Online Thesis/Dissertation Repository

Musical Identity and Arranging Styles in Drum Corps Front Ensembles
Leah Dunbar
Bachelor of Arts, Honors in Music
Kenyon College
March 2020  


Drum corps is a competitive music activity that has evolved from its militaristic origins into a theatrical activity that uses brass and percussion instruments in exciting musical performances. Through focusing on the percussion subsection of the front ensemble, I examine the practices, traditions, and controversies of drum corps, studying the ways which individual corps develop a musical identity that balances tradition and innovation. Part of this involves researching the structure of drum corps shows, incorporating Turner’s theory of communitas and Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow to describe how this structure interacts with the development of the activity and the creation of corps identity. Using this understanding of corps traditions, and incorporating ethnographic interviews with arrangers, I then analyze the arranging styles of five World Class front ensembles (Bluecoats, Blue Devils, Boston Crusaders, Cadets, and Santa Clara Vanguard), illustrating how the front ensemble contributes to corps identity and becomes an integral part of the modern drum corps. Finally, I reflect on a drum corps arrangement of my own and the techniques and arranging styles which influenced it.

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