Drum Corps International
Tips for introducing outsiders to drum corps as a fresh-off-of-tour participant

Tips for introducing outsiders to drum corps as a fresh-off-of-tour participant

by Drum Corps International

The DCI on ESPN2 broadcast is not just about giving drum corps fans one last taste of summer greatness; it's also about introducing the drum corps activity to folks who may never have been exposed to what we do. As a comparatively small niche activity, we all have a responsibility to be ambassadors of drum corps, to educate people about what we do and why the drum corps activity is a positive thing (besides all those really cool drum breaks). The best advertisement is you – the living, breathing, in-the-flesh participant, the instant expert on all things drum corps. Always be aware that you may be the only impression someone gets of our activity, and treat such occasions accordingly. Here are a few ideas on ways to be a positive representative of the drum corps community.

Emily Tannert
1. Leave the ego on the field. It's a fantastic thing to be proud of what you accomplished over the summer. After all, you worked hard, and you should be proud for that! It's totally appropriate to bask in the glow of your family and friends' adoration when you get home from tour. But within a week or two, it's time to drop the hero act – your friends won't like drum corps very much if it turned their buddy into a raging egomaniac. But if your friends see the same nice person, maybe even a little more humble, hardworking, dependable and responsible, then that's a pretty awesome advertisement for the activity. 2. Be a good marching band member. This goes right along with #1. There are any number of high school and college marching band directors that might see their students come back from drum corps tour with inflated egos on the field. The most appreciated drum corps vets are the ones that come back and quietly lead by example. Turn your drum corps expertise into a positive for your band program, rather than a negative, and your director will be a huge drum corps fan. 3. Educate ... politely. News flash: most of the wider world doesn't have a clue what drum corps is. So when you're talking about what you did this summer, and someone says, "Drum corps? What's that? Is it like summer marching band or something?" Don't roll your eyes, sigh in a long-suffering manner, or get offended. Smile, chuckle a bit, and just be glad they took enough interest to ask. Draw comparisons. Say, "Yes, it's a bit like marching band, just a little more intense." Any opportunity to talk to someone new about drum corps is an opportunity to make a first impression about the activity. By being polite and enthusiastic, you can ensure that that first impression is a good one. 4. Recruit, recruit, recruit! When you go home and wax rhapsodic about the virtues of your corps, the fantastic members, the hard-working administration, the amazing show, and the awesome staff, others will naturally be attracted to such a successful organization. If you had an awesome time and think your corps is the best on the planet, naturally you want your friends to come and have awesome experiences alongside you! So bolster the drum corps dreams of your friends by encouraging them to come to the first camp with you. It's a lot easier to face a new experience if there's a familiar face by your side. 5. Share your struggles as well as your triumphs. A lot of fans forget that what they see on the World Championships DVDs is the product of three or so months of grueling rehearsal and training; they only see the gorgeous finished product. And that's a pretty intimidating thing, if you're interested in doing it one day. So don't be afraid to share your stories of how hard it was to perfect one particular drill move in the show, how you struggled with your backward march technique or playing split runs with the bass drum line, how it took you all of everyday rehearsals to keep your horn up for the whole music block. Sometimes those uniforms have a way of making us look like Supermen and –women. Make sure everyone knows that humans are welcome, too. 6. Sugarcoat it. Let's be honest: if you told most people they'd be rehearsing six or eight hours a day in the blazing sun, they wouldn't be too interested. Drum corps has a way of sounding physically grueling– and that sometimes makes it unattractive. Most of us who convinced ourselves to march did so by very determinedly not thinking about the daily reality of what we were signing up for. Be kind enough not to inflict others with the nitty-gritty before they get there. We all know the incredible experience once you're in the middle of it. Give the uninitiated the chance to find that out for themselves too. 7. Share the DVD wealth. Just because the DCI on ESPN2 broadcast is past doesn't mean the drum corps parties need to end! Break out the DVDs in the middle of October, get some friends together, and spend the evening eating pizza and arguing whether Blue Devils or Phantom Regiment had the best show in 1996. Doing something like that three to four weeks before the November audition dates can be just the little boost someone needs to decide to go for the dream. Don't forget to talk about how much fun you had this summer, how much you can't wait to go to audition camp in November and see your friends, and how you hear that next year's show is just awesome. Having a good time as a community, as a family, is really the essence of drum corps. Why not do that at home, too? 8. Educate ... constructively. If you happen to see someone struggling in the practice room or on the marching field with a particular skill, it's entirely appropriate to mention that you had trouble with that exact thing and one of your techs showed you this awesome trick or exercise to fix it. The key here is one-on-one contact, and an approach of a shared struggle rather than high-handed instruction. But drum corps is about education, and about sharing information to help young people be better musicians, marchers, and citizens, and we would be remiss if we didn't take that home and spread around some of the love – as long as we're doing so in a humble and respectful manner, truly in the spirit of sharing. 9. Wear it with pride. Go ahead – wear your corps jacket, necklace, or tour T-shirt! It's a great way to advertise the pride you feel in being associated with a particular group, and it's a great way to get people to ask you what "that whole drum corps thing is about." It can also serve as a reminder to you of the hard work you put in over the summer, and motivate you to display the same attributes you cultivate during the drum corps season once you're home. Be aware that just as if you were wearing your group's uniform, the impression you make will be the impression that person has of the entire group. Be sure it's a good one! 10. Be successful off the field.

When someone is successful, everyone wants to know their secret. Conversely, when someone fails miserably, everybody else wants to stay the heck away from whatever made them that way! Be the shining example so that when your friend tells his mom s/he wants to march in a drum corps, Mom says, "Oh, yes, that's that thing that your friend Joe does, isn't it? And he makes such good grades, and he's so polite and hardworking. Well, okay then." Even in the non-June Cleaver world, it's fantastic advertisement for the activity if you come home and apply the lessons learned on the field and the bus to your normal life, and are able to be terrifically successful as a person and student as well as drum corps member. And it has the great side effect of being really good for you too!


Emily Tannert is a music education/percussion performance major at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, and holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University. Emily graduated from the Glassmen in 2003 and was assistant tour manager for the corps in 2004 and 2005. You can contact Emily at emily@imoses.com. Read archived Emily Tannert columns.

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