Thoughts on the Lakeland DCI Show - What I Saw and Why (July 9 2016)

The stadium was of a small religious college, 22 rows of new concrete and fresh aluminum backside stands good for high school football games.  The college did not seek this drum corps show.  It was contacted by DCI.  Patrons were former Florida corps and high school band members.  Local students were a no-show.  Some volunteered to collect the $10 parking fee.  The stands were half full.  I parking-lotted, took pictures and watched drumlines warm-up.



For 100 years, beginning with ‘Boys of 76’ circa 1916, people applaud when corps music gets real loud.  No one claps much for marching unless a big bad-ass understandable form screams at you.  This has not nor will ever change.  Lakeland was same.  This is what sells drum corps.  Fast moving human dots, 25-foot high props and amateur ballet in a distant green rectangle - not so much.





My thoughts from three decades ago have not changed, “The purpose of the activity is not an adult design contest.  It can only be marketed as a youth music and marching contest with design secondary.” Scott Stewart, Madison Scout Corps Director, present this very message over 20 years ago to the DCI Executive Board.  How apropos.



In 1998, Madison had 60 snares and 23 tenors tryout.  I am told hundreds are at audition camps. Methinks something in drum corps leadership has gone horribly wrong when that kind of demand can’t field one stable tour.  The hundreds of corps that existed before DCI’s entrance and huge contests like the U.S. Open, World Open and American Invitational are testament to objective score sheets that judged the performers.  One must sell to adults who enjoy sport – not the arts - to make that happen again.



What used to be 8 or 9 football bowl games are now 44.   There used to be 2500 junior corps – now 50. Selling weird experimental art on the exact same football sport fields has led to self-destruction.  Forcing $5000 from each member to sell “staff creativity” is not gaining DCI market share. The public does not care about frantic 180bpm moving dots or amateur ballet.  They seem to be trying to do a cheap version of Olympic ceremonies and Super Bowl Halftimes using large props.  The most daring props win.  Running around wasn’t effective enough.  Maybe they can ask each member to fork over $2000 more, add fireworks and put hornlines in hot air balloon gondolas.  You can buy a lot of firecracker and stage lighting for $300,000.  DCI visual judges oggle and spit up their lunch at such stimulating “possibilities”. 

A $7000 fee to join drum corps sounds like a winning business model. Add the cost of welding props and fireworks tubes then driving all the metal around and you have not sport or art but welding contests. 



Why does DCI have a visual inferiority complex having to constantly change into what others are?  (Werner Erhard.  We will get to that later). Is marching not good enough?  Does it need all these extra visual contraptions to sell tickets?  Why can’t DCI just let the kids compete?  One well-performed company front is much more cost effective than 1000 pounds of props unless you are a welding major.  Blow the audience back five rows, rev up the drums and keep it clean.  Corps are wasting too much time and gas to survive the visual captions quest for football field immortality.  If these visual people have any talent, let them traverse to Broadway and be done with them.  They will stick around because they can only sell their “art attempts” to naïve band directors who convince students something grand is happening.  DCI is not expanding their envelope.  They are putting themselves out of business.



So welding technology now exists to mimic wedding cakes, ladders and playground slides?  It looks like Candy-Land, Chutes & Ladders and Monopoly with military mannequins as game pieces.  Military formality now looks out of place, the drum major saluting on top of a 30-foot high wedding cake.  If I want cake I will go to the bakery.  If I want trapeze art, I can do Cirque du Soleil for $60.



Bad art is always over-complex.  Running was a quest for “visual demand” in 1970s marching score sheets.  First they added another set to, then eliminated the concert standstill number for more marching exposure, then added large wide field spreads for demand.  Then they started running for demand.  Then they counted sets for demand. They never added “beauty” to demand because the visual caption has never had any art skills.  You can’t teach what you don’t know. Because of them, performers have little effect upon their own score.



Why does visual effect have so many points when it is inferior to music?  Music easily stands alone. (Unless you're the high kickin’ Kilgore College Rangerettes - since 1939).  After victory, would you want to hear the winners’ music in a semi-circle or watch a silent “drill” run through? 



DCI uses 40 points for GE.  The more points for general effect, the less the individual controls their score.  Thousands of corps existed when GE was 10 points.  Inversely, the number of points for GE almost matches the corps that remain.



One person does not have the knowledge to discern all show elements and it is politically dangerous.  One does not have to prepare, practice or study to discuss “emotional reactions.”  This results in “ya know it when ya see it” gut reaction judging – no thought required.  Our drum score had weight – 30 points.  You are what you measure. The 40 points for GE today had to be taken from other captions.  Guess which…..



DCI can’t succeed with a ridiculously short 49-day season marketed at teenagers. Parents have the money. George Hopkins claimed 20 years ago that his corps was “educational”.   That turf is already taken.  Corps is in a different business and should begin acting like it. 



The $5000 fees to march exist because DCI staffs can’t sell their football field designs to adults, so members pay for them.  Corps alumni – DCI’s most valuable return customers – do not see anything relative to their experience.  This business model fails miserably.



I asked over 20 corps members what they learn from visual designers about “art concepts and design.”  They all seem confused and replied consistently: “We are dots in a book” “I am a dot” “We still use dot books”  …. etc.  When asked “No…. what do they TEACH you about art and design like color theory, perspective, randomness, composition” they all said “that is a staff thing – we don't get into that”  “That is for the adults”  “Our staff does all that”.  Amazing.  Members pay $5000 to be a subservient dot.



What is the purpose of the visual caption in high school marching band if no education is occurring?



Happily, drumlines are playing a bit more with many sporting scoops.  Tacet time?  I didn’t see them holding props but did catch drummers carrying trombones and other assorted junk away from the field.  Maybe DCI is not calling drummers “unmusical” and “not idiomatically correct” anymore.  Maybe the college degreed percussionists who said “the days of blood and guts drumming are over” - because they couldn’t do it - were wrong.  Maybe DCI figured out the best drummers in this world should perform original material more interesting than orchestra tacets and ram like none other instead of listening to educators who never marched.



DCI lines have gone to a hybrid Kevlar/plastic mix that allows drums to ring again.  There is a tone.  The Legends from Michigan marching 9 and 4 had an especially thick sound.  The drums have been tuned down.  Enjoyable.  I am a fan of this corps, especially their 10-measure 6-man cymbal choke/crash solo. Now if we can get the visual cretins to stop running us around at 200bpm, competition drumming returns. Who needs DCI’s 1990s hi-step marching band 16th notes and Roostcheekie styles? 



For 30 years, experienced fife and drum arm drummers told everyone to eliminate the unmusical sound and physically destructive rebound of Kevlar. The less the drumhead rebounds, the better chance to place second notes or flam grace notes in time.  Kevlar allows much less bone weight behind the second note of a diddle.  Historically, arm drummers beat wrist drummers who beat orchestra and drum set finger drummers who perform the famous inconsistent “zit sound roll” with a twerked out-of-time second note.



Because of fast tempos drumlines (Coats, Boston, Cadets, Crossmen, Atlanta, Surf, Legends etc) used 24th base cheater rolls throughout, basing 12th note flam trips and drags off them.  Extended rolls were long 16 counters or longer.  “Fillers” were simple orchestra interps - open diddles and accents combined to create fast metric modulations and timing interest.  They all used the same arrangement solutions – short fast tenor runs, bass 24th and 32nd fillers and metric modulations.  Repetitive.  I did not see accented 24th note singles or complex flam work, formerly a demand requisite. That said, Blue Coats did some 8th note flam crescendos that were perfect. I saw very few backsticking sections probably due to high tempos.



DCI drum instructors are trying to relearn fife and drum instruction techniques that won since 1931. Olympic trained for speed and endurance using fife and drum close-to-the-body physics, Phantom could execute 32nd base rolls and rudiment series on the march at 160-170 bpm at Rockford State Park.  YouTube videos are inferior to direct instruction, especially when players watch instructors correct others. Having camps are once a month does not cut this historically proven mustard.  The 16th-32nd note base at 180bpm is achievable.  Is it worth all the duress to do it with the current GE oriented scoring system and $5000 fee?



Corps are now trying to perform a technique invented in 1931.  It’s not quite there …….



1)  The right hand stick wobbles at faster speeds because of weak backhand grips.  The ring and pinky fingers belong around the stick.  Using all wrist with a high bead height creates an angle that drops the back of the hand off the stick.  Weaker lines have to regrip, a competitive no-no as no one does it the same.



2)  Snare drummers play “around the tree” with a 50 to 55 degree angles as in the 1920s, not the Sturtze 45 to 50 angle (1931) or Sons Of Liberty 45 degree or less (1951).  They do not use the more efficient S-curve from the right wrist to the forearm, necessary for a flat hand having more bone mass over the right stick which gives much more control.



3)  All the lines do Roostcheekie in various degrees (chicken wing/right arm out) which cancels bone mass symmetry and forearm speed.  Who was the idiot who used Roostcheekie in the first place?  It had to be a “professional educator” who never marched, hired after undeservedly getting DCI judging assignments.



4)  Drumming is a martial art that requires basic physics. Roostcheekie reduces power and endurance. Some use a weird thumb inspired control point with knuckles pointed at the ground instead of flat using far less bone weight over the stick.  DCI drumlines are somewhere in between.  The arm bone mass is too far away from the body to balance roll pressure side to side. Speed increases pressure on the style template and amplifies style faults.  At fast speeds the wrist need only turn slightly to keep fast diddles and flam work open.  Physiology takes patience.  Redundant gridded exercises that instructors say “do over’ if you can’t play them were especially prevalent in 1990s DCI parking lots.  I get the impression instructors are again trying to fix technical problems. Roostcheekie is an educator inspired hindrance to be wastebasketed.



5)  The DCI left hand “paw grip” has poorly defined left hand fulcrums. The percentage of index finger/thumb use is closer in better lines, obtuse in others.  Heat Wave’s “paw grip” was from Vaudeville. The ring finger is too loose.  History tells us the best players always tighten their grip to keep accents down for interior note control.  They called it “pinching” decades ago.



6)  DCI attacked the Cavalier drum staff in 1976 for playing 16 inch “unmusical” rolls. Although winning into August, they were told “DCI will no longer go for that style.”  These “educators” DCI brought in to judge were hired for their pedigree – they never marched. Why is DCI bringing this Sturtze/Arsenault style back 85 years later?  Is this style suddenly “musical” again?  Did incompetent “PhD educators” from DCI suddenly change their minds after 40 years of lying?  They couldn’t sell buzz rolls and 16th notes?  After the Cavie staff quit, DCI attacked Regiment’s style as “unmusical” and “non-ideomatic”.  We were told play buzz rolls and tappy notes to Mahler, Hindemith and Holst.  “Percussion educators” told us they wanted “orchestra dynamics” from field drums as drum corps fans stopped going to shows in the mid 1980s and 1990s. Current DCI lines have the Cavalier basic form – kind of - but with wide arm placement.  Forty years were wasted to complete this absurd circle because DCI’s “educators” had no competitive corps experience.  Their pedigree gave them no knowledge.  They sucked. They still suck.



The educators’ focus was not art but money.  Art comes before money if you want to make money. 



Competition drumming is from fife and drum, not academia.  The educators lied for quick judging fees, copied recaps from recent contests to seem competent, then tried to teach when most of the corps drummers quit, producing the unmusical 16th note drumline disasters of the 1990’s….. They leave a burned out shell - 50 corps and a 49-day contest season. Take your masters degree in music and go back where you belong, unless you come to drum corps with respect of its achievements and its once successful history.



Arm techniques of fife and drum lineage became the style template in America by 1952 replacing the wasteful Moeller technique that went extinct.  If any Moeller motion was observed, practice was immediately stopped, the individual corrected.  I did not see Moeller motions in Lakeland.  (The Sturtze/Arsenault St. Francis branch from fife and drum moved west and taught the Cavaliers, then Troopers and California, Oregon and Washington.  Regiment motion was exactly the same with a tighter left hand grip, pinky out and lower “to an eighth of an inch” interior grace notes.



7)  Drum slants are back.  Why not use slings to keep strength closer to the body?  Oh…….. running.  One instructor stated the slant relieves left shoulder tension.  Speed requires muscle tension.  Muscle training is only useful using a defined style template.  If forearms are symmetrical, the drum should slant slightly DOWN for better overall center of mass to play through the head. 



8)  Elbow placement is too far forward restricting upper body muscle use.  Slings and angle bars keep the target close to the body.  If these DCI jacks can build aluminum props 25 feet high in the air for horn players to someday fall off of, they should be able to solve a carrier physics problem for us.  No? 



9)  Why grip the sticks so far back and push more weight?  A faster bead is found gripping slightly behind center of gravity.



10)  They don’t seem to understand that to move the bead up you concentrate on moving the butt down.



11)  What if one of those silly DCI visual contraptions stresses its welds in a field divot and crashes? Are they checked for loads by engineers? That Blue Coat prop with hollow square aluminum pipes wobbled and bent sideways before they got it out of the dirt over the curb behind the stands.  Do marching bands buy this used visual garbage after the season?



Drumming, not welding, is the best original card DCI has to play.  The success of the Top Secret Drumline and numerous sports team indoor lines using simple drill patterns for support proves this.  They travel light.  The drum corps sharp biting bugle tessitura is now bando three valves and trombones.  Does anyone care about unprofessional color guard dancers and ballerinas?  They are mostly distracting – not supportive - and have little marketing potential.  Reduce the guards - add brass.  The US Marine D&B Corps performed TWICE after receiving tumultuous standing ovations doing a 1950s squad drill without a guard at MBA Finals in 1988.



Why I Saw What I Saw



Drum corps’ use of the Erhard Seminar Training cult mantra – “everything must always change” - is the basis of band and drum corps design failuresMembers of this 1970’s cult are Larry McCormick and George Hopkins, who went after marching band booster money using Erhard’s chants of: “everything must change - there must be change - transformation is happening” and “the possibility of possibility”…. that turned drum corps into a “possibility” that doesn’t know what it is.  Nebulous things don't market well.  People want to know what they are buying.



Erhard Seminar Training is a weird self-help cult leftover from the 1960s “human potential movement.”  It was formed in Pennsylvania in the 1970s by Werner Erhard, an unsuccessful door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman.  Werner divorced, was a mess, then re-invented himself to “throw away the old and change into the new”.  Everything must change!  It is a mix of Zen, Scientology and intense salesmanship.  Participants in the 60-hour courses agreed to not wear watches or talk.  They could not eat or use the bathroom except during breaks separated by many hours, proving the human is but a weak, frail tube.  Erhards’ tapes are very melancholy.  Tim Lautenheizer, McCormick’s self-help guru, was also an Erhard cult member.  After his company enacted a student self-help seminar that drew exactly seven students, he joined with McCormick to throw “self-help psychology” at youth.  He is a “judges mentor” for the CSJA (Central States Judges Association).  Another CSJA “mentor” is the band director from Marion Catholic that gave McCormick $10,000 of his booster clubs money seven years ago.  Hilarious. 



Who gave drum corps its inferiority complex?  Werner Erhard!  Contradictions abound with these people.



George Hopkins:  “I am no fan of competition.”  “Young people should not compete against each other.” Why then is George in such a “competitive” activity?  What are you doing here George?  Haven't you destroyed this activity enough?  Drum corps fans want competition. Take YEA to a socialist country.  Bring toiletries, generators and all the payoff money you can fiddle from YEA accounts.  Get out of here.



As an aside, I have stated for decades that Hopkins is a destroyer. His staff discuss their experiences on “Glassdoor” :


"Professional bridge burners"


Pros - Working with a great staff, who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done; it’s Drum Corps for God’s sake…or is it. See, that’s the thing: it is not Corps. It’s a bunch of fragmented efforts to field a corps and provide a certain lifestyle for its director.



Cons  -  If you are a development professional, stay far away from here. It's that simple. The Executive Director will entice you with salary, abuse your spheres of influence, experience, and abilities and then take credit for whatever comes from those burned and exploited relationships. No plan, no budgets, no leadership, no Board involvement, no business success. The CEO has had the same job since 1982 and lacks an advanced degree. Serious lack of real-world, diversified-leadership-experience. If that isn’t telling, please read on. The crown jewel of the organization is The Cadets, but they go underwater, every year, by hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, you ALL work weekends and nights, slinging bags of candy at band shows. BAND SHOWS! You might sleep overnight, on a bus, to be ready at 5:30AM the following Sunday. Are you a business professional with 15 years’ experience raising millions of dollars for other worthy organizations?…too bad…you’re selling candy to band moms. I could go on, and on, and on…….



Pros  -  There is a certain satisfaction for those that interact with the youth involved in the various programs, but that fades quickly once they return to the toxic office environment. There is also some sense of friendship between staff members, but that too fades when the CEO chooses his new bff or his new target.



Cons  -  I and all other former employees could write a book about the immoral, unethical and probably to some extent illegal activities of the CEO. But, it would do no good, because the next victim will always come along and be made to believe the issues belong to the former employee and once your honeymoon period is over it's too late, your previous employer has already replaced you and you have to start looking for a real job …….



Advice to Management - If the BOD wasn't controlled by the CEO, the suggestion would be to fire him, but since he tends to release BOD members as quickly as he fires staff, the only advise can be to get out before you are vested in the mission, because you are really only vested in HIS retirement planning.


"Welfare is better than this."

Pros  -  You learn what an incompetent, arrogant, self centered, egotistical, strung out CEO looks and acts like. If you date him you'll get a job, and so will your dad. The feeling of quitting something so toxic is a euphoric rush like you won't believe.


Cons  -  You slowly lose all concept of humanity and what it means to be kind. Your personal life dies as does your soul. You start to realize the messages set forth by the CEO are lies and that he himself does not follow any of them. The pay is decent at best and you can't always count on the payments to go through on time. You get a week vacation during the holidays....unpaid of course. Don't worry the CEO still gets paid for that week though. The drama starts with the CEO and you realize you have no voice or say. Once you start you see that all the fancy job descriptions of drama free and being part of a team are all fabricated lies. The temper tantrums and child like outbursts both in person and online snap you into reality. The embarrassing Facebook with misspellings and inane ramblings convince you to never put this on a résumé because people may think worse of you for working under such a CEO.  Fires key people in important positions in ensembles and office.



Advice to Management  -  Fire the CEO, fire the board, and for gods sake hire someone with experience in business and a degree to match.


"Warning - Do Not Work Here"


I worked at Youth Education in the Arts (More than a year)


Pros  -  The only pro I can remember was leaving my last day.


Cons  -  Not one true positive review on Glassdoor, that seems right.



There are many more reviews of George and YEA at that site.  I told you so ………  I told everyone…….



Sports change slowly to keep their fan base.  Erhard Seminar Training states change must be constant. This is why drum corps alumni do not bother with DCI.   NCAA football scoring remained unchanged from 1912 to 1958 until the 2-point conversion. Hockey has the penalty shot, a five minute tie-breaker and shootouts. Basketball introduced a shot clock and 3-pointers.   Pro football now kicks extra points from the 25-yard line.  Baseball added the designated batter. There is excitement in a charged drumline attacking the sideline, much more marketable than some color guard instructor testing an absurd color theory found in Wal-Mart’s home paint section on a thirty foot high foldable aluminum prop.



“There was no change in this sport for 30 years.  And when I say ‘no change’, I mean subtle changes.” Kyle Petty - Driver-team CEO, NASCAR



I have always said drum corps is in direct competition with marching bands and educators.  Corps can’t make money because McCormick and Hopkins destroyed drum corps’ season length trying to inhale booster club money.  If the instruction is better, students will quit the bands.  We did.  Drum corps always kicked the schools ass.  If corps is “the major leagues” it should stop worrying about high school educators.  McCormick and Hopkins made a very stupid long-term choices for selfish short-term profit at the expense of the art and the kids.  Time for these two guys to take a hike.



Corps are in the entertainment business – not education.  If bandos pull their kids out - so what?


Drum corps instruction is like being home schooled.  Members stated they have 500 applicants at every mini-camp.  Subtract a hundred.  Subtract two hundred. Drum corps has far more competition experience without the teachers unions’ “everyone is a winner” non-competitive socialist mantras. 



Consider that college students are a trillion dollars in debt to “college educators”. 


Consider that corps members stated they pay $3500 to $4500 - $6000 to $7000 with camps – to “educators.” We have found the problem.  Educators that came to corps sought monetary opportunity at the expense of youth.  No?  How do you explain the NCAA?


The NCAA has made a science of manipulating youth for profit, but unlike band and drum corps, keeps accurate score with objective rules and scrutinized judging, dangling the lure of pro sports contracts like large golden piñatas.  While “educators” have turned DCI into an overpriced college credit and ruined marching band competitions with art experiments instead of competition, the NCAA does “students” one better with forty million football fans making the NCAA five billion dollars a year. 



“Anytime they want extra money, they go to the football program. Adding a 12th game to the schedule is a bad idea.  It goes on the backs of the football players to make that extra two million.  That’s not fair…… The twelfth game is going to add a lot more pressure to these teams.”   Former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler



University presidents (18) of the NCAA's Board of Directors hypocritically voted a 12th college game for all A-1 schools and added bowl games to fill pockets.  They voted with no debate.  NCAA president Myles Brand insisted the extra game might even help athletes in the classroom.  Notre Dame’s 11 million dollar ABC media contract - with ridiculously tough schedule and subsequent 5-7 losing record – was not about education.  ND made piles of money off those students. While coaches cited fatigue and injuries, the BCS initiated “Tuesday Night Football” and high schools marketed Aflac’s High School Baseball Classic, McDonald’s High School All-American Basketball Game (on national television) and “national top 25 high school football games”. 



"… it seems like everything in athletics is about money, and it's not always aimed at the student-athlete or what's best for the game." … "You're talking another million dollars per school if the Big 12 gets another team in [the BCS]….."  Former Nebraska coach Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.)



Television contracts and countless announcers, reporters and ancillary vendors produce economy unto itself.  Youth get a pittance in return. Television anchors Bob Costas and Brent Musberger are very much like your neighborhood visual designer who can’t perform in their idiom but command speaking fees double that of gold medal Olympians. When the Big East lost football teams to the ACC, West Virginia president David C. Hardesty cried: "Big East schools have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in reliance of these now-broken promises”.   Hundreds of Millions?  Don’t blame college athletes for bolting to the pros minus a degree seeing coaches and administrators pocket seven figure contracts. DCI's game plan is much more sinister, having score sheets that allow staffs to not only call the plays but throw the ball while the performers pay.



DCI Today: “At the conclusion of the DCI meeting, written on the board in capital letters were the words, ……“THE KIDS!”


Design Guru Cesario: “The intent of the visual ensemble sheet is to reward designers and performers, but I feel it is overweighted toward the performer.”



The young are not experienced in life enough to understand the insidious nature of being used for profit. “There are over 360,000 NCAA student athletes and almost all of us will be professional at something other than sports.”   NCAA March Madness commercial


“Why should a field goal kicked by a schoolboy be worth $14 million? The only thing that keeps BCS bowl money from being taxable income is a Congress that still considers college athletics to be educational.”  Former University of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler


College bowl games are tax-exempt.



Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon won a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, whose likeness was used in a video game. Northwestern University football players won their lawsuit and can unionize and collectively bargain as employees.  Hundreds of college football and men’s basketball players told the NCAA they want bigger scholarships and more grant money.


The NCAA yelped: “Athletes are students, not employees!  You can’t do this!”  The NCAA is now irrelevant.


Are DCI and the NCAA in the education or entertainment business?  Both?  What is their primary focus?   Corps members ask for donations to march.  Most students need tuition assistance or a scholarship. 



Does money determine professionalism?  Drum corps members seem to be employees that PAY to work.  That’s backwards isn’t it?  The NCAA does not have George Hopkins experimenting with glow in the dark footballs, eliminating judgmental referees and adding 5th down to explore “Erhard possibilities.”


Marching band and the NCAA both merge student expense with educational facilities.  High school band directors that copy corps bring those high expenses with them using taxpayer money for the bill.  One Tarpon Springs band member stated he paid $2000 to march.  The Plymouth band from Michigan made front-page news proudly stating they spent over $225,000 – over twenty years ago! Band parents sell their children into artistic slavery coast to coast, buying false victories from visual designers who have no art or design experience.  If parents complain, they can leave.  When parents realize these “design teams” do not educate, unsupervised marching band contests will most likely stop and the schools sued.

Robert Schreffler, Cavalier snare, 4th at DCI Individuals when all members were still allowed to compete: “The band directors did this to themselves.


Staffs said there are not enough shows to make money having embarrassing 4 to 8 day gaps in a seven-week (49 day) season.  The tours DCI promotes are stale.  They do not have enough corps to market the activity using the same 8 or 10 corps over and over.  Most finalists are in the 30 to 32 range of shows, same as 2015.  Smaller corps do not draw and have few shows – maybe 10 or 15.  The public is a no show.  The VFW and American Legion support system is gone.  Support can only happen through alumni…. those who understand and competed in the activity.  The DCI business model that charges thousand of dollars to contemplate welded props in a terribly overpriced 7-week college course is a failure to them. 



“We simply need to adjust who we are to that we can reclaim the base of support.”  George Hopkins



Drum corps alumni have effectively boycotted DCI.  They want competition, not experimental art, Art shows are for oil painters and watercolorists.  DCI crowds swelled to see the Royal Airs, Madison and Kingsmen alumni and many others.  Why?  Support DCI could have had from alumni has been lost to the egos and amateurism of the visual caption and Erhard Seminar Training.  Sports fans demand honest competition, not CSJA visual judge Gary Czypinski stapling his business cards to band score sheets. (True.)



Alumni remember public support of Marion Ohio’s U.S. Open that drew 12,000 for Open finals at Harding stadium, Open Class Prelims, “A Corps” championships and “All-Girls” title.  The place was sold out every year.  Hundreds of corps competed. Before DCI existed, thousands of locals came out to watch and handle the famous yearly thunderstorms … 1968 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80….  (61 different corps in 1971, 64 in '72 and 84 in '73)



Isn’t good marketing communication?  Understandable rules created marketable identity – a brand image. Why would an adult non-musician pay $50 to listen to 180bpm music he isn’t familiar with?  Nothing is 180bpm on the radio; it is mostly dance tempos of 80 to 144bpm.



Presenting the best drumming in this world does not take $5000 per person. Then again, the activity attracted educators that stated Kevlar drumheads were musical and had “sound colors”, your unit must have new uniforms every year and silly props must identify a theme.  They do or say anything for a dollar. Corps members stated few pay $5000 twice and turnover rates are extreme.



Molding an objective performer oriented criteria, not money, is the first item of any judges association, school board or principal.  With measurement comes accountability.  Drum corps visual design is like the empty booth at an art fair that people quickly pass by having sculptures with 5 eyeballs hanging out no one understands.  Art critics sell this trash stating it is so good, no one can understand it!   So buy! Don’t bother measuring “design” and do not be objective….  just create enough false opinion so that it is worth a lot of money. That is the job of DCI judges.  DCI relies on the false marketing of “design experts”.



Students do not know what is expected from “undefined art criteria”, art class somewhere down the hall from the band room.  Without judging standards, competitors have none.  You are what you measure. Instead of ranking and rating performers to an objective standard, scores are mashed in a general effect political blender.  Units must buy or lose. THIS cost will put more corps out of business and make hash of school band programs. Using students as game pieces in adult design contests has the contradiction of building self-esteem in "non-competitions" where "everyone is a winner" and "feels good" wrapped around the stolen competitive headliner, "Summer Music Games". 



“We must judge visual design.  WE MUST!” 


Aaron Roble, President, Central States Judges Association – July 2014



The CSJA (Central States Judges Association) is asking judges to attend a $500 “Judges Academy” to be trained by “experts.”  One problem.  MANY OF THEIR EXPERTS NEVER MARCHED.  Their president is an average band director from Louisiana who never marched.  The new CSJA Music Caption Head never marched.  Would you take advice on marathon running from someone who never ran a race or laced up a pair of racing shoes?  Would you take lessons from those who never had enough respect for the activity to experience it? 



The CSJA stated they have assignments in every state.  They are marketing scam - a ponzi scheme.  Their “judges mentors” are design oriented “educators” from McCormick’s design crew who used their pedigrees to siphon band booster money for decades.  None of them know a thing about art or design.  They have no degrees in the skill set.  Like the NCAA, they are trying to keep cash flow going and market themselves by judging each other, promoting design as “necessary.”  They pat each others backs knowing the lie can continue if no one asks questions. They do or say anything to keep control of the score sheets and therefore the cash flow.  Now you know why GE is 40 points at DCI.



Soon, each student will get a ticket, two free hot dogs and a coke to the Marching Band State Prelims. Proud booster club parents raise money to compete in four flights - $50,000 or more, $35000, $20000 and $10000.  Students cheer for their staffs computer simulated show design on a large theatre screen. Band directors are delighted!  No late bus drivers or uncomfortable busses.  No breakdowns.  No instruments or uniforms to buy or clean.  No stadiums to rent.  No band camp.  Why bother?  No sprains or cuts, no conflicts with other school activities -100% attendance!  How educational!  Performance?  There are no mistakes.  Students “get the experience” watching their sims compete.   Design experts scream and guffaw.  Trophies are doled out. Staffs get paid. Winning band members get trophies, medals and rings.  Schools get a large trophy. Band boosters have bought the best for their DNA.


What are people who pay $7000 to march seven weeks with two camps?  Students?  Employees?  Fools?  DCI can’t transfer the demand of 500 people at audition camps into new corps because “educators” and “designers” want professional fees but produce little return revenue.  They are baggage.  Pay the musicians. Cut the visual salaries.  Music over visual!  I paid $150 to march Regiment against thousands of other corps when “educators” and “designers” had not yet heavily influenced the score sheets.



What happens when everyone realizes the activity can be much more lean, make more money and grow without wasteful amateur visual design experiments?



One year, as president of a judges association, I was in the parking lot congratulating different groups of parents that made state finals.  Our conversation was cut short by a color guard heading for the stadium entrance.  They wore all black with hoods and heavy make-up pushing large black baby carriages with white wheels.  Inside the carriages were cut-up dismembered baby dolls with blood (ketchup) splashed all over.  Silence ensued as they passed.  One father broke the embarrassing silence: “This thing has become something it was never supposed to be.”



What was this thing supposed to be?


Ken Mazur  July 19 2016