Big Music All Summer – Drum and Bugle Corps

Your body vibrates as the full impact of an eighty piece horn section drives each overtone completely through your torso and lodges firmly in the seatback supporting your spine. A tingling ripples up each vertebra while forty five percussionists crescendo toward the last four measures of a twenty minute show on the football field before you. The final beat . . . a split second of silence while colorguard flags give a last ripple in the evening breeze . . . and the crowd roars with applause and cheers while spontaneously rising to it’s feet. In twenty minutes it will happen all over again, and again, and again.

Such is the spectator side of Drum and Bugle Corp competition. The shared enthusiasm of fifteen-thousand spectators cannot be denied. Underlying currents of musical appreciation, parental pride, and community spirit wash through the stadium. Few in the audience will ever understand the tens-of-thousands of practice hours given by participating musicians, their coaches, support staff, and parent volunteers.

I live in Denver, Colorado, home of the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corp. I’ve watched the Casper Troopers perfom since I was a child in northern Colorado. For those of you not familiar with the musical genre, let me assure you that it is far removed from any high school band concert that you’ve ever witnessed. To put it in perspective, you must imagine the top one or two musicians from each local band coming together. Then add in those who are in their first year or two of college to the mix. The cream of the crop in musicianship, discipline, physical stamina, and dedication.

Aside from the very high musical quality (we’re talking near professional levels here), the musical selections, marching drills, costumes, and colorguard enhancements provide an evening of variety, comedy, and drama in some of the most spectacular ways imagined.

From Bach to boogie, from rock to hip-hop, from Latin to African rhythms, each corp offers a unique show for all to enjoy. The regional competitions present eight or more performing units. I’ve seen families with young children stand in awe, taking in the scene at a major football stadium parking lot filled with buses, practicing drumlines, and brass sections warming up – all at once. For the first-timer, it’s a wonder to behold. For returning spectators like myself, the anticipation of new shows and unique musical adaptations keep me listening intently.

There is no way to describe the full effect on the human psyche and body until you’ve experienced it in person. What better way to spend an evening with the entire family. Compare the cost of a movie and pizza to tickets for a regional Drum and Bugle Corps performance. Two to three hours of fun and something in common to talk over on the ride home, and the next day. If you want to know more about regional shows such as the Drums Along the Rockies competition in Denver, or even the annual national contest, logon to Drum Corps International for a list of participating corps and shows.

Not sure if it’s for you? Contact the DCI corp closest to you and find out if they are giving any exhibition shows (usually free or voluntary donation). Most of them do on their travels throughout the summer. Take time to watch an afternoon of practice if you want to see a good example of physical endurance and dedication. Most people would be shocked at what it takes to put these show together.

If the members of your family lean more toward percussion or colorguard without the brass, check out the shows and possibilities for participation at Winter Guard International. Many drum and bugle corps have winter indoor percussion lines. Again, unbelievable when you see them in person. Find someone in your school or community who has participated in either. See if they have a DVD of regional or national competition that you can borrow (or purchase one yourself from the WGI web site).

If there is musical interest in your family, then you should attend a regional show at least once to see what it’s all about. You won’t know until you go. As always, support the arts and youth activities wherever you live.

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