story and photos by Lauren Vogel Weiss
Drum Corps International celebrated its 50th anniversary during the summer of 2022 — the first competitive drum corps season since the pandemic. Dozens of corps toured the country, participating in almost 80 shows across 31 states, culminating in the World Class Championships held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on August 11–13.
The Blue Devils (Concord, California) remained undefeated and captured their 20th championship gold medal, along with three caption awards: the Donald Angelica Best General Effect Award, the John Brazale Best Visual Performance Award, and the Jim Ott Best Brass Performance Award. Their program, “Tempus Blue,” featured original compositions by BD Music Director Dave Glyde (with color-themed names of “Lapis Lazuli” and “Divine Blue”) and a beautiful arrangement of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.”
Blue Devils carried their theme of “Tempus Blue” to their drums and drumheads.
Longtime Percussion Caption Head and Arranger Scott Johnson described the beginning of their show. “During the opening statement, it was all about how many flams we could fit into a measure!” he laughed. “I think it was eight or nine! It was a really fast flam pattern with the snares and tenors both playing. We were trying to flex our muscle a little bit and show that we’ve got chops!”
Johnson also described an interesting section in “Hands and Feet” by Michel Camilo. “We used metal rods in one hand and a tenor stick in the other hand while we put a plastic disk on the snare drum for a flamenco-style sound. The whole idea was to get a Spanish flavor in that section of the show, which worked really well.”
After not fielding a competitive corps since 2019, the battery had no returning vets, and the front ensemble only had four. “We never had this challenge before,” explained Johnson. “In my 43 years with BD and four with the Vanguard, we always had vets coming back to lead and guide the new members, so this season was unusual for all of us. Our staff worked magic with these new members all summer. This year was one of the most improved seasons I’ve ever witnessed.”
When asked about his favorite part of the summer, moments after the final scores were announced, Johnson paused reflectively before replying, “The last two years taught us that we missed this activity a lot. It was a long, hard summer: dealing with the bubble of Covid; not letting friends and family into our zones; trying to stay safe for all the members. We kept saying we were on such a good roll that the only thing that could beat us was Covid, and we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen. That’s been the hardest part.”
Three members of the Blue Devils percussion staff (Johnson, Glyde, and Brian Dinkel) will present a clinic at PASIC 2022 (Thursday, Nov. 10) on the behind-the-scenes process of bringing a Blue Devils Show to life.
In an unusual twist, there was a tie for second place and shared silver medals between the Bluecoats (Canton, Ohio) and the Boston (Massachusetts) Crusaders. In another close contest, the percussion sections from these three corps, along with fifth-place Santa Clara Vanguard, were all in contention for the “High Drum” award, which was an average of the Music Percussion scores from the three nights of competition. By the slimmest of margins (less than one-tenth of a point separated the top three drumlines), the Bluecoats won their first ever Fred Sanford Best Percussion Performance Award.
Bluecoats won their first Fred Sanford Best Percussion Performance Award.
“It was a particularly competitive summer in the percussion caption, so we feel especially honored to be recognized in that way,” stated Tom Rarick, Director of Percussion for the Bluecoats. “I’m so proud of the professionalism and artistry of the performers, and dedication of the staff that all pulled together throughout the entire season.”
Two winning percussion instructors on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium after the scores were announced: Roger Carter (left) from Bluecoats and Scott Johnson from Blue Devils.
(photo courtesy of Scott Johnson’s Facebook page)
Roger Carter, Bluecoats’ Percussion Caption Head, couldn’t hide his emotions as he stood on the field after the announcement. “I’ve been working towards this for more than a decade. We’ve been so close several times, and then when you actually get the prize, it’s breathtaking! The kids worked very hard all summer and they were incredible tonight. It was really rewarding to finally do it for the corps. It was a special experience I’ll never forget.”
The Bluecoats’ 2022 program, “Riffs and Revelations,” was inspired by the narrative and textural components of Brad Mehldau’s avant-garde jazz piece “Taming the Dragon.” In a year when drum set players were prominent in the front ensemble, the Bluecoats had two of them, plus an audience-favorite keytar (cross between a piano keyboard and a guitar) player.
Rarick’s favorite parts of the show were two percussive sections. “In between the second and third productions, there was a moment that was battery and spoken word only. It was a different challenge to create battery parts that sounded ‘conversational’ and also interacted with the narrative. We used layered ostinato and surges of rhythmic/dynamic energy to help create that conversation, resulting in a unique way to feature the battery performers. The other moment was the front ensemble’s performance of ‘The Garden’ to introduce the end of the show. This was an opportunity for them to play unaccompanied for an extended time and showcase a variety of musical and technical skills. The front ensemble’s musicianship and ownership of this particular moment was really special to see elevate throughout the summer.”
Carter recalled a tenor feature in Anna Meredith’s “moonmoons.” “We created a dreamlike texture that was cyclical, enveloping rhythms over each other and using alternative implements such as brushes, rakes, and softer mallets.”
Since they had not been in a competitive season since 2019, was this summer different? “Fortunately, we participated in a shortened celebration tour in 2021 that allowed us to have a bit more of a running re-start, which propelled us logistically and artistically into 2022,” Rarick replied. “Performance-wise, the members were stronger than ever, and the staff was able to navigate the challenges of coming out of the pandemic. It’s inspiring to see this generation thrive amidst the variables thrown at them over the last couple of years.”
The Boston Crusaders’ second place finish was the highest ever for the corps, having placed fifth in 2018. They also captured the George Zingali Best Color Guard Award. The Crusaders’ program, “Paradise Lost,” featured the music of David Maslanka — “A Child’s Garden of Dreams” and the third movement of his “Symphony No. 7” — along with Mozart’s “Requiem in d minor,” K.626. Boston’s strong drumline was under the direction of Colin McNutt and Front Ensemble arranger Iain Moyer.
Boston Crusaders featured cajons and a concertina soloist (Katherina Vilardi, second from left) in their Argentinian Tango version of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
The Boston Crusaders’ battery section will present a marching percussion clinic at PASIC 2022 on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. They will perform excerpts from their 2022 production.
Carolina Crown (Ft. Mill, South Carolina) finished in a strong fourth position, keeping their “Top 5” placement since 2006 intact. The corps kept the crowd revved up with a pre-show “sound check” that involved the audience; Saturday’s playlist song was “We Will Rock You!” The corps’ “Right Here, Right Now!” production was a high energy romp full of original music and off-the-beaten path tunes. The percussion program was designed by Thom Hannum and Jim Ancona, and Travis Peterman was the caption head.
Carolina Crown snare line.
The Santa Clara (California) Vanguard once again had a strong drumline, less than a tenth of a point from winning their fifth straight Sanford award. Under the direction of percussion caption head and DCI Hall of Fame member Paul Rennick, alongside his wife and fellow arranger Sandi Rennick, the corps presented “Finding Nirvana.” Musical selections included Gyorgy Ligeti’s “String Quartet No. 1,” “Mata Hari” by Al DiMeola, and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” In addition to one of the week’s best front ensembles, SCV also had the unique distinction of being the only corps to perform in every Finals competition since DCI began in 1972.
Santa Clara Vanguard’s percussion was one of the corps’ strongest sections.
Earning their best placement since 2016, The Cadets (Allentown, Pennsylvania) captured sixth place. Performing “Rearview Mirror” (inspired by the road travels of Jack Kerouac), The Cadets played W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” the score from To Kill a Mockingbird by Elmer Bernstein, and Michael Daugherty’s “American Gothic.” The percussion program, under the supervision of Tom Aungst (Battery Arranger) and Neil Larrivee (Front Ensemble Arranger), also included their sons Noah Aungst on snare and Mark Larrivee on timpani.
Two generations in The Cadets percussion section: (L-R) Tom Aungst (battery arranger), Noah Angst (snare line), Mark Larrivee (timpani), and Neil Larrivee (front ensemble arranger).
The Cadets front ensemble.
The Blue Stars (LaCrosse, Wisconsin) improved their last two eighth-place finishes to seventh, their best placement since 1977. And like SCV, Blue Stars also competed in the original DCI Championships held in their home state in 1972. Their program “Of War and Peace” featured music of Serge Prokofiev (“War and Peace Symphonic Suite” and “Ballad of an Unknown Boy”), Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (“Variations for Oboe and Military Band”), the Broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812,” and the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Rick Barclay served as the percussion caption head and Jazper Saldana was the front ensemble caption manager.
Blue Stars performed “Of War and Peace.”
Crowd favorite, and winner of the FloMarching Fan Favorite poll for the second year in a row, Phantom Regiment (Rockford, Illinois) moved up one spot to eighth, the only placement change between Semifinals and Finals. “No Walk Too Far” included Stephen Melillo’s “Godspeed” and “The Chosen,” “Eli’s Theme” by Johan Söderqvist, and Gustav Mahler’s majestic “Symphony No. 5.” Rob Ferguson was the percussion caption head, assisted by James Sparling (battery) and Cory Doran (front ensemble).
Phantom Regiment moved up to eighth place between Semifinals and Finals.
Dropping a position to ninth place, The Cavaliers (Rosemont, Illinois), overcame a bout with the Covid virus in the middle of the season but came back strong. Their “Signs of the Times” program opened with Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Fugue in G minor” before transitioning to music of the Steve Miller Band, Bent Knee, and finally the namesake song by Harry Styles. The percussion program was led by Mike McIntosh and Clif Walker. The Cavies were also one of the four 2022 finalists who participated in the 1972 Championships.
The Cavaliers had a strong percussion section, placing fifth overall.
Bret Kuhn, a longtime member of The Cavaliers’ percussion program, was inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame on Friday night. After aging out of the “Green Machine” in 1981, he joined the staff in 1984 and, over the next 21 years, served as percussion caption head and battery arranger. Kuhn was a part of six DCI World Championship titles and five high percussion awards with The Cavaliers. He also held multiple roles with the Bluecoats, Colts, and Phantom Regiment before he returned to The Cavaliers in 2018.
Bret Kuhn (left) received his DCI Hall of Fame award from Steve Rondinaro during the Semifinal competition.
The Mandarins (Sacramento, California) placed tenth, where they also finished in 2018 and 2019. The percussion section was under the direction of Ben Pyles (battery) and Andy Filipiak (front ensemble). Their show, “The Otherside,” took audience members on a journey from one dimension to another, from a digitalized and military landscape to a place of freedom and expression. The show featured a vocal soloist — Charles Henderon III, a former tuba player with the corps — in a rendition of Avi Kaplan’s “Otherside.”
Mandarins, the only drum and bugle corps with an Asian heritage, made Finals for the third time in the corps’ 59 years.
The Colts (Dubuque, Iowa) returned to the Top 12 for the first time since 2007, placing eleventh. “The Silk Road” program featured music by Ravi Shankar, Phillip Glass, Led Zeppelin, The Silk Road Ensemble, and also the popular percussion work “José / beFORe JOHN 5” by Aurel Hollo. Their percussion music was arranged by Mark Hunter (battery) and Sean Womack (front ensemble). The Colts were one of only two finalists to use marching cymbals on the field (along with SCV).
Colts showcased an Oriental theme in their “Silk Road” program, making Finals for the ninth time in the corps’ nearly 60-year history.
Another original member of 1972’s “Top 12” returned to Finals for the first time since 2009: The Troopers (Casper, Wyoming). Their “VorAcious” program included music by Stephen Melillo, Ennio Morricone, Igor Stravinsky, and Metallica. The front ensemble supported the western motif by playing anvils and oil cans during the show. A solo (electronic) cellist, Genevieve Batman, was also featured prominently on a large oil derrick in the center of the field.
Troopers played oil cans in their Western-motif program.
Notably, this was the first year that ten corps placed above 90 for their final score. Drum judges were Jeff Brooks (music percussion/Prelims), Mike Leitzke (music percussion/Semifinals), and Jeff Ausdemore (music percussion/Finals).
|1.||Blue Devils||98.750||19.600 (2nd)|
|2.||Boston Crusaders||97.325||19.333 (4th)|
|4.||Carolina Crown||96.350||19.000 (6th)|
|5.||Santa Clara Vanguard||95.000||19.550 (3rd)|
|6.||The Cadets||92.913||18.833 (7th)|
|7.||Blue Stars||92.775||18.383 (8th)|
|8.||Phantom Regiment||90.675||18.317 (9th)|
|9.||The Cavaliers||90.600||19.033 (5th)|
The drum scores and rankings listed above are an average of the Music Percussion scores from all three nights of World Championship competition and is based on a 20-point total. That number is then divided by two and only a maximum of 10 points is added into the total possible overall score of 100 points.
Two of 2019’s finalists missed out of the Saturday night show: the Crossmen (San Antonio, Texas) placed 13th and the Blue Knights (Denver, Colorado) placed 14th, followed by the Madison (Wisconsin) Scouts, The Academy (Tempe, Arizona), and Music City (Nashville, Tennessee).
Following Friday night’s Semifinals competition, two corps gave an exhibition for the enthusiastic audience. Vanguard Cadets (Santa Clara, California) swept all five caption awards as they claimed their seventh gold medal in DCI’s Open Class and first since 2018. They presented an encore of their “Somewhere New” program. The corps also placed 18th overall in the World Class competition. The Open Class competition, held August 9 in Marion, Indiana, awarded the silver medal to Gold, from San Diego, California, and the bronze medal to California’s Blue Devils B.
Vanguard Cadets won their seventh Open Class Championship.
The Bluecoats presented a special Alumni Corps performance in honor of the corps’ 50th anniversary. Over 400 members, representing each of the corps’ 50 seasons, performed iconic excerpts from the past five decades, including their 2016 Championship production of “DownSide Up.” At one point, there were 20 snare drummers on the field!
Bluecoats Alumni Corps performed in exhibition on Friday night in honor of the corps’ 50th anniversary season.
Two percussion-oriented scholarships were awarded on Friday night. Aubrie Lynn, a cymbal player with the Madison Scouts, won the Al Moffat Memorial Scholarship. As the marching representative for the Zildjian Cymbal Company, the late Al Moffatt loved marching music for instilling core values in students, and this scholarship aims to help students fulfill their dreams of marching in a drum corps. Blaine Armstrong, a member of the Crossmen drumline, was the recipient of the Rodney Goodhart Memorial Scholarship. The late Rodney Goodhart was a drum corps judge for more than three decades, and he contributed greatly toward representing percussion during the early years of DCI.
As the final night of DCI’s 50th Anniversary season began on Saturday, two very different ensembles performed in exhibition. First up was the INpact band, comprised of more the 500 middle school band students representing more than 50 schools across Indiana. They performed A-Ha’s “Take Me On” and, along with world-renowned trumpet player Al Chez, Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory.”
The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, “The Commandant’s Own,” performed their 2022 field show for a small but enthusiastic audience. (Too many attendees were caught in a slow security line to enter the stadium.) The corps played crowd favorites “Festive Overture” by Dmitri Shostakovich, John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes,” and our National Anthem to open the competition.
The “Commandant’s Own” Marine Drum and Bugle Corps performed in exhibition before the Saturday night competition began.
Unfortunately, there was no Performers Showcase this year, so there were no individual or ensemble winners. Let’s hope this competition, showcasing the corps members’ special talents, returns in 2023.
The 2023 World Championships (August 10–12, 2023) will return to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. For more information on joining or viewing drum and bugle corps, visit dci.org.