Bailey Burks took a year off from drum corps in 2018. After two years with Spirit of Atlanta, the now drum major took a break before rejoining the corps this season.
When she returned, the improvement was evident. One year had changed everything.
When Burks left in 2017, Spirit of Atlanta had finished 18th at the DCI World Championships with a final score of just over 80 points. That itself was an improvement on the previous season; the corps had earned 21st in 2016.
But last season, Spirit of Atlanta finished 13th at the DCI World Championship Semifinals, recording a more than five-and-a-half-point year-to-year jump and coming within one spot of a DCI World Championship Finals berth. When all was said and done, Spirit was undoubtedly 2018’s most-improved World Class corps.
“I’m really pleased with how our administration has gotten us back where we need to be,” Burks said. “But it is a really big responsibility on our leadership team to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do to keep pushing and not think about other people and just focus on us.”
Spirit has a long history of competing among the Top 12, but hasn’t made it to Saturday night of DCI World Championships since 2014. Last season the corps showed signs of being able to break that streak. The 13th-place finish was a five-place jump from their 2017 campaign and an eight-spot advantage from 2016.
After its last show in Belleville, Illinois, Spirit of Atlanta had nearly a half-point advantage compared to its results on the same date last year.
“Scores are not everything,” Burks admitted. “But I can’t remember the last time that we have had a constant steady scoring process, and not to mention every time we come to a show, judges and fans are always saying, ‘Wow, this just gets better and better,’ or, ‘This is one of the best shows we’ve seen from Spirit in a minute.’”
Fourth-year horn sergeant Gian Campanon said that he thinks the past improvements are in large part due to the great member retention the corps has been able to keep.
“At this point now, there has been a ton of support from the DCI community, alumni and the fans,” he said.
In the last year, Spirit has regained its consistency and put itself right back into the hunt.
“Obviously, where we want to be is in the Top 12,” Campanon said. “But, in my position as horn sergeant, I want to strive to have the members have their sense of personal excellence.”
Coming into the activity in 2016, Burks had no knowledge on how the DCI scoring worked. When Spirit finished in 21st place, she wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. After all, they were playing in a massive stadium in Indianapolis.
This season, she has a better grasp on what that scoring system entails.
Now, she’s seen Spirit show consistent improvement both on and off the scoresheets this season. And she knows full well that her corps is on pace for its best season in quite some time.
“It’s definitely rewarding,” she said. “And I know as an age-out, I want to leave exactly what I was given when I got here, just the family and the passion that everyone has.”