I realized recently that most people simply don't understand the ageout rule, most of the time to their own detriment. It's a rule that is oddly very well understood and often quoted by members of corps, but often misunderstood by aspiring marchers -- and even sometimes the corps responsible for administering the rule.
Two examples: I asked someone I teach with about his drum corps experience. He told me that he went and auditioned for a drum corps (a top-12 corps, no less), was informed by the corps that he had already aged out, and later found out he hadn't. Another friend, when asked about her audition plans, said, "I can't march this summer, so I guess I'll never get to." I asked her about her age and her birthday, and told her that she had another year of eligibility beyond this summer. "Really?" she asked. "You can march when you're 21?" Yes, for all those of you out there who don't know, you can march while you're 21. Technically, you can even march when you're 22! The ageout rule states that Any member who turns 22 years of age on or after June 1 is eligible to march during that year. For most people, this means that they can march the summer between their junior and senior years of college, but for a lucky few of us -- myself included -- that are born in the summer months, we have what's called a "bonus year." Bonus year kids are also called "summer specials" and have their 22nd birthdays during their ageout season, thus enabling them to march one season more than everyone else. This is perfectly legal, as far as DCI is concerned, as long as the member in question is still 21. Of course, this situation is rather sad for someone who was born, say, on May 20, and in the past there have been proposals to extend the ageout deadline by months or years. These proposals have never been accepted by DCI in large part because drum corps is intended to be a youth activity, and as any member or former member will tell you, unless DCI makes us quit we'll all march forever. Forcing a certain group to "graduate" also helps clear the way for new, younger members to have their own drum corps experiences. While any deadline might feel arbitrary, the one that's in place is as good as any and better than most, and extending the deadline would probably not do much more than cause resentment among people who didn't benefit from the extension. Hopefully a few of you who thought you only had a year, or were feeling "now or never" pressure, are somewhat reassured by this clarification. However, I caution all those potential auditionees who say, "Oh, good, I have an extra year, I can push it off for a year. That's a relief because marching drum corps this year would have been really inconvenient due to money/school/parents/internships/summer job/etc." I've seen this more times than I can count and trust me, marching drum corps is always at least a little inconvenient. If you let excuses rule the day this year, chances are it'll happen again next year, and before you know it, you'll be one of those sad mid-20s fans sitting in the stands sighing, "Yeah, I always wanted to march drum corps, but I never got around to making it happen." Don't wait to make it happen. Every year you have in the activity is precious, and I have seen people around me work through every obstacle you could imagine life putting in front of them. My attitude has always been that you have the rest of your life to work, finish school, and keep other people happy, but you have a very finite amount of time to march junior drum corps, so do it while you can. Of course, if you're still itching to march after an ageout season, senior corps are a great way to stay on the field too! We'll discuss senior corps in an upcoming article. If you're interested now, check out dcacorps.org for more details. To all those people who have been kind enough to email in response to my columns: I apologize for being behind in responding to you all -- I promise to catch up soon! I very much appreciate the time you took to write and your kind words, and will answer all your questions as soon as I can! Emily Tannert is a sophomore music education/percussion performance major at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University. Emily aged out of the Glassmen in 2003 and was assistant tour manager for the corps in 2004 and 2005. You can contact Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org. Doing drum corps Transitioning to the professional level The Basics on auditioning From storm-ravaged Louisiana, some hearty thanks So you want to march