In drum corps’ ‘major league,’ mediums have become the message

by David Hill, DCW staff

This article originally was published in the October 2008 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 37, Number 7).

The Drum Corps International version of the drum and bugle corps experience has certainly evolved, having nothing to do with “red-meat” programming choices. Mediums as messages in the delivery of entertainment and information converged to such a pique this season that the non-profit venture could have been confused with major media.

It was not an intended test, but participating in every one of the mediums that offered drum corps was, in fact, my summer’s outcome. Live shows, both local in high school stadiums and national in open-air and domed stadiums, continue as the top tier choice for viewing.

DCI’s “Fan Network” became the broadly-cast Internet network on which to “be there” cross country for live performances and to watch the gluttonous buffet of news, information and shout-outs from the organization and from the corps. Imbedded within the organization’s dot-org site, hanging onto visitors for spans of time has become second nature, what with news, scores and corps launch pages, it’s the go-to site for the activity.

Drum Corps Planet (DCP) is the new “drum corps hang-out”, where barroom brawls play out as discussion topics from fans as devoted and as rabid as any in college sports or politics. Daily scores and numerical analysis of outcomes is a huge highlight.

Still on the online periphery is a smattering of industry-specific blogs. [Full disclosure — I am one of those bloggers on that fringe.]

And then there is the mainstay medium of record, the printed document. The one you are reading right now is the most successful and one of longest standing in the activity. Drum Corps World, now in its second quarter century [started in 1971 at the same time as DCI], is the stalwart publication of note in drum and bugle corps. And with its new forays into online presence through its own Web site and through its collaborative venture with DCP this summer with “DCW On-Line” show reports, new generations of readers have the chance to find the most historically-referenced and broadest coverage in the activity.

Factor in the hip, new Halftime Magazine, as well as DCI’s season-punctuating Today, as well as its always-thick season program book and it looks as if all mediums are adequately filled.

Filled is precisely what this season became; the daily dose of drum corps became a prescription that had to be quelled. Live discussions during regional weekend events at DCP provided twitter-like fan “attaboys” and jabs, while live blogging of a few end-of-season events supplied more information and context in real time.

Taken directly from my site, Field& “The topic of live blogging nudged a drum corps memory. When drum corps media was Drum Corps World, I anxiously awaited the DCI Championship issue, to read Michael Boo’s now-famous ‘Quarterfinals as they happened’ reportage. It was live blogging delayed only for the purposes of printing and mailing. I could not help but think of Michael (as I live-blogged Open Class semifinals), his drum corps reporting invention has now gone on-line and live in real time! Salute, sir.”

I was caught up in the drum corps experience as heatedly as I ever have been, nay 36 years into the venture. This summer’s season was my “American Idol.” (And believe me; living in Birmingham, AL, the self-proclaimed — and unofficial — capital of the television franchise, I’ve endured my share of seasons gladly.) I voted, time and again, for the drum corps experience. I voted for it in person, online and in print. I voted with my feet, with my fingers and with my finances.

Ladies and gentlemen, your next drum corps idol — mediums as the message!

The point here is this: even as the junior arm of drum and bugle corps/Marching Music’s Major League embraces the variety of mediums available, and indeed builds on them, the non-profit bottom line of serving young people with musical performance, leadership and travel experiences has never been more pronounced. Our access to those experiences has never been more fully realized than it is right now.

While the fan investment is higher than it has ever been, so is the cost of providing the experience. As in every financial decision we make, parsing our desire with our capacity to fulfill that desire within our available budget, is required. But with the menu of mediums available now, your dollars spent can go even further.

A full year subscription to “Fan Network” is the primary example. That cost gets me one month of cable television service and that cost takes me to Louisville, to San Antonio, to Atlanta, to Allentown and to Bloomington. Best seats in the house, too!

From this screenshot view, all that’s left is to add just two more “live” events to “Fan Network” and for all of our mediums to link to one another, in order to provide something like full-field company front coverage from “On the starting line” to “Your DCI Champion is . . .”

And who knows, maybe in just a few years the notion of PBS and ESPN2 will feel old, maybe even or past their time.