An interview with DCI Executive Director Dan Acheson

In this part of my interview with Dan Acheson, I’ve asked him some questions that have been on the minds of many fans following the 2004 season. Part 1 appeared in the November 2004 edition of DCW.

Steve Vickers: I’d like to cover some items that I’ve heard a great deal of talk about since the championships in Denver. I think fans would like to read DCI’s rationale or get some          background. First, the Thursday, August 5,   quarterfinals had a start time printed on the tickets as 3:00 PM and the DCI Web site had the same start time until at least Saturday, July 31.

Esperanza and Pacific Crest were the first two division I corps to appear in competition and many fans missed seeing them because of what appeared to be an unannounced change in the first corps stepping off. What happened?

Dan Acheson: There really is no rationale, but an explanation might help. First, we blew it in terms of better communicating the changes in the times. We also needed to be better at arming the corps to communicate with their parents and fans as to the changes in times. For those who were inconvenienced, I sincerely apologize.

As you know, we begin selling tickets for championships events a year and a couple of days in advance. For years we have started quarterfinals at 3:00 PM, regardless of time zone.

A year prior to the event we were not certain how many corps would be involved, specifically related to Pacific Crest and Esperanza. Also, we had not completely negotiated the opportunity with Regal CineMedia to do the live cinecast which was not established until May 2004. As a result of a total of 24 corps participating and time zone constraints for the live broadcast, we had to push the start up to 2:30 PM.

Again, my apologies to Esperanza and Pacific Crest and all of their parents and fans. We have put measures in place to communicate time changes more effectively in the future should they be necessary.

SV: Can you also explain why Esperanza and Pacific Crest were the first two corps on the schedule, rather than being “seeded” based on their relative placement during the shows leading up to DCI in Denver?

DA: Through DCI policy, both corps were designated regional division I corps. What this means is that they do not enjoy all the same benefits as a touring corps, but are still able to compete in division I. One aspect of the    regional division I status is that those corps qualifying as touring division I corps are seeded higher in quarterfinals than regional division I corps.

SV: There are now two concurrent events on Thursday of DCI week — the division I quarterfinals and the division II/III “finals.” The “grand finals” are on Saturday morning. For more than 30 years, all of the DCI events worked during the week without double-scheduling. Isn’t there some other way to fit everything into DCI week without fans having to choose between two events?

DA: The fact that everything “fit” for 30 years as you suggested in your question does not consider if such a “fit” was in the best interest of the corps that participated. I applaud the DCI Division II and III directors for trying to work with several different scenarios for the past few years in the interest of serving their members.

What we have found the past two years is that only a very small number of fans expressed a concern for not being able to attend both events. While certainly we want every fan to be able to have access to all events if possible, the balance issues of having an evening performance for the division II and III corps on Thursday during division I quarterfinals fell in favor of staging the evening show. The DCI Division II and III directors are evaluating their options for             scheduling 2005 events at their October meeting.

SV: Since at least the mid-1980s, the Saturday night finals have started around 5:00 PM and included performances by the division II and III champions and often a performance by a visiting foreign corps. This year the tickets stated 5:00 PM as the start time, but fans were left sitting in the stands for an hour with no explanation as to why they weren’t getting to see the normal opening exhibitions? Why were the Spartans, Oregon Crusaders and Beatrix not on the schedule to perform?

DA: First, not having exhibitions before the start of the finals competition occurred in 2003 as well and it seems to me we did explain the reasons prior to this on and in interviews. The situation was the same in Orlando as it was in Denver.

In the interview questions in the last issue, I explained the concerns we have with grass at championships venues. Canceling exhibitions, with the exception of the Marines, were part of the compromise with the Citrus Bowl and INVESCO Field at Mile High to allow use of their facilities for the three days.

The other consideration with regard to the exhibitions is that fans could attend the DCI Division II and III Championship Finals on Saturday afternoon each of the past two years with plenty of time to make it to division I finals. All fans are encouraged to attend what is one of DCI’s premier events of the week, the division II and III finals.

We are pleased that we will continue to recognize the division II and the division III champion at the Saturday night finale as their full corps stand along side the division I corps.

The time differential both years was a problem. Again, I explained in the last interview that tickets are printed a year in advance of the event and then changes occur. We simply did not do a good enough job of getting the word out about the plan.

In Denver, we started a 45-minute video on the video wall at 5:15 PM, with the introductions and the Marines starting shortly after 6:00 PM. We did provide programming, but we failed to get the word out to those that would rather simply not come until the first corps in competition steps off.

We have the same programming challenges in Foxboro, but we intend to be significantly          better in communicating to the fans what exactly is occurring at the times we designated to start. Again, I apologize to fans that found this to be an inconvenience.

SV: Looking to the future, will you be doing the movie theater presentation again in 2005 and, if so, will the number of screens and states be expanding?

DA: Yes, we announced a couple of weeks ago that Regal CineMedia and DCI will once again present a live cinecast of the 2005 world championship quarterfinals on August 11, 2005. Regal anticipates that they will be able to make another 40 locations available throughout the United States.

The challenge in making sure there are enough screens at each location comes with advance ticket sales versus day-of ticket sales. Regal has a commitment to the theaters along its network to make sure we are not committing screens that ultimately leave an unused theater. I promise, it is not a DCI ploy to get fans to buy early. It really is in the fans’ best interest to buy early enough to make sure theater space is available for the cinecast.

Another exciting addition coming this Spring is a “fan’s choice” theater experience where fans will decide what 12 division I finals performances since 1975 they would like to see on the big screen. This event will not only be exciting, it will allow those of us who can’t get the season here fast enough, to enjoy a little shot of drum corps to get us through a couple of more months. There are a lot of details to work out and we’ll begin announcing specifics after the first of the year.

SV: Will the downloadable performances continue to be available from mid- and late-season shows leading up to DCI week?

DA: We are currently working with corps and technology to develop a subscription service that will allow access to historical as well as current-year downloads. We have a few proposals that we are melding together to present to the corps at the January annual meeting that will enable DCI to offer content while sending almost 100% of the proceeds back to the corps.

We anticipate that the subscription service will offer even more bells and whistles for live coverage at select major events as well as audio streaming capabilities and then if you like what you hear you can download it. We are proud of our achievements over the years to stay up with the demand for technology, but we are also challenged to try to get it all done so that continues to stay on the edge.

SV: So what is ahead for DCI in the preparation months leading to the 2005 season?

DA: The off-season is always busy and this year looks to be no exception. Although we have established significant momentum operationally and promotionally the past few years, we realize there is much to do to improve the quality of experience for all involved.

An intense focus on long-term planning is leading the effort to further streamline all aspects of expenses in order to maximize funds we can then return directly to the corps. And we are hopeful that the further development of opportunities like the offering of audio performance downloads and Regal cinecasts we will earn even more to return to the corps.

Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to share with your subscribers. The drum corps activity is truly blessed to be surrounded by so many people passionate about the drum corps experience. We will work hard to serve that passion in a manner that continues to earn and grow support to ensure the activity is around for generations to come. Thank you!

SV: Thanks, Dan, for spending time sharing this information.