Contrasting solutions for junior corps: Stewart vs. Hopkins

by Vince Lamb, DCW staff

Six years ago, the executive board of DCI met in Orlando to take stock of the organization’s first 25 years and look ahead to the 30th anniversary of DCI in 2002. Last weekend (January 24-26), the DCI board of directors returned to Orlando for its annual meeting and the 2003 Rules Congress. In response to the return of DCI to Orlando, I present this paper, which examines a great opportunity that was missed at the 1997 executive board meeting and did not bear fruit by DCI’s 30th Anniversary. Even though six years have passed and Scott Stewart is no longer the director of the Madison Scouts, it may not be too late for DCI to seize this missed opportunity and make it happen for DCI’s 35th anniversary in 2007.

This paper was originally posted to rec.arts.marching.drumcorps (RAMD) for the RAM* Virtual Symposium on September 14, 2001, and is currently archived on Stuart Rice’s Marching Research Web site. Click here to visit Rice’s site and here to view the original version on RAMD. I have revised this version of the paper to reflect the events of the past year and a half.

Despite the general chaos and confusion surrounding September 11, this paper was well received by the readers on RAMD who paid attention to it. Even George Hopkins appreciated it!

Read, think, and enjoy!


During May 1997, at least two presentations were made to the DCI executive committee meeting in Orlando, FL, about the problems facing the competitive junior drum and bugle corps activity and the possible solutions to these problems. One of these presentations has become well known — Scott Stewart’s “Drum Corps 1997: the state of the activity” — which was published in Drum Corps World and then posted on rec.arts.marching.drumcorps (RAMD) twice, first as the Keynote Address of the 1997 RAMD Virtual Symposium and again as “SCOTT STEWART SPEAKS! (sort of)” during fall 2000. The others were heard and read only by the attendees at the executive committee meeting. However, I have obtained a copy of the handout accompanying one of these presentations — George Hopkins and Mark Herzing’s “Seizing the Opportunity: a strategy for growth of the activity.” I believe this presentation is every bit as deserving of public knowledge and scrutiny as Stewart’s.

In this essay, I summarize the points of Hopkins and Herzing’s lecture, in particular their assessments of problems facing the activity, possible solutions and predictions/goals for the future. I then compare and contrast their conclusions and proposals with those in Stewart’s paper. Finally, I make my own judgments about the challenges facing the activity and which of the two sets of ideas best meets these challenges and attempt a synthesis of the best of both proposals.

Problems facing the activity

Hopkins and Herzing compiled a very detailed list of problems facing the activity, a list more comprehensive and diverse than the one derived from Stewart’s paper. In particular, they made extensive connections between junior drum corps and American society, an approach which Stewart’s paper avoided. They especially looked at economics, laws concerning taxes and charities, and education. Stewart also analyzed the economics of drum corps, but almost entirely from an “inside the activity” perspective. He ignored taxes and other legal issues and examined education entirely within the scope of evaluation and development of the individual. Both presentations also examined problems with tour structure and schedule, competitive environment, maintenance and growth of the fan base, levels of organization and administration and governance of DCI, although Stewart’s proposal dealt with them explicitly as problems while Hopkins and Herzing dealt with these implicitly as part of their solutions. Both papers also addressed the identity of the activity, but came to wildly divergent conclusions about its status as a “problem.”

In part, the contrasting views came from different theses. Hopkins and Herzing proposed that the activity’s problems came in part from its not having confronted the external changes that had already happened and so was unprepared for the changes to come. Stewart posited that the activity’s problems were the result of internal issues and that the activity needed to get its own house in order first.

Following is a list of the external challenges that Hopkins and Herzing explicitly listed in their presentation. None of them were addressed by Stewart.

* Price and wage inflation (280 percent increase in consumer price index between 1972 and 1997)
* Multiple economic recessions
* Declining purchasing power for families
* Decreasing rates of charitable giving
* Rising higher education costs
* Increasing pressure on members and potential members to take summer jobs.

Tax and charity laws
* Changing local and state laws and regulations regarding gaming income
* Increasing pressure to “crack down” on non-profits by IRS.
* Tax reform, including possible elimination or modification of the deduction for charitable giving and imposition of a national sales tax.

Increasing pressure on school systems to lengthen the school year and even move to year-round schools.

Declining middle class populations in urban/ethnic enclaves.

All of these were and still are valid concerns and observations. Especially prescient were the tax issues. During 2000, California considered legislation reducing the number of days during the week a bingo game could operate. When this study was presented, Velvet Knights had just ceased operations because of tax problems. The tax reform issues have not yet come true because of the booming economy and resulting budgetary surpluses between 1997 and 2001, but possible worsening economic conditions may cause them to be proposed again.

Following are the problems internal to the activity that one or both of the reports either listed explicitly or were implied in their list of solutions. The ones mentioned by Hopkins and Herzing are marked by
(H), those cited by Stewart are noted by (S) and difficulties listed by both are followed by (B).

* Barriers to entry for corps too high (B)
* Touring costs (B)
* Equipment costs (B)
* Lack of volunteers resulting in paid support staff (B)
* Inefficient management/management staff costs (B)
* Source of income–membership fees vs. ticket revenue (B)
* Declining revenue at national shows (H)
* Instructional staff costs (S)
* Large budgets and high debt loads (S)
* Depletion of local resource base (S)
* Activity too focused on short-term gain over long-term sustainability (S)
* Costs of sponsoring shows (S)

* Entertainment not enough of a judging criterion (B)
* Exclusion of too many potential students by restricting instrumentation (H)
* Competition in drum corps and society more concerned with outcome than process (S)
* Current system politically influenced, not objective enough and more concerned with ranking than rating (S)
* Too much emphasis on design, not enough on performance (S)
* Critique misused/abused (S)

* A “sellers’ market” for best experience at high end of activity (H)
* Bottom end of activity languishes for members (H)
* Loss of drum corps (1000 in 1972 to less than 100 in 1997) (S)
* Membership of top corps national (even international), not local (S)

Tour structure and schedule
* Too much touring for most corps (B)
* No or almost no local appearances (S)
* DCI Championships too long (S)

Competitive environment
* Competitive success the only criterion against which units measure their success (B)
* “One size fits all” paradigm of competition (B)
* Model for success self-defeating — unattainable for all but a few corps (B)
* Competitive prowess determined or enhanced by presence of “celebrity” designers, coordinators and instructors (S)

Maintenance and growth of fan base
* Loss of “hard core” fans, who are hard to create but easy to alienate (B)
* Not enough growth of new fans (B)
* Championship events held in locations remote from fan base (S)
* Ticket prices too high (S)
* Shows ” ‘cutting-edge works of art’ that transcend the comprehensive abilities of the ‘mere-mortal’ audience” (S)
* Shows generally no longer “exciting, colorful, melodic, tradition-based and sometimes ‘obvious’ — shows lost their appeal and the audience eroded” (S)
* Corps not prepared/shows not finished for early season shows (S)
* PBS broadcast not shown at times when people would see it (S)
* Fans not treated as important part of activity; instead treated as customer for DCI’s product (S)

Levels of organization
* Not enough levels to reflect reality (B)

Administration/governance of DCI
* Conflict of interest in highest governing board (B)
* Not all corps involved in governing organization (B)
* Organization failed to understand its responsibility for entire activity (B)
* Not focused on core competencies (B)
* Not enough capacity to act as steward for the activity (H)
* Decisions made to benefit top end of activity instead of entire activity (S)

Identity/image of drum corps
* Too strongly oriented to the past (H)
* Too limited an identity — few understand “drum corps” (H)
* Activity thought it “should transform itself into something much larger, more main-stream and more glamorous than it was ever capable of becoming.” (S)

There is surprisingly good agreement between Stewart, on one hand, and Hopkins and Herzing, on the other, on the internal problems facing the activity. Stewart agreed with nearly every one of Hopkins and Herzing’s observations in the area of economics, touring, competitive environment, fan base and levels of organization. Some of the observations do not overlap but are compatible, so it is conceivable that Stewart would agree with Hopkins and Herzing’s conclusions on membership, declining show revenue and DCI not having the capacity to act as a steward for the activity. Hopkins and Herzing might also agree on Stewart’s observations on membership, particularly on the loss of corps.

The areas of disagreement, although small in number, are telling. In the area of economics, Stewart decried more of the effects of the professionalization of drum corps than Hopkins and Herzing, which should not be surprising, as Hopkins and Youth Education in the Arts have been among the leaders in this trend. This same disapproval of professionalization seems to be the source of Stewart’s comment about “celebrity” creative and instructional staff being a problem. Other than the consensus that entertainment in shows is not being properly rewarded, the two parties do not agree in the area of education/evaluation. The most striking area of discord appears in the identity/image of drum corps, where Stewart argued strongly against change away from the traditions of drum corps, while Hopkins and Herzing urged that drum corps move away from its traditional identity and image and adopt something new. It is this fundamental conflict over the direction of the activity that fueled the contrasting goals and recommendations that the two parties proposed.

Goals for the activity

Hopkins and Herzing presented very explicit goals for the activity, which I reproduce here. The corresponding passage from Stewart’s essay follows, along with my assessment of the similarities and differences.



(All caps in original — also in bold and 16-20 point type)

What would have to change to make this vision a reality?

(next slide)

From Vision to Reality!
a) Twice as many kids marching in drum corps
– Twice as many drum corps? At what levels (division I/II/III/etc.)?
– Membership growth of current drum corps?
– Are they all marching at the DCI Championships?
– How do we recruit them?

b) Resources commensurate with providing a high quality experience (teaching, touring, infrastructure)
– Where do we get the *money* to make this happen?
– Membership fees cover part of the aggregate cost, but how much?
– Reduced costs and inefficiencies due to improved management?
– Additional income from ticket revenue…more shows…more customers?

c) Management resources needed to run corps efficiently and effectively
– Corps managers — how to recruit, train, support?
– Instructors and designers — how do we locate the right people?
– Volunteers — how do we enlist the “free” labor that does much of the work?

(next slide)


Why “drum corps?”
– When drum corps is done correctly, it is a “premium” educational and performance medium for kids.
– At the highest levels, drum corps can contribute to education of future teachers, exposing them to teaching tools and techniques they will need for their careers.
– Drum corps is a laboratory for inventing new ideas that benefit other scholastic programs and the marching music as a whole.
– Drum corps provides the kind of national presence and visibility needed to promote marching music and music education.

It is time for us to take a leadership role in what we do uniquely well… marching music education

In contrast, Stewart wanted junior drum corps to focus on the fundamentals in order to create a “more healthy and realistic environment.” He suggested that a return to and agreement on the philosophy of the activity would result in policies that would take care of the problems he listed. This was and remains a less explicit and less ambitious set of goals. Following is the relevant excerpt from Stewart’s paper:

A Healthier Future

To create a more realistic and healthy environment, we must first agree on the philosophical base that will dictate how we make decisions in the future. I would offer the following thoughts toward that objective.

Drum corps is a unique and valuable, but relatively small, fragile mini-society which will only survive based on cooperation and fraternalism among the participants. The leadership must share an understanding of what the foundational building blocks are that make its existence worthwhile. Drum corps cannot operate on the same value system that the rest of our society does. It must aspire to a higher, more altruistic set of standards and values if it is to continue.

Drum corps exists to provide a meaningful, challenging, positive experience to the youthful participants (primarily) and to the fans, supporters and adult staffs (secondarily), through an environment which encourages musical, physical, social and personal growth and the achievement of excellence, utilizing a unique, exciting, tradition-based entertainment form as its vehicle.

The concepts of “cutting edge art form,” financial profit and celebrity status for individuals and over-emphasis of competitive dominance are not part of this definition.

Decisions must be made that serve what is best for the survival and growth of the entire activity, not the interests of a select few. The activity needs groups at all levels to be healthy and ensure longevity. The more corps that exist, the stronger our future will be. More corps means more participants, relatives, friends and alumni as fans and greater awareness, in general, of our activity.

This philosophical base must be used as the foundation for the following six topics so that we can adjust our current direction and work toward a better future.

1. Tour structure and schedule
2. Competitive environment
3. Economics of drum corps
4. Maintenance and growth of our fan base
5. Membership levels
6. Administration and governance of DCI.

Again, there is substantial agreement between the internal goals for the activity between Hopkins and Herzing, particularly the second slide of the excerpt quoted above, and what Stewart wrote. However, the two papers disagreed strongly on the future focus of the activity.

Hopkins and Herzing displayed an outward and modernist (almost post-modernist) direction, while Stewart argued for a more inward and traditionalist focus. These differences in how the activity should interact with the non-drum corps world play themselves out much more fully in the proposals each party made to solve drum corps problems.

Proposed solutions

Hopkins and Herzing made seven sets of explicit recommendations for the activity. Here they are, reproduced from the handout accompanying their slide presentation. After each recommendation will be the equivalent section, if applicable, from Stewart’s essay.


Name change: MUSIC ON THE MOVE
– While distinct, “drum corps” presents an identity that only a few understand (like “wind ensemble”)
– We must provide an identity that is easier to understand

Hopkins and Herzing later refer to “music on the move” as MOTM.

Based on his paper, Stewart would have none of this, as he wrote of “an erroneous assumption that the activity could and should transform itself into something much larger, more main-stream and more glamorous than it was ever capable of becoming.” Back to Hopkins and Herzing:



Take advantage of the marketability of the top corps throughout the season
– A show with four or five of the top six corps is an “event” that many sponsors and audience members will pay a premium for
– Grow the fan base by creating an “event” that is hard to ignore.

Create a sensible evolutionary path for individual units
– Reduce the burden of national touring for all but the top corps
– Use membership criteria to allow corps to move in and out of categories
– Emphasize quality as the basis of growth: experience for the kids, fiscal management practices
– Actively help to grow individual units

(next slide)

Recommendation 2

Entry to all levels by application and review

Special committee to review membership status on a regular basis

Criteria includes:
– Organizational stability
– Management ability
– Marketability

Judging sheets and standards are changed from group to group to better represent what each group is in business to do (i.e.; entertainment is not a concern of the Babe Ruth League).

The Super Corps (The Majors)
– No rules
– The premium product — offered as a package to show sponsors
– Touring on a national level
– The Promotional Tour Group
– Nos. 1- 6 right now
– Entertainment priority No. 1, life skills No. 2, technical skills No. 3

The “Triple A” Drum Corps!
– Nos. 7-15 or so right now
– They can set their own limitations
– Tour in regions in early season, and then nationally–much as now.
– Able to marketed in two tours for lesser cash to sponsors.
– Sometimes tied to Super Corps
– Life skills No. 1, entertainment No. 2; technical skills No. 3

The Double A Drum Corps
– No. 16 through the top third of the division 2 and 3 corps
– Local community-based activity
– Limited touring
– Build relationships with existing local circuits (GSC, ODCA); create new circuits
– Sometimes tied to Super Corps
– Life skills No. 1; technical skills No. 2, entertainment No. 3

The “A” Drum Corps
– Create growth for corps with younger kids (equivalent to middle and lower ranking division 2/3 corps)
– Not marketed — participatory!
– Local shows
– Regional championships
– Technical skills No. 1, life skills No. 2, entertainment No. 3

The Babe Ruth League
– Training corps
– Local shows
– Music education vehicle for elementary and Junior High kids!
– Technical skills No. 1, life skills No. 2, entertainment No. 3

Stewart’s proposal is surprisingly similar in form. Here it is.

All junior drum corps that desire to be should be allowed to be members of DCI. The criteria outlined below would indicate which division the corps would qualify for and the touring restrictions explained earlier would apply.

The objectives are to offer realistic guidelines for development, to diminish the amount of touring and encourage more community-based corps and allow for growth and success at various levels.

I would see a small group of division IA corps, a slightly larger group of division I corps and a hopefully ever-growing number of division II, III and IIIA corps.

These four areas would be used for determining division membership:

1. Organizational — by-laws, organizational structure, insurance compliance, tax reporting compliance, budgeting and financial reporting
2. Operational — management, support and teaching staff, vehicles, food program, scheduling (must ensure safe, healthy, educational environment)
3. Performance excellence
4. Size of membership.

Areas one, two and four would be monitored by a separate, knowledgeable, impartial committee. Area three would be determined by evaluation panels. There would be five divisions for purposes of classification and touring restrictions, but it would only be marketed as three (division I/II/III), as is currently done.

1. Division IA — 110-128 members, top performance excellence level
2. Division I — 90-128 members, at least second performance excellence level
3. Division II — 60-128 members, at least third performance excellence level
4. Division III — 30-128 members, at least fourth performance excellence level
5. Division IIIA — 1-128, no minimum performance excellence level.

Organizational standards must be met by all corps, although division IA cannot have flaws. Operational standards must be adequate to ensure positive achievement of touring options at various levels. Pay scales would be based on performance excellence level achieved. Bonus paid on size of corps membership.

And here is what he wrote about touring for each level:

Another part of this solution would be to restrict touring based on classification. The object is for all (except division IA) to tour less. The message is that touring is the last ingredient a corps should be concerned with until other criteria (organization, operational, membership size and performance excellence) have been met.

Restrictions on touring would be:

Regional season —
Division IA* can tour more than two weeks and out of their region (subject to national control and regional line-up balance)
Division I — two weeks
Division II and III — one week
Division IIIA* — weekends only

DCI season —
Division IA* — four weeks
Division I — three weeks
Division II/III — two weeks
Division IIIA* — weekends and championships only

These are maximum touring lengths; there are no minimums. No corps is required to tour more than they feel is healthy for their group.

And here is what Stewart wrote generally about touring and the scheduling of championships:

Tour Structure and Schedule

Currently — and many times in the past — tour schedules have been structured with the financial “bottom line” as the rationalization or because a vocal individual had a new idea. All the corps then followed the direction, even if it wasn’t the most realistic or sensible thing to do.

Most corps currently tour too much. The more intense the touring and time commitment, the more the local base is depleted. This affects the membership base, the teaching and support staff base and the value to, exposure to and support from the local community. Also, most corps are not developed enough to have the vehicular and managerial quality necessary to support extended touring at a healthy level for the membership.

To correct this, the first step is to put more emphasis on the regions rather than on national touring and to stress regional show development. It is important that there are enough shows to accommodate all levels of drum corps to a satisfactory degree. One of the steps in this is to shorten the DCI portion of the season to the last four weeks of the summer, with regional championships taking place four weekends before the DCI Championships.

In order to accomplish this, the DCI tour schedule must be revised (some shows may become regional shows), there could only be one meeting, if any, of all DCI corps prior to championships and the championships would have to be in a location which was accessible to most corps and would allow the tour prior to championships to flow sensibly.

My suggestion would be that the championship not be farther south than Tennessee or farther west than Denver. We must also settle on a championship date from 1999 onward that allows the season to be a standardized length each year.

In addition, I would suggest condensing DCI Championship Week to five days instead of six by eliminating quarterfinals. This would allow for more shows prior to DCI week, less experienced corps could leave on tour later for championships, less housing and stadium costs and greater spectator participation at the division II and III competitions. The new schedule for the week could be: Tuesday, I&E; Wednesday/Thursday, division II and III; Friday, semifinals of division I (same as present quarterfinals) and Saturday, division I finals.

Back to Hopkins and Herzing:

Recommendation 3

– Short term — reduce the exit rate for current hard corps fans
– Long-term — increase the production rate of hard corps fans

Provide a means for immediate fan feedback to the corps
– Super and Division AAA Corps have the right to perform an encore presentation when requested by the fans
– When a corps completes the performance, the coordinator signals whether they can continue
– If allowed, they have three minutes to perform in appreciation for the fans’ response

Judging system redesigned to included fan feedback! (For Super Corps and Division AAA)
– At Super and Division AAA fans are given one of three GE sheets. Their reaction is one-third of the effect mark.

Here is what Stewart has to say about maintaining and growing the fan base:

Maintenance and Growth of Fan Base

In any activity that requires the support of a fan base to further its endeavors, it is important that those supporters (fans) are kept interested in the activity that needs their support. Over the past decade we have alienated much of our fan base. I believe this has happened because, rather than fostering a fraternal atmosphere where the fan felt he was an important part of the activity, he was treated as a consumer who was expected to purchase his product (drum corps) from the manufacturer (DCI). In this environment, he felt disassociated from the activity and lost his feelings of loyalty and obligation that were once an important aspect of his involvement.

There are several more issues associated with this problem as well. I feel the biggest, by far, is that the corps stopped producing programs that entertained the fans by eliciting a unique type of gut-level emotional reaction. This was a foundational building block of what attracted people to drum corps in the first place. As a small but influential contingent of designers and judges managed to convince the entire activity that exciting, colorful, melodic, tradition-based and sometimes “obvious” programming was now passé, the shows lost their appeal and the audience eroded.

In addition, the activity was led to believe that being unprepared at the beginning of the season was a sign of creative genius. The result was that audiences attending events before the end of the season were deprived of quality performances in many cases.

To make matters worse, we greatly inflated the costs of attending our events by raising ticket prices drastically and holding championships in a location perceived by many as being difficult to access.

By attending to the above, I believe we can maintain our current fans and recover many that have been lost. In addition, it will be an important factor in attracting new supporters.

New fans will come as a result of efforts at a local show level as well as an increase in the number of drum corps and the number of people associated with these new corps.

Money spent by DCI at a national level will do little to attract new fans. The television broadcast is the most valuable tool we have for attracting new fans at a national level. It would be even more effective if we could ensure that it would be shown when people would be watching their televisions.

Stewart did not make as specific a set of suggestions for getting the fans involved in judging. His suggestions for evaluation will be quoted when the topic of education comes up. Back to Hopkins and Herzing:



“Walk the walk” on education
– We publicly exclude too many talented people by limiting our instrumentation

Reduce the barrier to entry for new competitive units
– We demand too high a price for entry on the field of competition

Potential for cost savings
– “Block buys” of instruments by multiple drum corps

Recommendation 4

Starting in 1998, no limits — standard brass instruments; woodwinds; electronics.

Allow the market forces to rule!

Stewart made no comment about instrumentation. Here’s what he wrote about “walking the walk” in education:

The pursuit of excellence and using competition in a healthy way to gauge and improve one’s own performance is extremely positive. Our society and, unfortunately, our activity as well, uses competition in a way which is negative because it rewards outcome instead of the process. True “victory” and educational value comes from improvement and achievement and the process which encourages those things, not a “final score” which is many times affected by factors outside the participants’ control.

The more subjective in nature the scoring is, the less control the participant has over the outcome. In our current system, the end is more important than the means — which dilutes the emphasis on the process and negates the positive reason for competition.

Petty protection of egos (at the expense of others) becomes more important than our stated objective — development and improvement of everyone involved.

In a healthy competitive environment, there is respect for and encouragement of other participants. To what degree does that exist in our present environment?

To rectify this, we need a system (and people implementing that system) that stresses more objective evaluation of various quality levels and is concerned with rating, not ranking the groups. This encourages growth, improvement and satisfaction because you are evaluated and rewarded for the level that has been achieved rather than being forced into an arbitrary rung on the competitive ladder.

In this system, everyone can succeed it they achieve the criteria necessary. This is the only system that educationally makes sense. Of course, in a system like this, the egomaniac may not be as satisfied, but it is more important to better serve the masses than the selfish few. If deemed an advantage, we could integrate a system that allowed for naming a winner at non-championship shows and the crowning of a champion for each division at championships, but beyond that the level achieved is the benchmark, not a forced, politically influenced ranking hierarchy.

This is a very complex topic and, given human nature, may never be solved completely, but there are ways to drastically improve our current situation. Part of the solution involves the way we do things, but a major part also centers on how we think about things.

Another part of the solution is to have the performances of the corps evaluated by the evaluatory panels less often. I am suggesting that evaluations take place once a week on Saturdays. The advantages of this are numerous including:

1. Availability of a large pool of potential evaluators because of lessened time commitment
2. Ability to use more judges per show if deemed advantageous
3. Massive financial savings (fees, transportation, housing, administration)
4. Teaches performers that emphasis should be on personal and group improvement and entertainment of the audience rather than the final score
5. Removes a perceived advantage of excessive touring since everyone would have equal access to Saturday shows.

Evaluators who rate championships would only have one or two prior exposures and could remain more objective.

Improvement can also be accomplished regarding the criteria on which the corps are evaluated. Weight must be given to performers’ achievement, which is the combination of execution and difficulty level. General effect marks should reflect actual effect achieved, not intended, wished-for or assumed. An added advantage of this is that the audience would benefit because shows would be produced that they could better appreciate.

There should be no separate design credit because it already is part of the other two areas. The sheets would be set up to reward corps for various achievement levels that would coincide and determine divisional classifications of corps and pay scales.

Other areas to be discussed would include the critique. It could be valuable as an educational tool for less developed staffs if the evaluators were properly qualified and motivated. It would automatically lose its importance as a political forum because the system would reward more objective achievement levels rather than jockeying for specific positions.

We also must put thought into where judges are positioned so that their involvement does not distract from the audience members’ enjoyment of the performance. This specifically refers to loud tape commentary and visual obstruction.

Stewart would disapprove of letting the market forces rule, as indicated by the following excerpts:

* Drum corps cannot operate on the same value system that the rest of our society does. It must aspire to a higher, more altruistic set of standards and values if it is to continue.

* Drum corps cannot operate on the same economic system as the rest of our society. It simply does not and cannot raise enough dollars to pay everyone involved and be as inefficient and wasteful with its resources as much of the rest of our society is.

And now Hopkins and Herzing address the governance of DCI, or as they wish to rename it, Music on the Move (MOTM).



Refocus MOTM operations on core competencies

Increase the organization’s capacities to act on behalf of the activity
– As currently constituted, DCI/MOTM cannot act as an all-purpose steward for the activity.

MOTM Functions:


– National marketing for activity and for competition circuit
– Possible candidate for outsourcing

Regulatory body
– National regulations
– Collection and processing financial information
– Outsource adjudication activities

– With software and Internet, a possibility of offering tickets to related marching events

– Audio
– Video
– Possible candidate for outsourcing

Eliminate education, workshops and clinics that bring no actual value to administration of the activity. Allow others to pick up this work.

Based on his paper, Stewart would have little or no quibble with Hopkins and Herzing’s suggestions for DCI’s administration of the activity. Here is the relevant quote:

The next issue concerns the administration of DCI or, more specifically, the DCI office. Although I don’t have the definitive answer at this point, I can’t help but question whether or not we really need to do all we attempt to do. What projects and services are really necessary for fulfilling our mission? What can we do without?

I also question whether we need to spend all of the money we do. Since most corps and show sponsors in the activity are struggling to survive, it seems incongruent that the DCI budget is at the level it is.

Over the years, DCI has come to be viewed as having very deep financial pockets. Part of this comes from the liberal spending of resources on various projects and part comes from the corporate image that DCI has tried to present. The result is that we pay too many people too much for things that should be done out of altruism and love for our activity.

Back to “Seizing the Opportunity”:

Recommendation 6

MOTM Oversight

Board of governors of MOTM
– Nine person body
– Cannot include corps directors
– Can include people affiliated with corps willing to work for the common good
– Handle business of MOTM
– Elected by the board

Board of directors
– All corps in country belong
– Voting and ownership based on shares. Shares are earned through years involved in DCI plus placement. Shares are retroactive to the beginning of DCI (plan developed by Steve Auditore some time ago)
– Handle competitive and program issues
– Can serve on committees
– Hire and fire the president of MOTM with vote again based on ownership value

This is both compatible with and more detailed than Stewart’s proposal, which I quote here:

The actions of the governing body of DCI affect the health and survival of the entire activity. Throughout the history of DCI, those who constitute this decision-making body have been chosen on the basis of a subjective, competitive hierarchy. This is certainly not the best way to choose the people who control the fate of the rest of the activity.

The governing body of DCI should be made up of individuals who have the broadest and most sincere sensitivity to, and understanding of, the entire activity. They must also posses a vision for the future that is based on historical perspective, evolution and current status of all the varied aspects of drum and bugle corps.

Hopkins and Herzing’s structure could certainly be used to implement Stewart’s goals. Now on to their last recommendation:



Assume a leadership role in defining new opportunities for participation and teaching

Enlarge the tent!

Recommendation 7


Guard and drum line combination
– This group of 80 travels with the corps, but gives separate performances
– Part of the show; a different act

Provides an avenue for participation for the surplus of percussionists and guard members who try out each year

Top corps try first

Independent units allowed — another avenue for starting new corps!


Circuit developed for the winter that can compete on gym floors
– Cooperate with WGI
– Basketball court — thus exposure to NBA and college a possibility

Percussion and wind players only

Complement growth in winter percussion programs


Reclaim that which has been lost to others!

Keep a presence through the winter

Scott wrote nothing about adding new activities to DCI, although I suspect he’d disapprove. On close inspection, these are ways to expand the number of activities DCI/MOTM would supervise, not really ways to expand the drum corps activity.

Hopkins and Herzing were indeed looking at the same situation as Stewart, as their lists of problems facing competitive junior drum corps overlapped, and where they didn’t, they were mostly compatible and complementary. The same could be said about most of their structural solutions — they agreed on a startlingly high number of points on how the activity, its administration and governance and its relationship to the fans should be structured. The means are not the problem!

The two sides appear irreconcilable on the issue of goals and vision. Other than both parties wishing the shows to become more entertaining, they disagree on nearly every issue of philosophy and direction. Hopkins and Herzing want the activity to become “larger, more mainstream and more glamorous” by moving in an outer-directed and modernist direction. Stewart explicitly disagreed with this direction and urged the activity to stick to the knitting and return to its roots by following an inward looking and traditionalist path. The ends are the problem!

I suspect that the consensus on means between these two rival viewpoints will not be implemented until there is also a consensus on ends within DCI. That is beyond the scope of my essay. However, I propose that the activity look outside itself in the manner that Hopkins and Herzing did to identify societal problems. As of September 11, 2001, the world that they looked at in 1997 changed suddenly and for the foreseeable future. I recommend, in particular, that they read three books, “The Fourth Turning” by William Strauss and Neil Howe, “Millennials Rising” by Neil Howe and William Strauss and “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam.

“The Fourth Turning,” published in 1997, the same year that Hopkins/Herzing and Stewart presented their proposals to the DCI executive board, described a coming crisis, the conditions that would prevail during it, its duration and how to prepare and survive it. The authors predicted that a period of political, economic and social upheaval comparable to the Great Depression and World War II, the Civil War and the American Revolution would begin a few years before or after 2005 (but no earlier than 2001). This crisis would include, among other possibilities, mounting unemployment and poverty, collapsing financial markets, deflation, violence fueled by religion and ethnicity, decaying entertainment media accompanied by a decency backlash, censorship, and war against terrorists or regimes armed with weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? In the nearly one and a half years since September 11, 2001, all that has happened or is threatening to happen, strongly suggesting that the predicted crisis has arrived and that the rest of their predictions, such as the crisis lasting up to 20 years and ushering in an urgent new era of community and civic commitment, will come true also. DCI is not alone in needing to read this book!

“Millennials Rising,” published in 2000, described the generation which is now of marching age and how it differs from Generation X, which has now aged out of junior corps. The rising generation of Millennials, born beginning in
1981, is the market for junior corps that DCI is trying to reach and on which it is pegging its future. DCI needs to understand this market! In particular, they need to understand that this is a generation that the authors of “Millennials Rising” predict “will focus on issues of community, politics and deeds. They will rebel against the culture by cleaning it up, rebel against political cynicism by touting trust, rebel against individualism by stressing teamwork, rebel against adult pessimism by going positive and rebel against societal ennui by actually getting a few things done.” That’s an agenda that America needs to have accomplished and drum corps would be very good for today’s youth in getting that agenda accomplished!

“Bowling Alone” described the progressive breakdown in American society since 1965, which just happened to be the peak year for junior drum corps. It listed six spheres that deserve attention to improve community involvement: youth and schools, the workplace, urban and metropolitan design, religion, arts and culture, and politics and government. Both youth and schools and arts and culture are spheres that include drum corps, guard and band. Here are some passages from “Bowling Alone” that are relevant to the roles that marching organizations can take in building community:

* “Let us find ways to ensure that by 2010 the level of civic engagement among Americans then coming of age in all parts of our society will match that of their grandparents when they were that same age, and at the same time bridging social capital will be substantially greater than it was in their grandparents’ era.”

* “Participation in extracurricular activities (both school-linked and independent) is another proven means to increase social and civic participation in later life. In fact, participation in high school music groups, athletic teams, service clubs and the like is among the strongest precursors of adult participation, even when we compare demographically matched groups. From a civic point of view, extracurricular activities are anything but “frills,” yet funding for them was decimated during the 1980s and 1990s. Reversing that perverse development would be a good start toward our goal of youthful re-engagement by 2010.”

* “Let us find ways to ensure that by 2010 significantly more Americans will participate in (not merely consume or ‘appreciate’) cultural activities from group dancing to songfests to community theater to rap festivals. Let us discover new ways to use the arts as a vehicle for convening diverse groups of fellow citizens.”

* “Art manifestly matters for its own sake, far beyond the favorable effect it can have on rebuilding American communities. Aesthetic objectives, not merely social ones, are obviously important. That said, art is especially useful in transcending traditional social barriers. Moreover, social capital is often a valuable by-product of cultural activities whose main purpose is purely artistic.”

All four of these statements apply to youth marching activities. All four of them will also help bring about a more humane version of the urgent new era of community and civic commitment foreseen by the authors of “The Fourth Turning.” The last two, interestingly enough, form the core of an argument for senior corps. DCA can benefit from reading these books, too!

If you are interested in learning more about “The Fourth Turning,” “Millennials Rising,” or “Bowling Alone,” visit, or For any of the books mentioned, read the reviews at For more in depth exploration of topics relating to today’s youth, also check out

Read well, think hard and make a decision about which set of goals will best serve both the activity and society. Only then can the consensus reforms proposed by Hopkins/Herzing and Stewart be implemented!

Here’s to drum corps and the rest of the marching arts contributing to a better America!