Story and Photos by Lauren Vogel Weiss
As thousands of young musicians are auditioning and rehearsing for the 2022 marching season, this is a good time to reflect on the 2021 Drum Corps International (DCI) events. The three-day “Celebration” — rather than the traditional “Championship” — returned to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on August 12–14, 2021.
In contrast to the pandemic-induced “non-season” of 2020, seeing and hearing live drum-and-bugle corps brought thousands of cheering fans to stadiums across the country during a shortened three-week summer tour. The final three days of the season showcased 22 corps performing combinations of classics and new programs, but without judges and scores.
The theme of Thursday’s show, subtitled “Remember,” was historical in nature, with many of the units playing memorable songs forever linked with each corps’ identity. After more than 700 days since the last notes sounded in Lucas Oil Stadium on August 10, 2019, the afternoon began with a performance by all-age corps Cincinnati Tradition. Other corps (in performance order) were Colt Cadets (Dubuque, Iowa), River City Rhythm (Anoka, Minnesota), Gold (San Diego, California), Music City (Nashville, Tennessee), Genesis (Austin, Texas), and the Troopers (Casper, Wyoming).
Genesis represented the state of Texas.
Wisconsin’s Madison Scouts fielded a co-ed corps for the first time in the organization’s history, and featured the corps’ classic, “Malagueña.” Next up were Colts (Dubuque, Iowa), The Academy (Tempe, Arizona) celebrating the corps’ 20th anniversary, Pacific Crest (Diamond Bar, California), and Spirit of Atlanta. Some of the corps even gave “instant encores” immediately after their show.
The Academy’s 20th anniversary program was “Exposed.”
Spirit of Atlanta’s program was “Legend of the Bottle Tree.”
Following intermission, the Phantom Regiment (Rockford, Illinois) performed “Harmonic Journey,” a modern reflection on the corps’ 2003 show. Crossmen (San Antonio, Texas) included its popular version of “Birdland” during their encore, while the Mandarins (Sacramento, California) opened with Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” The Cadets (Allentown, Pennsylvania), in traditional-style uniforms, wowed the crowd with classics like “Rocky Point Holliday” and Van Morrison’s “Moondance.” Blue Stars (La Crosse, Wisconsin) performed music from Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” and Blue Knights (Denver, Colorado) featured music by Louis Armstrong and Billie Eilish.
The Phantom Regiment snare line.
The Crossmen played music of Pat Metheny.
The Mandarins program was “Beyond the Canvas.”
The Cadets brought back a crowd favorite, “Moondance.”
The Blue Stars featured multi-colored drums.
The final three corps of the evening were Boston Crusaders, whose encore, “Conquest,” is synonymous with their corps. The Cavaliers (Rosemont, Illinois) opened with a barbershop quartet singing “Lida Rose” from The Music Man and ended with Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.” The Bluecoats (Canton, Ohio) program, “Lucy,” was the sequel to the corps’ 2019 Beatles-themed show.
The Boston Crusaders snare line.
The Cavaliers presented “Live from the Rose.”
The Bluecoats featured the drum line in their Beatles-themed show.
Interspersed with the live performances on the field were videos shown on the stadium’s giant screens from corps who were not in attendance, including the Spartans, Jersey Surf, Cascades, and Carolina Crown, along with a montage of the 2019 season. There was also a video performance of the Bahana Cendana Kartika Duri, an Indonesian percussion ensemble, which placed second in the Performers Showcase solo and ensemble virtual competition.
Between every third or fourth corps, there were solo and ensemble performances on the GPG Music Stage set up in the endzone stands, including Joseph Flynn of the Troopers, who placed third in the keyboard competition. Several corps — Music City, Madison, Troopers, and Blue Stars — also gave mini concerts in the FJM Endzone area. The final performance of the evening was an encore by The Cadets.
Joseph Flynn of the Troopers performed his keyboard solo in exhibition on the GPG Music Stage.
Friday’s show, “Rejoice,” celebrated people who make drum corps such a special activity. The traditional “age-out ceremony,” usually held at the end of the evening, was spread out during the day and evening (to prevent too many people from different corps being on the field at the same time in an effort to adhere to Covid protocols). After the first nine corps performed, their age-outs (members who will be too old to march next year) gathered on the field to be recognized by those in attendance. After each group of three of the remaining corps performed, their age-outs took their turns saying goodbye on the field.
Presentations were also made to the newest inductees into DCI’s Hall of Fame. The 2020 class included DCI Contest Director Tony DiCarlo, Crossmen Founding Director Harold “Robby” Robinson (who passed away on February 14, 2022), and Color Guard Designer Sal Salas. The 2021 class included Blue Devils Visual Designer Jay Murphy and the late Michael Boo, a former Cavalier also known as the “Pen of Pageantry.” Boo’s award was accepted by the Cavies’s Adolph DeGrauwe, who announced that Boo’s honor would hang in the corps’ hall. In celebration of their illustrious alum, The Cavaliers performed Boo’s composition “Jade” and also dedicated that evening’s performance of “Sing, Sing, Sing” to “a great Cavalier, Mike Boo.”
The Cavaliers honored their alum, Michael Boo, as he was inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame.
Following The Cadets performance that night, they did an instant encore, this one featuring their brass section playing “Ants Marching” along with a video of Carter Beauford (drummer for the Dave Mathews Band), shown on the giant screens. There were also video performances by the University of Arkansas Percussion Ensemble (featuring two members of the Madison Scouts), which placed third in the Performers Showcase, and the Bloopit Jazz Quartet from the Bluecoats, which won the Mixed Ensemble category. During intermission, there was also a DrumLine “Jam” between Spirit and River City Rhythm.
Carter Beauford performed virtually with The Cadets.
A video of the University of Arkansas Percussion Ensemble’s Performers Showcase entry was shown on the stadium’s big screen.
Friday night also showcased a special snare drum duet on the GPG Music Stage featuring Master Sergeant Jeff Prosperie, a member of the West Point Band’s Hellcats and well-known DCI adjudicator, and his son, Jeff Prosperie, Jr., a member of the Phantom Regiment drum line. They played a piece called “Hurleyesque,” written by Prosperie to honor Marty Hurley, one of his instructors. Prosperie, Jr. received another special honor that evening: the Rodney Goodhart Scholarship. Here is a video of the Prosperies’s performance: youtube.com/watch?v=JFX2apgESIU.
Jeff Prosperie and Jeff Prosperie, Jr. performed a snare drum duet, “Hurleyesque.”
Saturday afternoon began with the University of Cincinnati Bearcat Marching Band playing the National Anthem and their full field show. The theme of the final day of the celebration weekend was “Renew,” as corps look to the future and as DCI looks forward to celebrating its 50th anniversary season in 2022.
In addition to all of the corps giving emotional performances on the field for the third day in a row, there were more special video presentations, this time by three additional corps who were not in Indianapolis: 2019 4th-place finalists Carolina Crown (Fort Mill, South Carolina), 2019 bronze medalist Santa Clara (California) Vanguard, and 2019 gold medalist and 19-time DCI World Champion Blue Devils (Concord, California).
Vanguard’s 2021 production, “Wait for Me” can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=dKOVcUniWuc and Blue Devils’ “Other Worlds” can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=19IvCPXwBDM.
Santa Clara Vanguard “performed” from California.
The Blue Devils recorded a special performance of “Other Worlds.”
Another unique event at Saturday’s show was the first time the DrumLine Battle took center stage on the 50-yard-line at Lucas Oil Stadium, bringing the event to a wider and quite enthusiastic audience. Hosted by Ray “Quasi” Nelson of South Florida’s Synergy Music Camp, two competitive community drumlines battled it out for the title. Atlanta’s ATL Drum Academy, under the direction of James Riles III, beat out Memphis Youth Arts Initiative, under the direction of Corey Travis, in a close contest in front of thousands of cheering fans.
PAS played an important role in the DrumLine Battle by providing the judges: PAS President Michael Burritt (Professor of Percussion at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York), PAS Board of Directors member Dr. Lamon Lawhorn (Assistant Director of Bands at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro), and PAS Marching Committee member Dr. Virgil Goodwine (Director of Musical Instruments and Ensembles at Wilberforce [Ohio] University).
L-R: PAS Marching Committee member Dr. Virgil Goodwine, PAS President Michael Burritt, and PAS Board of Directors member Dr. Lamon Lawhorn judged the DrumLine Battle.
Following intermission, “The Commandant’s Own” United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps presented an entertaining and patriotic program, closing with Sousa’s popular “Stars and Stripes Forever.” At the end of their show, DCI personality and co-emcee of the Celebration, Dan Potter, interviewed Warrant Officer Courtney Lawrence, the first female officer of “The Commandant’s Own” and a former member of the Phantom Regiment. The other emcees of the event were DCI Hall of Famers Steve Rondinaro, the voice of DCI broadcasts, and legendary announcer Brandt Crocker.
“The Commandant’s Own” US Marine Drum & Bugle Corps presented a special exhibition.
Since none of the weekend’s performances were judged, it truly was a “celebration” and not the traditional “competition.” The finale featured drum majors from the 22 participating units in a large semi-circle, acknowledging the thunderous applause from a truly appreciative audience. Potter closed the evening by “thanking the instructors, performers, and alumni for refusing to allow drum corps to die” during the pandemic. “Drum corps is alive and well and is looking forward to the next fifty years.”
The 2022 DCI World Championships are scheduled for August 11–13 in Indianapolis.
Like last year, the former “I&E” (Individuals and Ensemble) competition was held virtually, with entries coming from around the world. There were two classifications: “22 and under” (for active members in DCI corps, SoundSport teams, DrumLine Battle programs, as well as high school and college students) and an “over 22” division (for senior corps members and junior corps alumni).
Twenty-five percussionists competed in nine individual categories, along with four ensembles, representing three countries (Guatemala, Indonesia, and the United States). Judges for the Performers Showcase were Allan Kristensen (snare, multi-tenor, and percussion ensemble) and Gifford Howarth (keyboard, timpani, and multi-percussion).
Three members of the Bluecoats won solo awards. Scoring a 96.5, Zach Wilson was named Best Individual Snare. Fellow battery member Jake Murillo won Best Individual Multi-Tenor for his solo, which received a score of 95.0. Jake’s solo may be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=HvsbpED9sVI. Juan Arreguin, who scored a 93.5, was named Best Individual Timpani. Juan’s solo may be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=bU_66gbGnA4.
Zach Wilson of the Bluecoats won Best Individual Snare.
The Troopers’ Noe Trevino was named Best Individual Keyboard with a score of 96.5. The final percussion solo award went to Anthony Lafond of the Blue Knights Front Ensemble, who won Best Individual Multi-Percussion. Lafond, a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, scored an 87.5 for his drum set solo “Stormy Weather,” which may be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=1Av0sJIcDIs.
The Best Percussion Ensemble Award went to the University of North Texas Quad Ensemble, comprised of Webb Sheely, Benjamin Gostkowski, Patrick Tierney, Desmond Bigler, and Maddison Rudd. The quintet, under the direction of UNT Professor Paul Rennick, performed Sheely’s original composition “A Deal with the Sharks.” The winning ensemble may be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=EUuliEebhNI.
There were three individual winners in the “over 22” division. Eduardo Sacalxot Baten from Esfaq Drum & Bugle Corps Guatemala was named the snare drum champion for the second year in a row with a score of 92.0. He was also a three-time champion of Drum Corps Guatemala (2016–18). Another repeat winner was Jason O’Brien, a former member of the Crossmen (2000–04) and current music arranger and percussion writer for Tenafly High School in New Jersey, who won Best Individual Keyboard/Over 22 with a score of 89.0. Webb Sheely, a student at the University of North Texas, scored an 86.0 to be named Best Individual Multi-Tenor/Over 22. He marched with the Troopers in 2019 when he placed fourth with his tenor solo and was a member of this year’s winning percussion ensemble.