Having completed their 79th edition of preseason rehearsals, spring training has become a well-oiled machine for the Madison Scouts.
According to executive director Chris Komnick, the Scouts' progress has been nothing but pleasing as they prepare to open their 2017 season on Saturday in Whirtewater, Wisconsin.
“Pretty much the entire show is on the field," said Komnick. "We've had fantastic weather during spring training, and the guys have been working really hard. We feel very good about where we're at.”
While spring training ran like always, the Scouts' shows have continued to evolve over the past several years, following the evolution of the drum corps activity.
With their 2017 program, “The Last Man Standing,” the men from Madison will be performing one of their more complex shows in recent memory, setting the stage of “man's internal struggle,” as Komnick described.
“The show is complicated, there's a lot of difficulty in it,” Komnick said. “It's all kind of represented on the field in a very 'Mad Max'-like aesthetic, so post-apocalyptic kind of world, the struggle there is lack of oxygen and the battle within the tribe to actually figure out who should lead the tribe.”
While last season's show, “Judas,” focused more on a singular storyline, the goal of this year's production is to develop a much broader theme.
“We're trying not to be too exact in a story, and we're not trying to develop one character,” he said. “It's much more thematic than that, which is good for drum corps. I love a lot of the things that we're doing visually. I think we're going to push some new boundaries with how we look out on the field with some of the props that we're utilizing.”
The show's musical selections include three original compositions, titled “Depletion,” “O2“ and “Hope and Despair,” which together comprise the middle portion of the program.
The opening and closing movements feature Bela Bartok's “Miraculous Mandarin” and Karel Husa's “Music for Prague 1968” respectively, each of which Komnick described as very challenging arrangements.
According to Komnick, this show as a whole matches in difficulty the Scouts' 2014 production, “Time Trip,” which he considers the most challenging show that's been fielded in his time with the corps.
“There's a lot of various meters out on the field and a lot of timing challenges,” Komnick said. “They're complicated pieces musically, so we're asking a lot of the performers. We're really asking the performers to take on the role of characters and portray that out on the field, and a lot of times that's not the comfort of 19- and 20-year-old music education majors."
From a competitive standpoint, the Madison Scouts enter the 2017 DCI Tour with a bit of extra fire, having finished just a few tenths of a point shy from advancing as a World Championship finalist last year.
While the scores aren't everything for Komnick and his corps, he certainly knows his performers want to get back into DCI's top-12.
“Certainly, we had a really good corps last year from a talent perspective,” he said. “Sometimes there's flavor of the month and flavor of the year in terms of show design, and last year wasn't it. Be that as it may, I think the guys are super challenged by that, they want to perform on Saturday night.”
What's more important to Komnick than the numbers that show up on the judges' sheets, though, is the impact the drum corps experience is able to leave on the men who take part in the Madison Scouts' summer tour.
“(The scores) are something we don't really focus on so much,” he said. “We're here to learn and create a great environment for guys to develop both on and off the field and really make sure the culture is developing that. The competitive things will fall where they may."
The Scouts are looking to get off to a strong start this Saturday, as the closing act of the Whitewater Classic at the Unviersity of Wisconsin - Whitewater.
And after more than a month of spring traing rehearsals, the men from Madison are certainly raring to go.
“It's great to be able to get out on the field, it's great to get the costume on and the look going and really put it all together,” he said.