DCI Member corps divided on group’s future direction and leadership

by Mike Ferlazzo, DCW staff, and Steve Vickers, DC
Mferlazzo@yahoo.com, publisher@drumcorpsworld.com

Publisher’s note: The following article is on the front page of the June 2010 edition of Drum Corps World that will be mailed on Thursday, May 20. Normally we do not use our Web site for breaking news, but in this case, I thought it would be appropriate given the face that the Facebook post on the DCW page last Friday morning has generated considerable response and speculation.

May 12-16, 2010 — A philosophical division over the future direction and long-term sustainability of Drum Corps International has developed within the leadership of the organization’s member corps. While those differences will not threaten DCI’s 2010 summer tour — and officials within DCI report ticket sales are running ahead of projected targets in many markets — they have already produced action on the future leadership of the organization.

Those actions started in a board of directors (six corps directors and three outside, non-affiliated members) meeting in Rosemont, IL, on Wednesday, May 12, and Thursday, May 13, and led to a special May 16 conference call among the full DCI voting membership (22 World Class corps).

During the conference call, leaders of DCI’s World Class corps decided by a 12-9 vote to make adjustments to the composition of the board in an effort to better balance the representation of all of its members. An interim board was proposed and subsequently ratified by a majority of the corps represented on the call, installing four new members and leaving four of those already seated.

The full membership will conduct a regular election to fill the nine board positions at DCI’s January 2011 annual meeting, in compliance with the bylaws of the corporation.

Central to the membership’s actions was a presentation made at the Rosemont meeting on behalf of seven top-tier DCI units by George Hopkins, director of The Cadets and a member of the DCI board, to reorganize DCI and substantially alter the current touring model starting with the 2011 season.

It laid out plans for seven of DCI’s most recently successful World Class corps — Blue Devils, The Cadets, Carolina Crown, The Cavaliers, Santa Clara Vanguard, Bluecoats and Phantom Regiment — to essentially take over the administrative leadership of the organization by receiving more authority on legislative matters.

If the presentation were to eventually be accepted as a proposal, those corps would also conduct their own shows in major cities on Fridays and Sundays during the DCI tour and potentially receive a higher percentage of all tour revenue.

While his corps was included in the presentation, The Cavaliers’ founder, Don Warren, told Drum Corps World that Director Adolph DeGrauwe has never given any word to the group that his corps is on-board with the concept.

But four directors from the corps cited in the presentation — The Cadets, Bluecoats, Phantom Regiment and Santa Clara Vanguard — were serving on DCI’s board of directors. And since board members are elected to represent the DCI “collective” and not individual corps, leaders from many of the other 15 DCI World Class corps found their collaboration on the presentation to be a potential conflict of interest.

For that reason, they called the special conference call meeting of the entire voting membership on Sunday, May 16, “out of a shared concern for the future of the DCI collective.”

According to a statement from DCI, “It’s significant whenever a group of members get together to discuss a new course for the future.” The statement continued, “The majority of the voting members made a decision to rebalance its board of directors at this point in time. The reason for that decision was to ensure that the composition of the board is representative of the entire spectrum of its membership.”

According to several credible anonymous sources, the board of directors had also taken action at the Rosemont meeting which may affect the tenure of DCI’s executive director.

“The actions of the board that were undertaken last week at this particular moment are still in place,” said Steve Auditore, chair of DCI’s marketing advisory committee. “I guess it’s probably reasonable to assume that the reconstituted board is going to look at those things fairly quickly moving down the stream.”

It was Hopkins’ detailed PowerPoint presentation at the meeting that created concern among some of the voting members. It outlined how the group of seven corps — now known to DCI’s other voting members as the “G7” corps — is concerned with the current direction of DCI.

He told the board and those in attendance how the seven corps believe they are the “act” — the primary reason people attend shows — and they should be compensated accordingly for their worth to DCI.

According to anonymous sources, the G7 corps hope to generate significantly more per appearance in 2011, as opposed to a reported $2,400 they currently receive.

For that reason, the presentation laid out plans for a new classification of shows. One class featured the G7 corps and the aforementioned Friday and Sunday shows, as well as DCI-sanctioned shows the rest of the week. The other two classes included the non-G7 World Class and only three of the current Open Class corps (those with World Class corps affilation).

They would have the opportunity to compete Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and at DCI regionals on Saturday, according to Hopkins’ outlined plans. There was nothing included in the plan to accommodate the remaining Open Class corps.

The presentation included ideas to minimize the DCI infrastructure in an effort to reduce overhead and increase corps payouts — focusing on adjudication initiatives, among other things — with other DCI administrative functions being distributed to the G7 corps. In the reorganization concept, the G7 corps would get two votes in DCI legislative matters, with the other corps receiving one or none.

While Hopkins wrote in an e-mail to Drum Corps World that the formal proposal was moved to further review when the July board meets next, he reportedly emphasized at the Rosemont meeting that the G7 corps have the backing of their boards and that they were “united in their goals.”

Ironically, that same rhetoric was used by corps that broke from the traditional American Legion and VFW governing organizations back in 1971 to establish DCI as a competitive alternative for North American junior drum and bugle corps. At the time, DCI’s founding members wanted to “control their own destinies.” Now it appears that a small subset of the DCI World Class units want to do the same thing.

Notable: at the time of the formation of the “Combine,” participating corps were taking control of their own destiny in the absence of a cohesive governing body. They assumed the risk — with several directors signing personal          financial guarantees on behalf of the “Combine” groups to form the new Drum Corps International. There was, however, no underlying, sustaining organization that they were threatening to overtake by this action back in 1971.

Yet several sources report the actions taken by the voting members in the conference call Sunday were not in direct response to Hopkins’ presentation.

“What has occurred since [the conference call following the board of directors meeting] wasn’t a direct response where people are picking apart that presentation and fighting line item by line item,” one source was quoted as saying. “But rather, the sentiment of the majority is that there needed to be an adjustment to the board composition based on the fact that the entire constituency wasn’t being adequately represented.”

DCI acknowledges that similar presentations by leadership from member corps on the future of drum corps have been made frequently at DCI board meetings.

“Passionate discourse is something we all embrace and which is a vital component of a thriving organization,” said a director wishing not to be named in this article. “This truly isn’t merely an issue of clashing ideologies at this point, it’s a question of balance on the board.”

Still, the G7 presentation left corps taking sides on DCI’s philosophical future. And with the presentation becoming a formal proposal later this summer, there’s still the threat of more action — and possibly even a greater division — in the not too distant future.

Publisher’s note: Drum Corps World will continue to follow this story and report on it as news becomes available on our Web site, http://www.drumcorpsworld.com/. The DCW Web site has not traditionally been used for breaking news, but given the magnitude of this story, we will share information as it becomes available in order to share it in a more timely fashion.

Drum Corps World posted a teaser about this news on its Facebook page on Friday, May 14 — http://www.facebook.com/DrumCorpsWorld and Twitter — http://twitter.com/DrumCorpsWorld — site following the executive board meeting and it generated much speculation and concern about DCI’s future in posts on Drum Corps Planet’s Forums that can be found at: http://www.drumcorpsplanet.com/forums/index. php?showtopic=135687&hl=\Drum Corps World\