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What Is A Drum Corps? [-]

Since the late 1800's, drum corps has been a part of the American Heritage - starting with the military tradition of Drum and Fife as known-during the American Revolution, through the bugle bands of the early ? 900's, to the modern day drum and bugle corps which has evolved into the most disciplined, precise audio/visual display of musician pageantry in existence anywhere in the world.

What makes this activity impressive is that the level of professionalism displayed in the competitive drum corps performance is achieved by members between the ages of 12 and 21 years. The exaggerated display of semi-military marching programs, precisely coordinated with progressive, classical, and marching music has grown into the largest youth oriented, crowd appealing activity in the United States and Canada. The competitive atmosphere has much to do with the level of quality drum corps project in the performances. No other competitive or non-competitive youth activity has consistently attained the professionalism that is common in the average drum and bugle corps.

Some of the performers have musical backgrounds; most of them do not. Those with no previous training are from scratch by the staff of each drum corps. The fact that the horn lines are superb is due to many long hours of individual practice and group rehearsals.

The competition itself is primarily a spring and summer activity for those who participate. Preparing for competition takes hundreds upon hundreds of hours during the fall and winter months to improve techniques and to learn and perfect the musical and marching repertoires.

People travel many thousands of miles each year to attend the competitions around this country and Canada. It is common for the major drum corps competitions to draw 15,000 to 25,000 spectators.

In the United States and Canada, competitive drum corps number well over 2,500 units, representing approximately 250,000 boys and girls, and 90,000 to 100.000 adults staff and booster club members. This does not include several thousand non-competitive, parade oriented drum corps, which will bring the participation level well over the million mark.

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In competitive drum corps

What You're Going to See Tonight! Military Precision-the musical blend and excitement of a well directed band or orchestra and the showmark of a Broadway Show.

To those of you who are seeing a drum corps show for the first time, we wish to point out a few interesting facts on just what a drum and bugle corps competition is all about.

All of the performers competing here tonight, are under 21 years of age. The musical and marching excellence you are about to wit- ness, has no match in any other youth performing sport. Perfection is their goal.

The instrument, a bugle, is a single valve hom pitched in the key of G, with the valve used to change the key from G, to F or D. In addi- tion to the valve, use of a rotary valve (similar in type to that used on a Concert French Horn), is op- tional, but if used it permits them to use F#. The variety of sizes of these instruments makes for the overall "big band" sound. The range of sizes varies from the smallest bu- gle, a soprano, through to the trench horn, flugle, mellophone, baritone, bass-baritone, and the largest carried is a contra-bass bugle. Those horns are among the most difficult instruments to master.

Many of the performers have musical backgrounds, however, most do not. Those that do not are trained from scratch by the staff of each drum corps. The fact that the hom line ace superb, is due to many long hours of rehearsals.

The techniques of the drum lines are distinctive, unlike anything you 11 ever see in any other musical arena. The percussion sections are programmed much the same as the horns. The percussive instrument- ation includes tonal opportunities by use of marching tympani, and varied mallet instruments, as well as the more traditional marching cussion accessories allowed, provide for numerous special effects to help bring additional color to their phase of the overal musical performance.

The great and colorful portion of each corps' show, is the section called the "color guard". This name is more traditional than factual, because the overall con- cept has changed through the years from a very small segment of the corps, centered around the Nation- al Color, organizational (sponsoring flag), and corps flag, with its honor guard, to a rather large segment of many more flags and rifles. The pre- sent idea for the "color guard" is to bring more visual color to the program by specially designed equipment effects, and through choreographed patterns used to frame the audio/visual presentation of the musical segments of the corps.

The pageantry of a drum and bugle corps competition combines the military precision of West Point, the musical blend and excitement of a well directed band or orchestra, and the showmanship of a Broad- way show.

To the drum corps "purist", the fine points are well understood and appreciated, to the newcomer or novice, the obvious aspects of the program and performance are the highlights. Both the purist and novice are the entertaining objec- tive of these corps'.


The purpose of this article is to unravel some of these points to make this show more understand- able and enjoyable. So, we begin by pointing out that the group of men who, in your mind, seem to be in the way of the corps. . . nosey individuals who are praying into the business at hand, are the judges. These men are authorities in their respective fields (captions) and they constitute the balance of power. It is their job to determine the capability of each corps in the caption they are judging.

This contest or competition, is being judged under the rules of Drum Corps International, and the following is a break-down of that scoring system:

Marching & Maneuvering-
Execution 25 Points
Marching & Maneuvering-
General Effect 10 Points
Exposure Error 15 Points
Percussion Analysis 5 Points
Effect 10 Points
Bugling-Execution 15 Points
Analysis 10 Points
Bugling-General Effect
10 Points

Total Scoring Worth 100 Points

Every corps has a total of 100 points to start with. During the course of the performance on the field, every error they make in the various captions are deducted from the "Execution" captions. Each error made, has a worth of one-tenth of a point. At the end of their per- formance, the total errors recorded are subtracted from the 55 points alloted to the execution captions. The balance of the scoring is on a build-up basis, meaning that they are given credit for worth, content, and effect of their program and the performance.


MARCHING & MANEUVERING-EXECUTION: No army ser- geant is more exacting in his require- ments for precision marching. Of- ten, a mistake is not the glaring er- ror, noticeable to the average fan. It is the minute failures which of- ten separate one corps from ano- ther. Interval between men, dis- tance between ranks, files not cov- ered, dress of squads, platoons, and other type fronts are gener- ally the areas sampled by the marching execution judge. Any er- ror, even of the slightest degree, means the loss of a tenth of a point for each infraction. The perfection of detail must be carried out to such an extent, that any technical or human failure meets with a dis- approving check from the judge. The unforgiveable drum corps crime of "out of step" is greeted with a tenth of a point for every sixteen steps or fraction thereof. Should a corps member fail to pick- up his feet uniformily with the other members of the corps, or become sloppy in his carriage and/or bearing, the judge is there to take off one-tenth of a point. An unmerciful cuss is the M&M Judge, but he must do his job in order to help the "team" of judges arrive at the correct competitive results.

BUGLING-EXECUTION: Theirs is the task to ascertain that each member in the bugle section is a musician, playing his part. Tone quality, musical accents, proper brass technique, musical blend, tone and release are all qualities which good drum corps horn sec- tions must have. Failure in any and each aspect, means the loss of a tenth of a point. Musical contrast, diminuendo and crescen- do, accelerando and retard are vital qualities of a good musical unit; each failure means the loss of a tenth of a point. Handling of equip- ment such as the uniform position of the bugle while marching and playing, bringing them up and down at the beginning and com- pletion of a song, lend to the good order of the unit. Each failure means a tenth of a point.

MUSICAL ANALYSIS: The bugle caption also has a category whereby the judge evaluates the training displayed by the musicians, the content of the written score, and the tone quality and intonation control of the instrument by the performers. Credit is given for the degree of excellence in each of these considerations.

DRUMMING EXECUTION/EX-POSURE TO ERROR: The drum judges police all facets of execu- tion and exposure to error of the performing percussionists. Attacks, releases, contrast, diminuendo, cres- cendo, uniform playing of rudi- ments, are all requisites of a good drummer. Any time he errs in any one of these and other depart- ments, he loses a tenth of a point for his unit. As with the bugle judge, the judge of this caption utilizes a high degree of concen- tration in watching and listening to the performance, so that he can accurately evaluate the precision of the section.

A balancing factor on the execution drumming score sheet is a build-up or credit consideration called "Exposure to Error". This caption insures that the program- mer of the drum music does not totally design his phase of the show, for easy perfection. A pro- gram should be a challenge to the performers, rather than one less than the performing capabilities of the section. The judge gives credit for the more exposed and difficult repertoire, to a limit of 5 points.

GENERAL EFFECT: This is a credit caption, which allows the judges to evaluate on a build-up basis, all those elements of the program and performance which collectively present the finest, smoothest, most pleasing and fin-ished performance. A units super- ior ability, originality and show- manship are considered. The eval- uations, in order to rank and rate each corps. Audience reaction to an effect, production, and perform- ance is very much a part of his consideration.

The General Effect caption is divided into three sub-captions worth ten points each; Marching & Maneuvering General Effect, Bugling, and Drumming General Effect. Each is evaluated by a specialist, and their collective re- actions make-up the total score given each corps performance in General Effect.

TIMING & BOUNDARIES: Each corps you see on the fie'd is in competition for a minimum of ele- ven and one-half minutes, to a maximum of thirteen mmutes. A.i\y corps under or over time is pen- alized 2/lOths per six seconds or fraction thereof.

Once a corps has entered the Held of competition, they are required to remain within the bound- aries (end zone to end zone, side to side). The only member allow- ed over any boundary is the drum major. Violation of this rule is also penalized.

There are many more areas of the scoring system which are all a part of what separates one corps' performance, from another. To detail all of them would take more time than you have before tonights show begins, but all of it, as well as the tradition of the activity, is what makes the program distinc- tive and spectacular.

Drum Corps By Elroy Ingersoll !! [-]

In Junior High school I was introduced to Drum and Bugle Corps by a friend named Cynthia Harrison. She was a member of the first Drum Corps in this area by the name of New Orleans Cadets Southeraires.

I had spotted her in 1959 in a parade and the group was very sharp looking. I felt like I had to get involved with that group and pestered her constantly for the next meeting date which was after the Mardi Gras parade season.

I finally got the opportunity to join and was put in the Junioraires which was known as the feeder corps. It was only a couple of months and I was promoted to the Southernaires which was the main corps and was able to march in the parades for the 1960 Mardi Gras parade season.

In August 1961 the crops went to VFW Nationals in Miami, FL for competition. We placed 25th out of 27 corps that competed. But the most important thing that happened on that trip was the meeting that took place in my room while we were there. Several people were unhappy with the Southernaires and decided to start a new Drum and Bugle Corps. The new corps would be called the Stardusters. The spokesman for this new corps said that their colors would be blue and white and this corps would be based out of Chalmette, LA.

At the first September meeting after the Miami trip, several Southeraire corps members, Joe Beasley, Walter Montgomery, Tank Thawson, and several others laid down their instruments and walked out.

Unfortunately I could not leave the Southernaires because at that time I was not old enough to drive and my father refused to drive me to Chalmette twice a week for practices (Tuesdays & Thursdays). The corps tried to continue with less than = the members but finally decided that their best move would be to merge with another small corps which was called the Crescent City Rebels. They were just hanging on like we were.

A new corps was formed. We got together to make plans and my suggestion of Masqueraders was approved. It was also decided that we would dress in purple, green and gold and that we would also wear masks.

Unfortunately we didn't have lots of money to start so we had to use the black pants and drums of the Southeraires and had emerald green shirts like the Cavaliers. There was no purple in the uniforms the first year. It was a very good year for the corps but in December, right before the 1964 Mardi Gras season the management of the corps changed. Some people had decided to kick Charlie Guy and Fred Tougapue out and bring back L.A. Gilmore. A lot of the members didn't think that was right so about 80% of the corps quit and went with Charlie Guy to start up the old Rebels corps again. When we left to restart the Rebels, Rene Bossemeyer and John & Dolores Landry became involved with the Masqueraders as Corps Management. Rene's daughter, Iris became Color Guard Captain and Rene ran the corps quite successfully for several years. After Rene's turn in office, John Landry became the president of the corps. This was around the year 1968. John and Dolores Landry's daughter, Vicki, was a color guard flag member. In 1969, Vicki Wheeler, quit the corps after Camille and also because her original corps instructor was leaving. His name was Moe Latour. I met, dated and married Vicki after she was out of the corps.

When we left to restart the Rebels. We decided to call them the Southern Rebels instead of the Crescent City Rebels. The Rebels were known as the coolest looking corps with their Ray Charles sunglasses, black pants and black shirt with a white diagonal stripe, Rough Riders hat with white feathered plume. This look was considered real cool in the 1960s. I was a solo soprano bugle player with them until 1968 when I aged out of the corps. I did not come back as an instructor, much to my sorrow, but drum corps is still in my blood. Those years were some of the best in my life and I will cherish them forever.

The Stardusters, Masqueraders and Rebels constantly competed in trophy parades and the VFW and American Legion competitions. The Rebels won most of the time until 1965 when the Stardusters came on strong. They won everything for a long time. Then in 1967 at the competition in New Orleans, the Masqueraders beat the Rebels in the VFW competition at City Park Stadium. After that competition, the Rebels went on a downward slide.

After 1969 a lot of the corps started a downward slide and another new corps was formed. It was called the GOLD SHIELD and was sponsored by the New Orleans Police Department. It was run by a dearly departed policeman and a contra bass player by the name of Louie Jeffries who was also a former corps member from the Southernaires and the Rebels. This corps was an attempt to help inner city youth program that didn't pan out.

This is all the information that I have now, I will try to find out about the beginning of the Bleu Raeders and the re-introduction of the Southeraires. There was also another group called Regimine Militaire - that another article.

Drum Corps Forever!


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