Drum Corps International
What I'd do different

What I'd do different

by Emily Tannert

One of my many past career ambitions is "drum corps director." After having been a drum corps drum major, and seeing the administrative staff's work up close and personal, I thought, "Hey, I can do that!" Many counseled me that I'd taken leave of my senses, and after two summers of actually working on an administrative staff, I was forced to agree -- and have since shifted my career ambitions to less travel-intensive arenas! However, one of those things I did when I thought I might want to run my own drum corps was dream up all those things I'd like to make different about the activity. One of the things I hate most is watching talented, dedicated, passionate potential members have to walk away from the activity because of money issues. If my dreams were to come true, not only would drum corps should be dues-free, each member would receive a scholarship for participating in the activity. The amount of the scholarship would be standard across the activity so corps couldn't compete for members by paying them. This would have the added effect of encouraging members to stay in school while marching, since members wouldn't feel the need to work instead of going to school during the school year to pay for drum corps during the summer. This may seem like a revolutionary idea to people in the activity, but people outside of drum corps generally don't understand that members often spend thousands of dollars in order to participate in the activity. I remember joking around with some of my college friends -- marching band kids, whom you'd expect would know a decent amount about drum corps -- that I maybe I could get research credit from the university for marching drum corps. One of my friends looked at me and said, "You can't do anything you'd get paid for." When I told her members pay, not get paid, to march, she almost didn't believe me. My second biggest pet peeve, after money issues, is watching people leave the activity because they don't make their first-choice drum corps. I wish there was a way for those corps who get hundreds of auditionees to share the names and contact information on their "cut list" with those corps that struggle with recruitment. Auditionees could choose whether or not they'd like their contact information made available to other drum corps for the purposes of recruitment, and at the end of the weekend, the list could be uploaded into a database that DCI would maintain and that all directors could access. We could pair that with a sort of "classifieds" section on DCI.org where corps looking for members, either in general or in specific sections, could list their needs. I've floated this idea to some people and have repeatedly been told, "If those kids really wanted to go somewhere else and march, they would figure it out on their own." However, I also get a lot of emails saying, "Emily, I got cut -- got any ideas as to where I could still go to march?" Many potential members think that if they haven't gotten a spot by December, they're sunk! These kids would welcome a recruitment call from a corps still looking for members. As an activity, if we are to continue to grow, we must do a better job of communicating across the activity to hook up the people who want to march with the people who can give them that opportunity. The third part of my vision involves lots of screaming fans and millions of families tuning into watch World Championships on prime-time TV, and this a goal we're well on the way to achieving. To become more than a niche activity known to minute percentage of the population, drum corps will have to engage in a broad publicity campaign. Events like the DCI Honor Corps, alumni corps in the Rose Bowl Parade, and DCI on ESPN are helping to broaden awareness of the activity. Fans and members can help by bringing their friends and family to shows. Imagine -- how cool would it be to have every DCI regional event televised, with knowledgeable commentators discussing show design and highlighting changes as the season went along? Media companies pay attention to audience demand, and the bigger our audience, the greater our demand. Imagine going to a drum corps show where corps after corps puts the maximum number of members allowed in its division on the field. Imagine sitting in stands filled with screaming fans, and reading a writeup of the show in the local paper the next day. Imagine no willing member ever having to worry about not marching due to finances, or being unable to find a spot. Imagine never having to explain what drum corps is, because everyone already knows! Drum corps has come a long way in the last 20 years -- there's no reason to believe my dream, and those of plenty of others, couldn't become reality too. 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 emily@imoses.com. The lay of the land Preparing for the physical demands Perfect practice Drum corps rites of passage Kickoff week Zen and the art of drum corps shopping Making it happen, financially Auditioning: Just go for it The Ageout rule Doing drum corps Transitioning to the professional level The Basics on auditioning From storm-ravaged Louisiana, some hearty thanks So you want to march Emily Tannert's past columns