RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • PASIC Continues to Raise the Bar by Michael Balter

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Dec 01, 2019

    Nate Smith
    Nate Smith

    Each year, PASIC offers something for every drummer and percussionist: clinics, masterclasses, mock auditions and symphonic labs, performing ensembles of all ages, daytime and evening showcase concerts, a new music focus day, DrumFest, a MarchingFest and DrumLine Battle, drum circles, Rhythm! Discovery sessions, an amazing Expo Hall, along with so much more. For its attendees, PASIC has been and continues to be an unlimited opportunity to learn, explore, and expand the art form of drums and percussion. The clinics, masterclasses, and concerts are presented by a “who’s who” of percussion, enabling the convention goers to be challenged and motivated to take their playing to the next level. If one is serious about drums and percussion, PASIC is the place to be!

    Ice Sculpture

    I have personally attended PASIC for the past 40 years, with the one exception being 1986 when my younger son was born. Each year, I would showcase and promote the new Balter Mallets products, which meant spending a lot of time in the booth. Additionally, for 27 of my 40 years, when I was not in the booth, I was attending PAS Executive Board meetings, committee meetings, or Board of Directors meetings. Having had to “work” the convention did not afford me the opportunity to attend many of the daytime events. However, that time at the booth did provide me with a valuable opportunity to meet countless numbers of people, many of whom have turned into lifelong friends.

    PASIC 2019 was a different experience for me. Why? Being retired, this year was the first for me to truly soak in many of the sessions and concerts being presented. I finally had the free time to attend events and enjoy in-depth discussions with students and friends. Having the time, I saw PASIC through a different perspective, and I am very pleased and enthusiastic about what I witnessed.

    Third Coast Percussion
    Third Coast Percussion Ensemble

    I have always been amazed by the passion students have for what we do; we are indeed a very special group, and perhaps just a little crazy. We are always trying to take our playing and understanding of music to the next level. Going around PASIC listening to various performers, walking through the exhibit hall or down the hallway, hearing students running scales, playing on a drum, drum set, or practice pad, I was deeply impressed with the musical talent on display. They have strong chops, complete mastery, and an overabundance of dexterity. With the amount of skill and complete command that today’s students have in their playing, I am eager to see how the next generation of drummers and percussionists will raise the percussion arts. It is obvious that there is no limit as to how greatly they will enrich our art form in both performance and education.

    We live in a world where everything is loud and louder. At PASIC, particularly in an exhibit hall full of drummers, musical nuance can be hard to find. I am eager to see how students incorporate nuance, sensitivity, and musical expression as an equal part with technique. Each contribute powerfully to a composition, allowing it to be meaningful and tell a story that will connect with the audience. Having chops is a good thing (and did I see players with chops at PASIC), but I am most encouraged when that technique is utilized with musicianship.

    All Star Percussion Ensemble
    All Star Percussion Ensemble

    Over the years, so many times I have said, “PAS, is all about the people.” PAS is more than a society and more than an association; PAS is a family! Each year PASIC is truly a “family reunion” where one can see old friends and make new ones. It is a place where one can reminisce about the past, experience the energetic present, and see the vibrant future of the Percussive Arts Society. Next year, when you come to the “reunion,” find me so you and I can talk drums, percussion, and music. See you in Indy, November 11–14, 2020! 

    Michael BalterAs a first call professional percussionist, drummer, and educator based in Chicago, Michael Balter has done it all: recordings, TV and radio commercials, concerts, night clubs, theaters, and more.His enthusiasm and dedication to total perfection earned him a well-respected name in the music business, and it also made him acutely aware of the need for quality products. Drawing upon his years of experience, he quickly earned a reputation for developing the finest and most extensive line of mallets. The same passion and attention to detail he demonstrated in his playing established Balter Mallets as the mallet leader within the music industry. For 27 consecutive years, Michael served on the PAS Board of Directors, and he had the distinct pleasure of serving on the Executive Board of PAS for 16 of those years, including an unprecedented eight consecutive terms as PAS Treasurer. Recognized for his dedication to PAS, he received the Distinguished Leadership Award, the only recipient to earn such an honor in the Society’s history. In 2015, Michael was inducted into the PAS Hall of Fame. Michael retired in 2018 when he sold Balter Mallets to the Zildjian Company.

  • Square Peg Round Hole by Josh Gottry

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Oct 01, 2019

    Square Peg Round Hole

    The college music school environment is one that, when done right, provides a context ripe for creative collaboration. Countless significant contemporary music ensembles have been established from within the halls and practice rooms of a university music building, and you can count Square Peg Round Hole as one of those notable ensembles.

    Formed in 2011, when the members met while studying at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Philadelphia-based Square Peg Round Hole is a percussion-based trio featuring Evan Chapman, Sean M. Gill, and Carlos Pacheco-Perez. These three individuals utilize drum set, vibraphone, samples, found objects, synths, and vintage analog keyboards to create music with elements of post-rock, electronic, ambient, and contemporary classical genres. The band has performed at venues and festivals across the U.S. and collaborated with such artists as Sō Percussion, Gracie & Rachel, and Variant Six. In November, they will be presenting a PASIC Showcase Concert.

    Square Peg Round Hole

    Square Peg Round Hole

    The album Juniper, released in 2016 on Spartan Records, first garnered the band national attention. The introspective album was composed rural Maryland and remote Wisconsin, and it was recorded almost entirely live in full takes. Square Peg’s latest recording, Branches, stands as a more collaborative and outward-looking artistic endeavor. It was recorded in Nashville with producer and drumming legend Darren King (MuteMath, Kanye West, Sucré). Living in King’s attic and immersing themselves in his studio opened the group up to new techniques and pushed them into unexpected sonic terrain. The performances are also more collaborative featuring Variant Six (members of Grammy-award winning vocal ensemble The Crossing) and Brooklyn-based powerhouse pop-duo Gracie & Rachel (fresh off of tours with Ani DiFranco and San Fermin).

    What should percussionists know about Square Peg Round Hole, and what might the PASIC audience expect for their showcase concert? I had the opportunity to ask the band these questions as they prepared for this exciting performance.

    R!S: First of all, please introduce yourselves and explain briefly about your background pre-SPRH.

    Evan Chapman: I was raised in garage rock bands playing drum set almost exclusively. Throughout grade school outside of Baltimore, Maryland, I was a member of several punk and metal bands that played lots of local gigs and learned DIY methods of recording. I didn’t know it at the time, but having the experience of that DIY punk attitude has stuck with me all these years later, and I believe that it gives me a resourceful, go-getter approach to music making. I quickly played catch-up on other orchestral percussion instruments during my later years of high school, once I decided it would be smart to get a well-rounded classical percussion degree, and I ended up at Indiana University.

    Sean M. Gill: Music was a big part of my family, but I wasn’t that interested in playing anything myself until a childhood friend got a drum set. Though I was pretty daunted, and started with just a set of bongos, I was pretty much indoctrinated in the world of percussion from then on. The natural progression from there was to join the school band and play drums in a few local groups wherever I could. I wrote some music here and there on whatever I could, usually guitar and piano, and eventually came to the conclusion that music would be my focus, whether writing or performing. Through the rest of school, I dove into contemporary classical and its intersection with bands and electronic music that I also love. 

    Carlos Pacheco-Perez: I first started with piano lessons at the age of seven and did that through the end of high school as well as starting percussion in the sixth grade. Throughout my entire childhood, I would compose little dramatic—overly dramatic—songs, and I was always drawn to the process of creation. I went to college thinking I wanted to be an orchestral percussionist, but as I went through the program, I really started understanding that my love of music wasn’t necessarily geared just to performance, but rather to the process of creating new music from scratch and exploring that generally creative mindset. 

    Square Peg Round Hole

    Square Peg Round Hole  Square Peg Round Hole

    R!S: Other than that all of you were at IU together at the same time, what inspired you to create an ensemble?

    SPRH: Either serendipitously or purposefully by our professors, the three of us ended up getting placed together on many different percussion ensemble pieces during our time at IU. We found that not only did we have a performing chemistry, but also a shared hunger to learn certain pieces of percussion repertoire outside of the existing curriculum. Once we started to realize how specific the type of music was that we wanted to perform as a percussion ensemble, we began commissioning works by our composer peers, and then subsequently embarked on writing our own original compositions born of our specific musical backgrounds and aesthetics.

    R!S: Is the vision for SPRH that each of you has a unique role within the ensemble, and if so, what are those roles? If not, how do you decide who does what on any given track or project?

    SPRH: The acoustic instrumentation of the group began much more flexibly than it has ended up. When we formed, we didn’t have a set stage plot or arsenal of instruments, but rather assessed our setup on a piece-by-piece basis, with each member floating from instrument family to instrument family. We quickly realized that this model, while appropriate in concert and recital halls, is not well-suited for smaller rock clubs/bars in which we also wanted to be playing. In order to be able to book shows alongside rock/pop bands, we decided it would be best to consolidate and codify our setup to make it as streamlined as possible. The eventual instrumentation we settled into consists of Carlos on Rhodes keyboard, Sean on vibraphone, and Evan on drum set, with each of us supplementing those primary instruments with various electronics. Beyond the instrumentation, the other roles and contributions to the band are very democratic, with each of us sharing creative and compositional duties evenly and collaboratively.

    R!S: How do you balance analog percussion sounds with electronic contributions?

    SPRH: The sound worlds that we develop for each track don’t necessarily come from conscious approaches to balance, but rather simple trial and error for what seems to fit and what doesn’t. That being said, we have found that there tends to be two different categories of electro/acoustic interplay: 1. where the electronics and acoustic instruments blend seamlessly into one another so the listener can’t necessarily tell where one ends and the other begins, and 2. when the two worlds are purposefully juxtaposed to create some kind of heightened impact. An example of the former could be additional layers of processed (e.g., reversed or delayed) vibraphone tracks underneath the actual live vibraphone, and an example of the latter could be an extremely distorted low bass synthesizer underneath twinkling children’s desk bells. Each are effective in their own ways, and it usually comes down to us deciding what feels right for the given moment.

    R!S: Is everything you record envisioned with the mindset of also performing that work live, or is part of your expectation for the ensemble that some projects may be completely studio creations?

    SPRH: This has been a steady shift for us since the formation of the ensemble. Because we began as a more repertoire-driven chamber group, the emphasis was on fully-notated scores and virtuosic live performances without much attention given to how the repertoire would translate in the studio. Over the years, we have gradually adopted an approach to our compositional process that is more similar to pop production, meaning that we are more often writing in the studio or on our computers and then subsequently figuring out how to play our studio parts live. This is a challenge we have grown to enjoy, as it forces us to come up with creative ways of covering various parts at once, usually involving extensive multitasking with several limbs!

    R!S: What will you be performing at PASIC?

    SPRH: The main focus of our PASIC showcase will be presenting music from our upcoming third LP, Branches, which will be released on National Sawdust Tracks on November 8 [the Friday before PASIC]. We will toss an older track or two into our set, but we are extremely excited to share this brand-new material that we have been working on for a very long time.

    R!S: What are you most excited about for this showcase concert?

    SPRH: This will be our first PASIC showcase, and it is an opportunity we have all been striving for since the inception of the band. The percussion community at PASIC is like family to us, and Indiana still feels like our home away from home, so the most exciting part is to finally get to share our music with so many friends, teachers, and colleagues from over the years all in one place. Also, we’re excited to devour some Steak & Shake afterwards!

    R!S: What advice would you give to younger percussionists walking out of your concert looking to form a chamber ensemble of their own?

    SPRH: It sounds cliché, but pursue what you want to do and what suits the specific skill set of your particular combination of bandmates. If you believe in it and give it all of your effort, everything else will fall into place. We had no real, practical goals when starting the group other than to make and play music that we enjoyed. I think that mindset allowed us to find an outlet that we’ve genuinely enjoyed and cherished for years. The music of Square Peg Round Hole is very much a product of all of our personal influences and backgrounds, which has in turn given the compositions a unique voice that is specifically ours. Find your unique voice, and don’t get self-conscious when no one else sounds like you; in the end, that will be a good thing!

    Josh GottryJosh Gottry is a respected educator, accomplished percussionist, and internationally recognized composer who has been working with, and creating music for, the next generation of percussionists for over twenty years. He has served as part of the music faculty on college and university campuses around the Phoenix metropolitan area, works regularly with ensembles and students at all grade levels as a clinician and within his private lesson studio, and his performance record includes professional orchestras, musical theater, worship teams, jazz combos, community and chamber ensembles, as well as solo performances and recitals. Gottry is an ASCAP award-winning composer whose works have been performed at universities, junior high and high schools, and multiple national conferences, and he serves as editor for Rhythm! Scene.

  • The Open Class Experience by Tracy Wiggins

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Aug 01, 2019


    Legends | Photo by Andrian Show

    Throughout its history, Drum Corps International has created various divisions for its corps. For much of the time, this has included a separation of World Class groups (formerly Open Class or Division I) from the Open Class (formerly A and A60, or Division II and III). In the early years of DCI, these divisions were separated by size, with set limits to membership numbers, such as A60 or Division III being limited to a maximum of 60 members.

    Recently, DCI adopted a system with only two divisions: World Class and Open Class. The rules regarding size of the corps are the same in each division; the differences are seen in the length of the tours, the operating budgets of the organization, and in some instances the age of the members. Not surprisingly, much of the marketing and media is geared predominately towards the World Class groups, so one has to search further to find pictures, videos, livestreams, etc. of Open Class groups, reducing the exposure that the general marching world gets from the Open Class corps.

    Currently Drum Corps International has 23 World Class Corps and 24 Open Class Corps. Many World Class corps are well known throughout the marching world for their level of performance and innovation. But the Open Class division has grown over the years to a point where the quality of their work often has these groups on a competitive playing field with their World Class peers. In addition, Open Class shows are every bit as innovative and entertaining as those found in World Class.

    As the end of another exciting DCI season approaches, this is a great time to look at the role that Open Class serves in today’s DCI. I had the pleasure to connect with instructors who have both taught and performed in the Open Class ranks to get a taste of some of the benefits of membership in Open Class. Many students throughout the history of drum corps have begun their careers in Open Class groups, gaining invaluable experience before moving into the World Class ranks. Many others have found their home in Open Class and stayed with their corps families through their age out.

    Legends Drum and Bugle Corps
    Legends Drum and Bugle Corps | Photo by Adrian Show

    Louisiana Stars Drums Entertain in Michigan City

    VIDEO: Louisiana Stars hit the lot before taking the field in Open Class championship competition.
    Video courtesy FloMarching

    Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps
    Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps | Photo by Hunter Heeke/Southwind Drum & Bugle Corps

    Tracy Wiggins: Please tell us about your marching background, including both Open and World Class marching and teaching experience.

    Elanders Frazier: My marching background includes Eminence (WGI Percussion Independent Open in 2003), Spirit from JSU (Division I in 2004–05), and Music City Mystique (WGI Percussion Independent World in 2006–07). My teaching background is with Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps from 2016 to the present. 

    Troy Breaux: I marched snare drum for three years in the Phantom Regiment (1987–89) under Marty Hurley and John Wooton. I was then arranger and caption head of a Division II corps from Hammond, Louisiana called Expressions in 1990–91. My good friend Jeff Prosperie was there for the first few years of the corps inception, and I took over when he joined the staff at Phantom. After that, I was out of the drum corps activity for many years as I attended graduate school, taught high school, and eventually taught at the college level. It wasn’t until the start of Louisiana Stars in 2014 that I returned to drum corps.

    Zachary Odom: Southwind, Chattanooga Independent, The Cadets, Music City Mystique. I’ve also taught at various high schools including my own high school. 

    Quinten Bagby II: I marched at Pace High School 2013–2016, Southwind Drum and Bugle in 2016, Equinox Percussion in 2017, Madison Scouts in 2019, and Music City Mystique in 2018–19. I currently teach at Gulf Breeze High School, and this is my first year teaching.

    Michael Sudduth: Louisiana Stars 2015 (snare); Boston Crusaders 2016–2017 (snare); Southwind 2019 (staff). 

    Landon Ewers: I played snare drum with Northern Aurora (NA) from Saginaw, Michigan in 1995–96. At the time, NA was a Division III corps with a maximum membership of 60 performers. I played snare drum with the Santa Clara Vanguard (SCV) in 1998. At the time, SCV was a World Class corps with a maximum membership of 128. I was the percussion supervisor at Dimensions Drum and Bugle from Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2002 and have been the percussion supervisor at Legends Drum and Bugle Corps from Kalamazoo, Michigan from 2007 to present.

    Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps
    Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps | Photo by Hunter Heeke/Southwind Drum & Bugle Corps

    Wiggins: What were the most direct benefits to your future in World Class that you gained from Open Class? 

    Frazier: I believe my largest strides were being humbled. I came out of high school from a scholastic-world group, and going into an independent open ensemble I was humbled by the talent and the amazing teachers. I learned so much in my first year out of high school that it set me up for success for my first drum corps experience. I would not have made it without those experiences and that wealth of knowledge. 

    Breaux: While this question is not directly applicable to me, in today’s drum corps climate, most students have to march Open Class for a year or two in order to get the experience to go on and make a World Class drum corps. In my day there were not as many people auditioning, and the performance level was not what it is today. My first audition was at Phantom Regiment, and the first live drum corps show I ever saw, I was in! In my position now, we end up training many students only to see them go on to World Class. That is the challenge of building a program  in Open Class; you don’t always have very many veterans, so you are almost starting over every year. That’s okay, though; we want to see the kids go on and be successful.

    Odom: My drive and determination to be my personal best in all aspects of my life was what I gained in my Open Class experience. So much in drum corps is strictly mental, and if you can be 100% on top of your mental game, the physical side will fall into place with correct effort and persistence. 

    Bagby: Through marching in an Open Class corps, I grew as an individual. A few examples of personal growth include the knowledge to strategically plan and execute that plan, effectively communicate with other individuals, and sustain high levels of mental focus for any amount of time. These are skills that not only helped me in World Class, but also in life. Because the drum corps lifestyle is relatively the same in both classes, I had an idea of what to expect. The personal growth and maturity previously gained was directly applicable to the World Class environment. Having this maturity allowed me to be much less stressed and to truly enjoy the experience.

    Sudduth: Before I marched my first summer of Open Class, I was cut from the Spirit of Atlanta snare line three separate times before making the Louisiana Stars snare line. I was 18 when I marched my first season of drum corps and, to be honest, I wasn’t ready for the length of the World Class season. Doing a season of Open Class not only got me ready for the mental endurance a full World Class season demanded, but also gave me the confidence to go out for a higher placing group, which let me march Boston Crusaders the next season! 

    Ewers: The most direct benefit my NA experience provided for my future at SCV was the development of a “world class” standard. This came from the exceptional instructional staff employed at NA at the time. This has in turn informed the approach used in the Legends percussion department; there is no reason for the Open Class experience to be less mature or less excellent than a World Class one.

    Louisiana Stars
    Louisiana Stars | Photo by Kaylee Friou

    Legends Drum and Bugle Corps
    Legends Drum and Bugle Corps | Photo by Adrian Show

    Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps
    Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps | Photo by Hunter Heeke/Southwind Drum & Bugle Corps

    Wiggins: What were the most notable differences between the World and Open classes?

    Frazier: The largest difference I have noticed is access to resources and the amount of time that we rehearse. We have a lot less time to perfect the same amount of product, so we have to be much more efficient about what we do, how we write, how we design, etc. The students are typically younger, so that always presents a challenge, but that is a variable that we cannot control.

    Breaux: Budget is a big difference. This can pose many challenges both in terms of equipment and staffing, and as stated earlier, in retention. Having experienced members makes a huge difference.

    Odom: The biggest difference from Open to World Class for me personally was the limit I was pushed to. I say this due to my age and lack of experience at that time. Another contrasting difference I experienced was the level of instruction I received. By no means am I saying the instruction I received in my Open Class experience was subpar, but as my skill level grew over time, I was able to receive higher level critique and understand things at a much more in-depth level. 

    Bagby: Every drum corps works hard; they all push their members to achieve greatness. The difference between Open and World Class is the extent to which the members are pushed. Because World Class members are theoretically more mature or have already experienced some form of personal growth, they are able to be pushed at a higher level. When individuals reach their “wall” or the point at which they cannot be pushed further, they have found their limit. Once the limit has been reached, the goal is to push members slightly beyond what they believe they are capable of. This process expands the members’ capabilities and allows the instructors to push the ensemble even further later. In World Class corps, this process is not only more intense and more frequent, but it also involves less recovery time. Although every group works hard, I personally can’t think of an activity that pushes individuals as much as World Class. It is important to note that some groups work much harder than others, and this is a direct result of the culture of the group. Not every World Class group pushes their members harder than Open Class groups; these are just my observations from experience between Southwind and Scouts.

    Sudduth: There are a couple of differences between the Open and World Class levels, one being the length of move-ins and tour. During a lengthier drum corps season, groups have more time to get into the nitty-gritty of the technical stuff, which in turn lets them do more difficult drill, music, choreography, and have an overall higher production quality. This leads to the second difference between the two classes, which is the difficulty of the show contents. My World Class experience was a lot more difficult than my Open Class experience, and even though the day-to-day schedules were fairly similar, the physical and mental demands of a World Class show were significantly greater. 

    Ewers: There were two key differences between my two experiences. The first difference was the talent level of the performers; better players were auditioning for SCV. The second difference was the perception the performers held of their own ability to succeed as well as the demand for their neighbors to succeed. This created a more pressurized situation as members endeavored to live up to a particular type of preconceived notion about what it meant to occupy a position in a World Class corps.

    Louisiana Stars
    Louisiana Stars | Photo by Troy Breaux

    Legends Drum and Bugle Corps
    Legends Drum and Bugle Corps | Photo by Adrian Show

    Wiggins: What do you see as the biggest pedagogical differences between Open and World Class?

    Frazier: I think my approach is typically just being aware of my students’ retention level and knowing how much I can accomplish in one season. We typically set out to hit one major goal over the season, and if we can achieve that goal, it sets us up for the next year. I don’t think we try to teach “less,” because that’s a detriment to the educational process. I think I just take opportunities to say, “Here is the material and here is the goal for today; if we get through more, that’s up to you. Let’s get started!” 

    Breaux: For me, the biggest challenge is the potential disparity in performance level. Some years we have some really strong sections, and others not quite as strong. The skill sets and skill level of the students can make the design process a little tricky. I usually find that, especially in the front ensemble, not all members are prepared to perform extended techniques. So, the pedagogy needs to be very fundamental and basic, while still keeping the better players challenged. 

    Odom: The biggest pedagogical differences I experienced is the method behind the way instructors present information. At an Open Class level, typically with students who have less experience, instructors need to present information in a much easier-to-grasp method. Another difference I experienced was the level I was held to as a performer. At both levels I was held to an extremely high standard; however, there is still an extreme difference between those two standards. 

    Bagby: The largest difference in teaching styles between the two classes is the extent to which instructors explain information. In Open Class, the “big picture” of concepts are of great priority. For example, when teaching snare drum, an Open Class instructor may explain how the players should turn their wrists to achieve the desired stroke. In World Class, the instructor would talk about the individual muscles inside of the wrist, where/what the students should feel when using their wrist, how using the wrist affects the finger and forearm muscles, how to transfer between wrist-finger-arm usage to maximize muscle efficiency, etc. The amount of detail involved within World Class instruction is extraordinary. I believe this reflects how members of World Class are more mature individuals and musicians than those in Open Class; mature individuals can understand and apply deeper concepts.

    Sudduth: Every year I marched drum corps I loved my staffs. They were all different in terms of rehearsal intensity, approach to technique, and philosophy to life, but they all had one thing in common: they cared about the students they taught and were going to do everything they could to help get them to the next level—in drumming and in life. Getting the opportunity to teach drum corps in the 2019 season has shown me how much of an attitude trickle-down there is from the attitude of the caption head, down to the sub-caption staff members, down to the members, and into the playing. At the end of the day, it’s an educational experience that pushes everyone to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be. 

    Ewers: Instruction is quality if the teachers are able to meet the performers where they are at and take them where they can go. The best pedagogical approach is the one that is going to help the students the most. I think the quality of the approach is more dictated by the capabilities of the staff and less by the classification of the corps.

    Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps
    Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps | Photo by Hunter Heeke/Southwind Drum & Bugle Corps

    Legends Drum and Bugle Corps
    Legends Drum and Bugle Corps. Photo by Adrian Show

    Wiggins: What is the biggest misconception surrounding the Open Class experience? 

    Frazier: I believe the biggest misconception is the educational experience and the dedication to the product. I strive to give every member a well-rounded education—an education that they can be proud of regardless of their prior experiences and regardless of their planned future experiences. I want them to be proud of what they are doing now and be able to enjoy the success of their knowledge and improvement. 

    Breaux: I think there may be a perception that Open Class is not as competitive as World Class. I walked away from the drum corps activity many years ago partly due to the fact that I did not like teaching music to young people in such an overly competitive environment. When I was approached by the individuals who were interested in starting Louisiana Stars Drum and Bugle, I said yes because the motives were all for good reasons: to give young people in our region an affordable opportunity to have a great music and educational experience close to home at an affordable price in a fun and “less competitive” environment. However, as soon as we experienced a little bit of success, the pressure to be competitive just to continue to recruit became very evident. There are some really good drumlines in Open Class. 

    Odom: I believe the biggest misconception of the Open Class experience is that people think open class is not “real” drum corps. They believe that you can only get that experience from a World Class corps. 

    Bagby: I believe individuals, especially younger individuals, are too immersed in the words “Open Class” and “World Class.” They make comparisons based solely on classification and do not include many other factors that go into being a member of any group. Such factors include: the experience members gain from performing with the group, the knowledge gained from playing an instrument for extended periods, the personal growth and maturity a member experiences, and the memories gained that will last a lifetime. For drum corps, the lifestyle is relatively similar between Open and World Class corps. Each season members march greatly prepares them for the following season. Additionally, by marching any corps, a member will mature as an individual and as a musician. World Class drum corps are looking for these mature individuals. While some high schools may supply experience that propels individuals to immediately become World Class members, a large majority do not. Marching an Open Class corps will help individuals grow, mature, and push through to the next level. However, because a large majority of individuals judge Open Class solely on their classification, they miss an amazing opportunity to gain experience and build their drum corps resume.

    Sudduth: I think the biggest misconception about Open Class is that it is easier than World Class. During my transition to World Class, the experiences were fairly similar in terms of the day-to-day activities. The only difference was the amount of time on the road; Open Class was about 30 days, and World Class was about 90 days. With Open Class having a shorter summer schedule, they have to be more diligent in the off season and at rehearsals. 

    Ewers: I think the biggest misconception about the Open Class experience is that it is in some way less mature or less excellent than the World Class experience. If the administrative infrastructure is healthy and the instructional staff is talented and well-coordinated, the perceived differences between Open Class and World Class begin to crumble very quickly.

    It is my hope that this article gives a little more insight into the world of Open Class DCI. There are many opportunities available for students to become involved in drum corps outside of the World Class category. It would be an oversight to not also mention the world of Drum Corps Associates (DCA), which allows students to get the drum corps experience in a weekend-only schedule. This works particularly well for college students who need to work during the summer, wish to teach camps, or do not feel that they can afford the time or expense of a DCI tour. And of course, the fastest growing scene in the activity is WGI. The marching arts hold many tools for the development of percussionists, and at any level students can get great instruction and a great experience. I encourage you to find the right spot for you, and go for it!

    Tracy WigginsTracy Wiggins is the Associate Director of Bands/Coordinator of Percussion Studies at The University of North Alabama. He has performed with the Black Gold and Freelancers Drum and Bugle Corps, as well as teaching with Delta Brigade, Northern Aurora, and Carolina Gold. 

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