Right up front I’d like to apologize ahead of time to my brother-in-law for a post that I’m certain will have errors in it.  I’ll do my research and all but he’s the expert in this particular area.  My disclaimer: I’m writing from a spectator’s viewpoint, not that of a hardcore fan.  And in this particular sphere, there’s a very big difference.

Back in July, we took the kids to a Drum Corps competition with their aunt and uncle.  To the uninitiated (which would have been me) this sounds suspiciously like we took them to a marching band competition, but this particular experience extended far beyond any marching band I’d ever seen.

Drum Corps International (also known as DCI) is pretty bad ass.

We showed up at the arena on a Saturday afternoon to find people everywhere – musicians warming up, dancers stretching, spectators finding their favorite corps (see?  I STILL have to stop myself from saying “band”) to watch.  It was huge and disorienting and growing by the minute.  Trying to enter the stadium was like getting into a rock concert – crushing humanity standing in ticket lines that snaked down the stairs and up the sidewalk.  And I kept thinking to myself we’re talking about MARCHING BANDS here, right?

See?  Me=spectator.  Surrounded by fans.  Big difference.

The emcee (no, I’m not sure what they actually call the man who leads the competition) brought on my first bit of enlightenment.  These aren’t school bands competing; the corps performing aren’t affiliated with any particular college or university.  They’re young adults (all members are under the age of 21) who basically commit their lives to this pursuit for the entire summer.

After auditioning to earn their spot on the corps, members spend countless hours learning a single intricate performance involving symphony music, ballet, and acrobatics with a riveting theatrical component.  The corps begin their competitive season mid-June, traveling from site to site to perform.  They’ll sleep on buses during transport and in sleeping bags on school gym floors after they’ve reached their next stop, then practice as much as possible before that evening’s performance.  Somewhere in there they’ll squeeze in showers before loading up the buses and heading to their next location.  They maintain this schedule until the championships in mid-August.

Okay then.  NOT your typical marching bands.

We saw seven corps perform that evening, and while I have to admit that I’ve never had an enormous appreciation for this type of musical production I was blown away that night.




The pictures can’t even begin to do this experience justice, but I had to at least try to give you a visual of that field. Except I can’t.

It was just too huge.  And intense.  And incredible.  It was two days later when I told T-man something I really didn’t get: what kind of brain does it take to create the musician’s movements around the field?  I mean, how do you see that if the trumpet lines move in this direction while the drums move in that one and the dancers cross between them, you’ll end up with this formation?  (Forget the fact that there are about 14 other things happening on the field simultaneously.)  I can’t fathom it.

What started out as a “Why not” kind of experience turned into an unforgettable one that night.  So even if you’re not into symphony music or crowds or “marching bands,” I’d highly recommend keeping an eye out for a DCI competition near you next summer.  It’s definitely worth checking out.