Tuesday, December 13, 2011
A drum and bugle corps, also known as a drum corps, is a musical marching unit (similar to a marching band) consisting of brass instruments, percussion instruments, and color guard. Typically operating as independent non-profit organizations, drum corps perform in competitions, parades, festivals, and other civic functions. Participants of all ages are represented within the drum and bugle corps activity, but the majority are between the ages of 13 and 22.
Competitive corps participate in summer touring circuits, like Drum Corps International (DCI) and Drum Corps Associates (DCA). Corps prepare a new show each year, approximately 8–12 minutes in length, and refine it throughout the summer tour. Shows are performed on football fields and are judged in various musical and visual categories, or "captions". Musical repertoires vary widely among corps and include symphonic,jazz, big band, contemporary, rock, wind band, vocal, Broadway, and Latin music, among other genres. Competitive junior corps spend roughly 8–10 weeks on tour, practicing and performing full-time. All-Age and Alumni corps have less demanding schedules, practicing and performing mostly on weekends.
For the corps that remained, longer travel times were necessary to attend the shrinking numbers of contests, further adding to the financial and time demands on the organizations and their individual members. At the same time, costs for the increasingly complex field shows mounted, and creative and instructional demands rose, leading many competitive corps to falter and become inactive. By the late 1990s, only a fraction of the corps that existed in the 60s and 70s remained, although several new corps, some of which have become very successful, did start up along the way.
Also, non-competitive classic-style corps (often and sometimes inaccurately known as "alumni corps") saw a renaissance beginning in the mid-1980s, and they continue to organize in the 21st Century; members often remain vigilant about the traditions and virtues of the drum corps activity before the advent of more modern influences.
Freed from the traditional and more-restrictive judging rules of the late 1960s, corps began making innovative changes such as the use of multi-valve horns, wide-ranging tempos, intricate asymmetric drill formations, elaborate guard costumes and props, and the use of stationary orchestral percussion instruments. A common criticism of drum corps is that it has become too similar to marching band, although in truth the two activities have evolved together over the years. The most apparent difference between the activities is the fact that corps use only bell-front brass instrumentation. Some corps still utilize the traditional G Bugle which is very rarely found in marching band. The competitive season for corps is in the summer rather than fall, with auditions and initial ensemble rehearsals actually beginning as early as late October of the previous year. The top-tier competitive drum corps programs are often far more complex and more professional than marching bands, as members in full-time touring corps have no distractions outside of corps during the season and membership is achieved only through highly competitive auditions.