Using a formal proposal and review process, the member organizations of Drum Corps International periodically revise their competitive rules. In previous years, new rules have been discussed and voted on during the annual DCI winter meeting and conference weekend attended by directors, instructors, judges, show promoters, and others. This year's conference weekend, scheduled from Thursday, Jan. 22 to Saturday, Jan. 24, has been scaled back to a general business meeting for corps directors, and as a result, the rules process for 2009 has been slightly adjusted in light of the new meeting structure.

New rule proposals have to be submitted by September 15 of the previous year. In the past following that deadline, corps directors would receive the findings and advice of the Judges Advisory Committee (formerly known as the Judges Task Force) about the submitted changes. The proposals then proceeded to instructor caucus sessions at the annual meeting weekend in January. There they would be further discussed and a "yes" or "no" non-binding vote taken.

Following the instructor caucuses, rules were forwarded to a meeting attended by representatives of each DCI member corps who served as the voting delegate for their respective groups. Any proposal that passed through this group would be sent to the member corps directors, who then voted "yes" or "no" on each rule proposal.

Since this weekend's annual business meeting will only be attended by member corps directors without their usual entourage of staff members, from Dec. 8 to 10, representatives of the DCI World Class and Open Class corps tuned into conference calls broken out into visual, percussion and brass captions. On those calls they had the opportunity to learn more about, discuss, and conduct straw polls on the two rule proposals that will be considered for 2009. On January 5, the Judges Advisory Committee did the same.

Notes from all four conference phone calls were presented to the member corps directors, who will use that input to discuss and vote on both proposals this weekend.

2009 Rule Proposal #1: Overall effect judges

This proposal, submitted by Cadets director George Hopkins, is similar to one proposed in 2007 by then Cavaliers director Jeff Fiedler.

The concept is to utilize two Overall Effect judges for contests, to be trialed during the 2009 season and implemented in 2010. The current DCI judging system utilizes Effect judges who focus separately on music and visual captions.

Hopkins writes in his proposal, "Corps are designing programs that have much greater effect because of the combined efforts, thoughts and presentation of music and visual as one … Corps will continue and be encouraged to search for ways to design programs that blend music and visual seamlessly and effortlessly to create a synthesis and unity."

Hopkins believes such a change in the system would allow the judges to "assess the corps' entire presentation with no particular caption focus – much like the audience – and will adjudicate it based upon the balance of all aspects (design and performance) presented."

In the official proposal, Hopkins mentions that the passage of this rule would mean that judges would need to be skilled in both music and visual disciplines, able to understand the dynamics of programs designed to mesh music and visual into seamless and complimentary presentations.

During follow-up communication, Hopkins pointed out that when a corps production is put together by designers, the entire music and visual package is considered. He said, "Why then would we break apart the idea of effect into pieces? Is there really such a thing as visual effect without music? What we are looking to do is give credit for the impact of the entire program."

2009 Rule Proposal #2: DCI judging systems

Drum Corps International judge education director George Oliviero submitted a proposal regarding the DCI judging system. With one minor change, this proposal serves to clarify the number of judges used at each event and in which instances those particular adjudication panels will be utilized. All pre-established judging standards and philosophies are not affected.

Read "DCI judging 101" to learn more about the DCI judging system.

The change to the current system under this proposal is the elimination of the Percussion 2 judge. Established several years ago, Percussion 2 acts as an additional judge specifically at DCI Premier Events and the World Championships to look at the combined battery and front ensemble percussion sections. At those events, the Percussion 2 score is averaged with the Percussion 1 judge to determine a corps' final score. Elimination of the Percussion 2 judge makes the judging system more congruent, where each individual performance caption (brass, percussion, visual, color guard) is looked at by one person each without the need for averaging.

Other system clarifications:

1. The basic judging structure for DCI events will still be based on eight-judges: Music Effect, Visual Effect, Ensemble Visual, Ensemble Music, Field Visual, Field Brass, Field Percussion and Color Guard.

2. In 2008, Drum Corps International utilized an 11-judge panel at select Premier Events and the World Championships (Read more about the 11-judge panel.). This change added two General Effect judges to the nine-judge panel (standard panel + Percussion 2), averaging the scores between the two Music and two Visual Effect caption judges. With the elimination of the Percussion 2 judge in this new proposal, the Premier Event and World Championship judging panels would now consist of a 10-person roster.

3. The use of a five-judge panel is also addressed in this proposal. Five-judge panels were first introduced in 2008 during the first two weeks of the DCI Summer Tour as a last-minute cost-saving measure that cut down on judge-related travel expenses. The same as last year, this panel will utilize Music Effect, Visual Effect, Visual Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble and Brass Ensemble judges.

This proposal also notes that the board of directors and the chief judge should have maximum flexibility in assigning judges over the course of the season. For example, if an eight-judge panel becomes too cost prohibitive for any given event, a five- judge panel can be substituted. Conversely, a 10-judge panel could take the place of an eight-judge panel when necessary, without the need to push the decision through a vote at a specially convened meeting.

The directors of the DCI member corps will discuss and vote on each of these proposals during the coming weekend. Stay tuned to for the results.