Tuesday, January 29, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

I could write a blog venting about all the shit that's hit the fan this week, but that's wholly depressing and boring to read, so instead, I'll give my opinion on the recent rule changes for the 2009 season recently proposed by DCI and my thoughts on the activity (in regards to DCI) as a whole.

Suffice it to say, I am not a fan of the direction DCI is taking drum & bugle corps. Here is the letter I wrote to DCI:

For what it's worth (very little, if the current direction of the activity is any indicator), I would like to state my wholehearted disapproval of the recent rule changes put into effect for the 2009 competitive season.

There is a fine line between innovating and re-inventing an activity, and DCI has been treading further and further past this line each year. I was a member of a DCI level Div II in the early 90's and saw the furor created by the addition of a 3rd valve. "Old School" corps veterans insisted that it changed the sound, made corps too easy, etc., and I tended to ignore them. I was simply pleased that we were now able to play more notes and have a fuller, richer texture to chords. Similar arguments were raised, I'm sure, with the the addition of the 2nd valve, rotors, and of course, the addition of the pit percussion.

Now, however, it seems as though DCI has been instituting rules to make drum corps more of an art form than an experience. Gone are the days of spine-tingling, bright, in-you-face shows, filled with pageantry and excitement.

The rule changes being approved by the Board of Directors over the past several years seem solely for the benefit of making the "artist's" visions become reality more easily by removing all possible obstacles including changing instrumentation to fit more standardized, mass-marketed equipment that the sponsors already produce. In other words, the recent rule changes seem geared solely to the designers and instrument manufacturers, not the participants or the fans.

I was opposed to the move to Bb horns. This was touted as a benefit to the smaller corps, as they would now be able to buy inexpensive, standard horns, rather than more expensive G bugles. Yet for the first several years, only open class corps were allowed to use them, thus setting a standard that required most smaller corps to go to the great expense and time to completely replace their existing horn lines in order to be taken seriously. This conveniently created a demand for the manufacturers to only produce their higher profit margin, mass-produced instruments already in production, rather than have to make a smaller profit on the more custom made G bugles.

I still resent the move to Bb bugles. It's a different (though yes, arguably more concert-like) sound than the activity has established, but it's not Drum & Bugle Corps. The addition of amplified voice, electronic synthesizers, and (as I see coming) woodwind instruments makes this an entirely different activity.

If DCI wishes to continue down this road to becoming a summer BOA program, by all means, create one, but I have had enough of DCI preaching that it is trying to preserve this great activity in the cloak of "evolution". DCI has stopped evolving and has gone to recreation at the expense of what was once a great and exciting activity to watch and perform.

I, for one, will be taking my ticket money to DCA from now on. A bit mired in the past, perhaps, but infinitely better than what has transpired in DCI. DCA may be slow to "evolve" at times, but they at least have a sense of what their supporters and fans want, as opposed to the corporate, self-involved, and pretentious interests guiding DCI's recent decisions. DCA is still DRUM & BUGLE CORPS.

If you want to mess with format and structure, create a new genre. Make a "Field Show" class. Maybe even combine a few contests to gain crossover fans. Grab the favorite brass quintet of your choice and take it on the road. It's proven successful and audiences will go to see it (including myself). But if you want to call it Drum & Bugle Corps, keep the standards and practices that make it so. It's not drum and synth and woodwind and guitar and voice corps - it's DRUM & BUGLE CORPS.

Call me a Spartacus wanna-be, but until DCI comes to it's senses, I will be boycotting all DCI events (along with most of my fellow disgruntled corps veterans) and spending my ticket, souvenir, and concession money at DCA shows.

Paul D. Keiser
Northern Aurora Drum & Bugle Corps
Baritone 1990-1994


Colleen said...

You're far from the only one who refuses to spend their money there anymore. my roommate and I are no longer buying DCI finals DVDs, CDs, or anything else. too much stupid. < Hugs > Hope things are going better.

Richard said...


That's been my "beef" about DCI, continuing its drifting away from Corps as we once knew it, continuing to add all of these different "devices" not associated with the activity. If you want to play those types of instruments, go join BOA and stop messing with the "hobby" called "Drum & Bugle Corps". That's why I participate with the Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Corps, associated with DCA. How these people get into positions to promote & then allow these changes is beyond me!!

Rich Stanczak
Cabs Contrablaster