Drum Corps International
Surround sound with Frank Dorritie

Surround sound with Frank Dorritie

by Drum Corps International

Frank Dorritie came to the Blue Devils from New York in the fall of 1977, essentially to become legendary brass arranger and instructor Jim Ott's replacement when he left to work with Spirit of Atlanta. When Dorritie ran into Wayne Downey, now a DCI Hall of Fame member, at the Drum Corps Associates Championship in 1977, Downey asked him if he might be available to teach. At the time, Dorritie (who in 1977 had taught Garfield Cadets' guard to play bugles at the end of the piece "I Don't Know How to Love Him") was planning to work toward his master's degree in trumpet performance in order to become a professional orchestra performer.

Frank Dorritie
Downey asked him to come to California and teach the Blue Devils' horn line, leading Dorritie to think, "I could go back to school and start this new career, or go to California and have a good time. Back to school ... go to California and have a good time. Oh, and they're the World Champions, aren't they? Oh, gee. Okay." After arriving in California, he started to develop a number of professional contacts while playing jazz trumpet locally. Eventually, Blue Devils' founder Jerry Seawright connected Dorritie with one of his best friends, Carl Jefferson, who founded and ran the Concord Jazz record label. That changed his entire career path as he became a producer. When he met his future wife, Shirley, who instructed Blue Devils' guard, he knew he'd be staying in California. Dorritie worked as a Blue Devils instructor in 1978 and 1979 and has maintained a connection with the corps ever since. In 1980, he produced the first multi-track drum corps recording, "State of the Art," with Santa Clara Vanguard and the Blue Devils. This was the most significant evolution of indoor drum corps recordings since the famed Fleetwood Records from the early 1960s. He was inspired to bring drum corps fans "into the arc" – meaning the arc-shaped formation that a corps' horn line stands in while warming up – by memories of Dick Blake's 1960s "Brass by Night" standstill recording of New York area junior corps. As a member of St. Catherine's Queensmen, one of the corps on the recording, Dorritie remembers thinking, "One of these days I'm going to make another recording like that." During the weekend of the Blue Devils' 50th anniversary celebration during the first week of August, Dorritie recorded another surround-sound recording with the 2007 Blue Devils. Dorritie said: "What I'm trying to do is put people in a position to hear drum corps performances like they've never been heard before; that is, inside the arc. Only certain special people ever get to go in there. If you're lucky enough to be in the parking lot before a major contest, sometimes you get to hear something similar to that. Even the members, playing in the line, don't hear that sound. Having been in the middle of a great drum corps sound, I feel an obligation to share that with people because I know what a kick it is."

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