Koester: Learning just how far you can push yourself to go beyond what you thought you could do, learning how to be more self-responsible for doing everything on your own, meeting other people from all over the world, learning how to work together as one and meeting new lifelong friends.
Pacific Crest director Chris Henderson: One of the many benefits to marching in a drum corps is the immense individual growth that each participant sees throughout a single season. Whether it is their first season or their fifth, the lessons they learn each day help them succeed in the trials they will endure in their later lives.
Santa Clara Vanguard director Gio Bastante: The training this activity provides not only as a musician or performer, but as a person. Participants in DCI are put through some of the most intense situations and learn how to not only survive and adapt, but thrive in working through adversity.
2. How have you seen drum corps participation positively impact members of your corps?
Koester: Members become so much more confident throughout the season; at the end of the season they are often times a very different person from that context. Some members develop leadership skills they thought they didn't have, and they become stronger and better performers — musically, visually, and so forth.
Henderson: We can all agree that the activity creates a sense of community and bond that will outlast the time we are here; some have always dreamed of being in a corps and some just fell into it.
Bastante: I have witnessed members of the Santa Clara Vanguard go on to accomplish incredible things and form life-long bonds.
Sodawalla: We see members have profound individual growth and their amplification of who they are. Members become more of their core self and gain self-confidence in areas they may not have initially entered the season with.
3. What advice would you offer to someone who is attending their first audition camp(s) this fall?
Henderson: Bring the authentic you! You are what we are looking for, don't come in trying to be something you think we want or need. Bring your skill, excitement, charm, experience, professionalism and energy; leave you doubt, ego or fear at home.
Bastante: It's okay to feel scared, nervous, excited, or anxious. You're not alone in that feeling! Ripping off the bandaid and introducing yourself to someone and putting yourself out there is the best thing you can do to make sure you are experiencing the audition camps to their fullest potential.
Sodawalla: Be prepared with anything that is asked of you. Part of the drum corps experience is developing independence. When you are prepared, you will be in 100 percent participation mode, versus “catch-up mode.” Come with a mindset to learn, regardless of the outcome, as leveling up your skill set is always an important part of your life journey.
Koester: First-time auditionees need to be prepared. Larn and know the audition materials before walking into the audition, engage with other auditionees, and show that you are a team player. Ask questions. If you don't know what you're being asked to do, it is okay and expected for you to ask the question.
4. What would you say to someone who is on the fence about auditioning?
Bastante: Even if you don't know if drum corps is for you, try it. Life is full of surprises and you will come out of even a one-day audition event knowing more than you did before.
Sodawalla: Invest in yourself and go. Your audition experience is for you and you will never know what it is like without making a commitment.
Koester: If you don't audition then you will never know if you would have earned a position with the corps. You truly have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You will learn something that will make you a stronger performer — musically and visually. It looks good on your resume, and it is another opportunity to challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone.
Henderson: It is the most freeing experience you can have as a marching arts performer. Life should be spent enjoying your craft, get out there and let the world see it.
5. How has the audition process changed in recent years?
Koester: Most corps have more people auditioning either in person or via video, so making a strong, positive first impression is more important than ever. Since there are fewer viewing opportunities for the auditionees to demonstrate their skills, it can be more stressful. I think that the drum corps do have their process more dialed in, so that the auditionees know exactly what they need to do and when they need to do it.
Henderson: Over the past few years we have moved our early learning to our "Virtual Studio" where our auditionees can be introduced to content that will develop the skills for the corps activity. We have also offered educational pre-audition clinics to prepare auditionees for color guard and battery percussion.
Sodawalla: You’ll see more corps offer video auditions due to the continual landscape of COVID-19 being present in our lives. Some corps’ live auditions will simulate what it is like to be “on tour,” and those camp experience give a glimpse into corps life.
Bastante: With so many corps going through changes and growths through the pandemic, members have so many options of where they want to march. It has really upped the ante for each organization to show what is special about this corps and why you should want to audition with us. I think having so many great options for prospective members to choose from is an incredible problem to have in our activity.
6. What types of characteristics are drum corps staff members looking for in a prospective corps member?
Sodawalla: Corps will fundamentally want to, one, evaluate your skills, two, determine if you are coachable, evaluate your growth and ability to follow directions, and anticipate your commitment.”
Koester: Positive attitudes — That's a huge aspect of the audition process. We want can-do people, because that's what it takes to do drum corps. We look for responsible people; do what you commit to doing and do it well, do it on time and do it correctly. Honest people — Your fellow members need to be able to trust each other. Respectful people — Respectful of your fellow members, the instructional staff, your equipment, and yourself.
Bastante: The best member is one who is not afraid to change and adapt. Being open-minded in an activity that thrives on innovation is crucial.