Inducted in 2018
Jim Coates began his professional drum corps career as a visual staff member for Crossmen, becoming the corps’ director in 1994, a time when there were severe doubts if the corps would be able to continue operations. His dedication didn’t just keep the corps alive; Crossmen experienced some of its best competitive placements during his tenure.
In 2003, Coates moved on to Carolina Crown to serve as program director before being named the corps’ executive director in 2010, helping to launch the corps to its highest level of success. Since then, the corps has had numerous top-five finishes at the DCI World Championship Finals capturing many caption awards along the way.
Numerous Crown instructors are effusive in their praise for how Coates runs the corps. Among those is brass instructor Donnie VanDoren, who states, “Jim has a fierce competitive spirit that is only outweighed by his caring heart and a desire to make a difference in the lives of kids and young staff, including my own son and daughter.”
Crown percussion director Thom Hannum adds, “Jim’s steady hand and unwavering commitment to building a sound, total organizational structure have been at the crux of Crown’s steady rise to threat of perennial candidate for the DCI World Championship.”
Coates’ talents leading a team of drum corps staff members and show designers is well complemented by his business acumen. According to Kevin Smith, Carolina Crown president, “Most of Jim’s time is spent building and growing a sustainable and multi-business platform so that Crown’s programs can survive without a dependence on highly-variable charitable contributions or fundraising activities.”
A mark of Coates’ position of respect within the drum corps community is evidenced by what is said about him by his competitors. David Gibbs, Blue Devils senior executive advisor, says, “[Coates] put together one of the best staffs in the world and has instilled a unique philosophical identity. With Jim’s leadership, the brand has developed into one of the most respected in the activity. He has helped make Carolina Crown into a financially stable organization. His focus on their mission of developing lifelong excellence in young people, while intelligently managing the business, has led to remarkable success.”
David Glasgow, executive director of Bluecoats, states, “In his tenure as leader of Carolina Crown, Jim has clearly been able to achieve a level of excellence that is nearly unprecedented. Even more impressive is how far he has taken Carolina Crown.
“When he started with Crown, they were coming off one of their most difficult seasons in their history, placing out of DCI Finals for the first time since their first year in the top-12 in 1995. Very quickly, he was able to put together a team of designers and instructors capable of leading them to their first DCI World Championship title in 2013. In my opinion, Jim Coates has proven to be one of the drum corps activity’s preeminent leaders.”