My wife, Sarah, and I had the privilege of being in Indianapolis last weekend to enjoy the festivities surrounding the Drum Corps International World Championships. After missing only two finals weekends since 2002, it was great to be back in Indy for those last few days of the season. Even though I am ten years removed from being a marching member, simply being around that activity, being in that stadium, seeing so many old friends, current or former students, so many thoughts and feelings swirl in me that I cannot keep up or process them all. I won't bore you with every single thought, but I will share a few random observations and thoughts from my experience at the 2016 DCI World Championships.
(These observations will make more sense if you got to see some drum corps this year, but they may still be entertaining even if you didn't. Also, many are from a percussionist's perspective, while some are more general.)
In no particular order...
1. The first minute or two of the Cadets' show was so powerful. I love long, slowly developed musical phrases like that, and to me, they made it work.
2. Props to the Blue Knights percussion team for taking bold risks in their arranging and style. Definitely the most unique battery book that I saw. Many headaches were had in teaching and cleaning that book, I'm sure, but good for them for sticking with it and nailing some crazy hard stuff!
3. Speaking of percussion books, my sense is that overall, percussion books are too hard for the performers to execute perfectly, so we are getting more mistakes than a few years ago, but most people think it's worth it and are willing to take that risk. I like hearing flawless ensembles, but I also like seeing people try new and really cool things, even if it means more imperfections (see #2).
4. Phantom Regiment had no props in their show, and I really enjoyed it. I appreciate how much they allow great music to drive their productions.
5. Two of my students (one current, one former) aged out this year. Marisa Spevak from SEU (marimba, Blue Devils); and Dan Reberger from Northview HS (snare, Cadets). Proud of all their accomplishments in and out of drum corps!
6. I will be watching a member of the Cadets and see them step off with their right foot, and for a split second, I still think, "Oh crap, they messed up!" Gets me every time.
7. Not much cooler than the SCV cymbal line. What a cool moment for them getting to end their show like they did.
8. People like the gock shot these days. I wonder how many bloody and bruised hands there have been trying to hit gock shots with 2/3 of the stick over the head.
9. I am amazed that the center marimba from the Blue Devils is able to reach the cymbals on either side of her marimba at the same time, considering how short she is. Impressive.*
Blue Devils final set at Semifinals
10. I got goose bumps 4 different times -- FOUR TIMES in 30 seconds -- during Carolina Crown's first full ensemble impact. Words cannot describe what it is like to experience that sound, that feeling. Even high-quality recordings and speakers cannot fully reproduce what that is like. I don't think I could ever get tired of experiencing that. Wow.
11. With regards to the Blue Devils/Bluecoats showdown toward the end of the season, my basketball fan wife (I know, I'm the luckiest guy in the world...she loves drum corps and basketball!) pointed out the fun connection of East vs. West, NE Ohio vs. Bay Area California, Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, Bluecoats vs. Blue Devils. Turns out the connection remained consistent as the Cavs won the NBA title over the reigning champs, winning their first ever, and the Bluecoats won the DCI title over the reigning champs, winning their first ever.
12. Many trombones.
13. There are a lot of shows that touch on the human condition, on peace and violence, calling for unity and togetherness in humanity. I can only guess that these shows are inspired at least in part by many of the recent events in America that have highlighted the divides in our culture. I find it interesting to witness how these ideas are expressed through art, some as commentaries, some as inspiration, some as calls to action. My hope is that we are not only moved in our emotions or intellect by this sort of art, but that we act upon the conviction to love our neighbor as ourselves, as demonstrated best by the One who is Love.
14. I still miss the Bluecoats uniform from the previous few years. Ya know, the one with the blue coats. Loved the show, and I totally understand their decision, I just missed the look.
15. I am glad Santa Clara Vanguard's approach to percussion was rewarded with the Fred Sanford High Percussion Award. The writing is incredibly musical, especially for the marching activity, which, I hate to admit, is often not always so musically refined. The performance approach is one of great maturity and musicality, too. I watch their pit and I am persuaded that every one of those performers is individually an outstanding, musical percussionist. And they don't add unnatural motions or facial expressions to try get their point across -- they simply play great and humbly let the music do the talking. So refreshing to me. Congratulations SCV Percussion!
Did you get to experience DCI this year? What are your thoughts?
* All in jest, of course! Marisa Spevak is a boss, and I am so proud of her!