Saturday, June 30, 2007

Uniform musings, Part 5 - New Uniforms in '07, Westminster edition

I got a glimpse of two more new uniforms last night at the Westminster show...

Best "Old School" uniform change - Crossmen
A significant change for the Crossmen who did have the stark black uniforms that provided little definition in the past few years. The red accents and shiny red sash recall older corps style uniforms from years past. The contrast achieved with the red accents gives the viewer something to hold onto visually as the corps moves around the field. The shiny red sash keeps the uniform from falling flat as it compliments the shine of the silver instruments extremely well. The red stripe is something that you don't get to see every day anymore as most corps now simply have straight black pants. One gets the feeling that they are watching an alumni corps, or a senior corps, as the high pants add to the "old school" illusion. All-in-all, a great change for the Crossmen.

Most Undetectable uniform change - Phantom Regiment

Did you know Phantom changed their uniform this year? Well, unless you have been closely following them, or have a sharp eye, you may not even notice it. The corps from Rockford have made a slight adjustment to the sash, cutting the black from the drop section in the back. The gauntlets have also been changed from black to white. Overall a cleaner look, closer to Crown than anything else. Not much of a real difference visually if you are not paying attention though.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Competition...blessing or curse - Part 1 - Drum Corps (cont...)

Mainstream Visibility

The question here is how do people in mainstream culture interact with the Drum Corps activity. Do they interact? and at what level?

Aside from a few documentaries and the occasional news report, there really is no recognition of Drum Corps in the mainstream media. Last year on tour with The Cadets, there may have been half a dozen news stories done on the corps and the show. Many of these are write ups in community newspapers. As with anything, exposure depends upon the area of the country, generally the less urbanized areas seem to have a better community awareness than in the big cities.

The movie "Drumline" raised awareness about the marching activity, but that is only tangentially related to the world of Drum Corps. Other than that and a brief appearance by The Cadets at the 1996 Olympics, television and film have largely ignored the Drum Corps scene.

Drum Corps of the past was arguably a much more visible presence in society. Corps usually stayed local and participated in events and parades around the area -solidifying their ties to the community. As Corps focused more on national level competition, their role in the community diminished in kind. Today one would be hard pressed to find someone from Bergen County who had heard of the Cadets. Corps do have "home shows" and usually do parades around Memorial Day near their iconic homes, however any real connection is for the most part symbolic. These days of small local corps made up of local kids lent the activity to integration with the American Culture. As Drum Corps broke away from this, it started to become more of an isolated, niche activity.

National Competition did not destroy Drum Corps in mainstream society, it merely changed it and the people who watched. Public Broadcasts of the Championships brought in new demographics of excited high school band students who saw "Marching Music's Major League" as something to revere. Recently, Drum Corps has been promoted to the television equivalent of the National Cheerleading Competition and the National Spelling Bee due to it broadcast on ESPN2. However, it still is a long way off from matching either of these in the collective mainstream unconscious. The National Spelling Bee is discussed on numerous news shows, parodied on SNL, and I believe the winner even gets to meet the President. Cheerleading has been the subject of many movies including Bring it On!, Bring it On, Again!, and Bring it On: All or Nothing.

Nowadays, the average American is largely ignorant of the Drum Corps subculture. Nationally based competition has effectively written Corps out of mainstream Americana and banished it to a curiosity, pursued by mostly "band geeks". The quirkiness of the genre and some of its traditions and conventions still make the activity largely inaccessible for all but those who have an invested interest.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Competiton: How Important is it?" by Rob Stein

This post is kind of an aside from the series I am writing, however it is extremely pertinent to the topic at hand. The following paper is was written by Rob Stein, one of the Standing 'O' Marching Specialists, and examines competition from a more pragmatic angle. This should be required reading for any band director who is faced with the decision to have his or her band compete...

Competition: How Important Is It?

By Robert Stein

Competition is a highly debated aspect which we all must deal with in this activity. The biggest problem we face as educators in our field is to figure out how important this aspect is to our organization, which ultimately stems from the question: “What is the goal of our season?” If winning is the ultimate goal, and that is what you tel your students, and that is what they focus their energy on, you could potentially be in for a very rough season in terms of morale and defining “success” for your group. Let’s start by listing some reasons why groups want to win:

1. Bragging rights.
This is probably the most obvious reason, but all students and educators would love the opportunity to say “We’re the best.”

2. School support.
Many of us face problems justifying the marching band to the administration in terms of budget and time commitment. Having a nice, big trophy to display in the trophy case at the main entrance of the school always helps to gain administrative support.

3. Material reward.
As we all work hard in this activity, it’s always nice to get some sort of material recognition, such as a plaque, metal or trophy.

There are certainly other reasons, and these are all absolutely valid; and of course, it does feel good to win, to be the best, to hear your group’s name announced last in your classification. Additionally, competition can be a great motivator for some students to get them moving and enthusiastic for rehearsal. It is important to remember, however, that if competition is your sole purpose of the season, and your students know that, they can potentially be emotionally crushed if you do not meet your goal.

I once knew a director whose band was in the position at one time to say they were the best band in the state; and technically, for that weekend, they were. This band competed at a state competition the weekend before championships and beat everyone there, including the band I was teaching at the time, and the band director made sure to tell everyone on Monday that they were in fact the best band in the state for that weekend. The students got incredibly excited and were quite confident that, since they were the best band in the state, they would surely win state championships the coming weekend. I checked some scores on the computer to find that there were numerous bands that were ranked ahead of them that had not competed that weekend, but were competing at group championships. I called him and mentioned that maybe he should remind his students of that fact, but he decided not to. The following weekend their band was beaten by the band I was currently teaching, as well as five other bands, and placed 7th. His students were crying, cursing, and felt that they had wasted an entire season because they did not win.

Now that we’ve had a brief glimpse at a possible reality, let’s review some reasons why we should not make winning a top priority:

1. You have no control over another group.
The reality of this sport is that you do, in fact, have absolutely no control over another group you compete with. You cannot control how often they practice, how hard they work, or the caliber show they perform. If they work harder and deserve to win, no one else has a right to take that away from them.

2. Judging.
This aspect could bean entire article in itself. Many times we find ourselves disagreeing with judges for many reasons, the main of which seems to be they never catch the good things in the show. As instructors in this field, many people have a hard time disconnecting themselves from their group during a performance and viewing it objectively. During rehearsal we always try to look for the mistakes to fix them, and during the performance we always try to look for the good things to make sure we get the score we deserve. Remember that judges are usually viewing your group for the first time, and they just love to find obvious mistakes to talk about.

3. Students base success of the season on winning alone.
As shown in the story written above, students will base the success of the season solely on the competitive outcome of a competition, and not on other things like hard work, team work, progress or fun.

4. Circuits.
Unfortunately, some circuits are more political than others. If you are competing in a circuit in which you normally do not, you may not be ranked as high as you would if you were well established in that particular organization.

Competition should be talked about, but in my opinion, should never be the only reason for the season. The ultimate goal for the marching arts is to maximize the potential of your group and the show they have been given. Throughout that process, students will learn things that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, such as team work, dedication, persistence, etc. Most importantly, what should be the concentration for the season is always giving 100% every minute of every day. In this case, no mater what the outcome of the season or competition is, your students will be content that there was absolutely nothing else they could have done.

Winning is always fun, but again, in this sport there really is no defense. Your group will perform their show and have no influence what-so-ever on anyone else. The focus of the season should be the journey to the destination; working hard, making friends, making fun memories, etc. Should you be rewarded for the performance of your group, then you will have another memory to add to the season. If not, your students will still be content with the journey they have taken together and the lessons they have learned, and will not have their emotions diminished by the lack of a trophy. The question in the title of this article asks how important competition really is; to answer, it is as important as you wish to make it. This article is simply meant to provide some information to help you make your choice.

Rob Stein is the Co-founder of Standing 'o' - Marching Arts Specialists. He is an active musical arranger and consultant with marching bands across the nation, as well as an adjudicator with The Cavalcade of Bands and USSBA. He may be reached via email at

This article was reprinted with the permission of the author.

The original article in PDF format can be found

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Competition...blessing or curse - Part 1 - Drum Corps

Drum Corps - Intro to Competition
*note: I focus specifically on Junior Corps in these discussions because of the types of corps, it is the most visible, popular, and has the most heated competition between units. Most of the arguments and observations made can also apply to other types of competitive corps.

The heart and soul of Drum Corps is rooted in competition, and therefore it is only appropriate to first look at the history of this competition. Both the make-up and the nature of competitive drum corps have evolved over the years. In the early days, local drum corps would compete in parades and field shows against neighboring corps. The participants were all local kids from the surrounding town, county, or neighborhood playing to a mostly local audience. Corps were evaluated based upon strict, military-like inspections focused upon appearance and uniformity. They competed in events sponsored by the VFW and American Legion - however there was nothing really close to a formal governing body for any type of standardization in the activity. In 1971, directors from several major drum corps formed Drum Corps International (DCI) to be a national governing body for the activity. They continued to use the style of judging known as the "tick" system to evaluate performances. This system, used until 1983, deducted points from a corps' score based upon "mistakes" judges would observe in the corps performance. While this has the appearance of being objective, the standards by which something is considered a mistake varied from judge to judge. Little or no creative thought was given to programs in those days because the judging was almost entirely focused on error detection.

After 1983, DCI changed the judging to a qualitative "build-up" system where corps were rewarded with points for a combination of execution and content. This opened the doors for modern drum corps to experiment with complex show designs that would have never came about in the "tick" era. Designers freely experimented with new music and visual techniques that moved the activity more towards the theater than the military. In fact, some of the most successful shows of this era were based upon theatrical productions (West Side Story, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera to name a few. Recently, questions of the subjectivity of this style of judging have come to light as show designs have almost moved past the point of any objective comparisons and are, in fact, hurting the evolution of the activity.

This, of course, leads me to the ultimate question of these posts - does competition in Drum Corps improve or hurt the activity? I will examine this question using the standards I outlined before.


Drum Corps fans can be broken down into three categories; the hard-core fans, the casual fan, and the "bando". The hard-core fans are the fans who actively seek and support the activity in multiple aspects of their lives. These are mostly people who have marched at one time, or have thrust themselves into the activity in more ways than observing. This can include, online discussion boards, blogging, volunteering, donations, teaching, administrative work, and by many other means. These fans have a personal connection to the activity and are very defensive of their viewpoint about how it should be approached.

The casual fan is differentiated from the hard-core fan by being more passively involved with the activity. This group comprises most of those people who have not marched and who do not have a personal interest in the activity. They are generally contented to observe the activity as it is presented to them focusing mainly on personal enjoyment and entertainment. These fans encompass the spectrum from moderately interested in the activity, to those in the general public who may be seeing their first show.

The last group are the "bando" fans. These are the students enrolled in band at the high school or college level that revere the activity as the "major leagues" of marching arts. Their attitude is generally of reverence for the technical skill and creative complexity corps can achieve through their performance. Their tastes vary wildly and are often extremely pliable to others opinions. While sometimes the most naive of the fans, they are also some of the most emotional and enthusiastic supporters of the activity. These fans can directly relate to the performers and therefore have a different perspective on the modern activity than do the other types of fans.

Now that the fan categories are defined, let us examine trends in the drum corps fans support over the years in terms of competition. The hard-core fans are in it for the long haul. They have much invested in this activity and are not going to simply drift away. It also takes quite a bit to anger a hard-core fan and lose them completely. Most likely, these fans will follow the activity in some fashion under pretty much any circumstance. These people most likely got into the activity by becoming involved in the excitement of competition and therefore, competition has no bearing on their support. The"bando" fans are also not likely affected by competition because their admiration for corps are more based upon performance skill than competitive placement.

The wild-card in discussion of competition and fans lie within the last group, the casual fans. These people have a large range of motivations for observing drum corps and therefore there is no one clear causal thread for all of them. Seeing as Drum Corps evolved as a competitive enterprise, these fans are almost surely aware of this aspect of the activity. All of these fans may be aware of it, however, they may not understand it. To them it may seem a silly thing akin to attempting to judge two Broadway shows, or compare several orchestral pieces. This is one potential obstacle for the activity breaking into mainstream culture. The casual fan may be more willing to accept the activity if pretenses of competition were dropped completely and there was more a focus on entertainment.

However, there are examples of activities that combine the creative and evaluative modes successfully in mainstream culture. One needs to look no further than figure skating or ice dancing to see what I mean. While it can be argued that the competitive nature of these activities limits their appeal in the same manner as it does in drum corps, it is easy to see their fanbase is rooted more in the mainstream than that of drum corps (it is an Olympic sport, its placement on prominent broadcast TV, its international appeal).

The best than can be said of competition's effect on attendance and fan base is that it creates excitement and interest for the dedicated fans. At worst, competition has no measurable effect on this aspect of Drum Corps.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Competition in the Marching Activity..Blessing or Curse?

Recently I have been thinking about the competition aspect of the marching activity and trying to draw on some of my ideas and experience to meditate upon whether this improves the activity or hurts it.

The first thing I recognized is that the worlds of Drum Corps and high school marching bands are two very different entities and competition could play very different roles in each community. For Drum Corps, competition is at the very heart of the activity, and has been for years. Corps, from their inception, were groups that competed on a field or in parades with other corps from around the area. High School marching bands grew in support of athletic teams at the school and mostly did not compete until recently. Given these two different histories it would be improper to generalize for the entire marching activity on the merits of competition. This is why I have broken up the discussion into two separate parts; Marching Band, and Drum Corps.

The second thing I recognized is that there should be some standard or definition to what it means to "improve" or "hurt" the activity. I brainstormed several factors that could be used to judge the effect of competition on the marching activity - attendance figures/number of fans, mainstream visibility, complexity of material, education value, number and size of marching units, and general attitude towards the activity. While some of these are vague and can only really be supported by observational and anecdotal evidence, I believe that they are still important to consider in the big picture.

The next step, is sorting out and recognizing that some of these factors may not be influenced or influenced entirely by competition. Mainstream Visibility is an example of a standard that could have causal factors other than competition. I hope to try and point out when a standard could be affected by something outside of competition as I go through them.

let me do a quick explanation of each standard, just to clarify -

Attendance/Fans - This standard answers the question "Is the activity loosing or gaining fans and why?" things such as attendance trends and activity magazines and website popularity can help in determining who the fans are and why they are interested.

Mainstream Visibility - this can include references to the activity in mainstream culture. Maybe the activity figures into a TV show or movie, or a group could be covered by a news outlet.

Complexity of Material - This standard answers the question of "Have shows improved over the years, and how have they improved over the years?" Now I recognize that there are different standards to evaluate these questions as well and I will factor these into the analysis.

Education Value - These groups teach something to their participants. What is the value of what they teach and does competition affect the instruction the participants receive?

Number and Size of Marching Units - Are there more or less groups these days than there were in the past? What caused a change in this number? Are the groups today larger or smaller than their predecessors? Is there as much interest in membership for these groups?

General Attitude - This is a little harder to get a fix on. How do fans/the public feel about the activity in general? How do the directors and participants feel about the activity in general?

Using these, I will analyze the activity and make an informed recommendation as to the effects of Competition on the marching activity.

I will start with examining Drum Corps in the next p0st...

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Uniform musings, Part 4 - New Uniforms in '07

Originally a DCP forum post, I thought this warranted its own entry. From the Annapolis show - After seeing the corps as a whole wearing the new unis., I present my best an worst of the new looks.

Best new uniforms - Cadets -
A return to the traditional look. Cummerbund now rides over the jacket again and dominates the look more than in the past four years. The jacket now appears even shorter, making the legs appear very long and tall. Gauntlets are gone (thank god) and the accents are back. FJM unis oversimplified the detail that gave the Cadets their unique uniform flavor. These new ones capture the original 80s look very well while updating certain aspects (better material for summer).

Worst new uniforms - Spirit

These unis are all over the place. The busy front and the weird light colored/blue/white front piece cuts across the jacket in a strange way. I it looks like someone didn't use colorsafe bleach and the dark blue bled all over the nice white shoulder piece. The horizontal white lines on the other half of the jacket dont do anything for them. There is no definition to the new look making their already sloppy drill look even worse. In bright sunlight, they may look slightly better, however nighttime is not their friend.

Worst uniform change - Bluecoats
two-tone blue??? honestly?? I did kind of get used to it by the end of the show, however from the uniforms they came from, this has to be the worst move in all of DCI. Their previous uniforms were so clean cut and nice to look at, with the white and blue. The white made a nice clean contrast with the field and made their marching look clean and clear. The black pants feel like a cop-out, an easy way to hide dirty feet instead of working to improve fundamentals. The black and two tones of blue make them too dark on the field...and there is really no need for it. They look like BD or Blue knights now...not really a good thing.

Best uniform change - Glassmen
The addition of the gold chain adds a little variety and reflective flare into a very "blah" uniform. Before the uniform looked very uninteresting and bland, especially with that flimsy reflective triangle on the right shoulder. The chain falls asymmetrically over the black abyss that is the lower 4/5ths of the uniform and breaks it up nicely. in addition they now make a nice "clank" sound when they move their horns down to "parade rest"

Most unnecessary uniform change - Crown

I really like the cream and purple...might be a bit of overkill to cash in the purple for the gold. Gold and cream are too similar in tone to really contrast at all. The brown plumes are a nice touch (for the horse show). The most unnecessary part of the uniform is the tassel that hangs down from the front of the jacket just above the crotch. WHat is THat thing?!?! It is nice to see a top 12 corps staying with white or cream colored pants...shows they are not trying to hide anything about their marching technique.

I will have more uniform reviews as I see them this season.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Some great scholarship on Drum Corps...

Just wanted to bring your attention to this site, it has a database of around 50 papers written about Drum Corps - anything from theory to is a little outdated but some of the stuff is pretty interesting. Some of the included articles are meditations or manifestos on aspects that relate only tangentially to Drum Corps. For example there are several papers on the psycho-social idea of walking and at least a few on marching as a form of social protest. All-in-all, it is a very comprehensive look at the activity.
Here is the site

Research for the Marching Arts and Sciences.

Some interesting papers I would like to highlight.

  • a very comprehensive and insightful look into the story of The Star of Indiana (this has been posted elsewhere as well)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Uniform musings, Part 3 - The Blue Devils

The Blue Devils (Concord, CA)
The uniforms of the Blue Devils, like most other drum corps, arose out of the military tradition - this instance the corps arose from a VFW post in Concord. The early uniforms were keeping in this military style complete with cummerbund, shakos, and cross-belts. Over time those elements have not disappeared completely, they have just evolved into the current design we know BD for today. The cummerbund and cross-belt have been melded together to form a sharp reflective, sequined angle that cuts both ways across the chest. The shako is black with silver highlights.

The Blue Devils uniform works in different ways than either The Cadets or The Cavaliers. Where those corps uniforms rely on a contrast of color to highlight the performers (white/cream against a green field), The Blue Devils rely on a contrast of illumination. Allow me to explain. The sequins and silver reflects the light back in a more true fashion than the solid bold white of the other corps. This gives a greater illuminative effect at night and in low light, or directional light situations (for example stadium lights). It is the difference between standing out in a field at night holding a white piece of paper verses a sheet of aluminum foil. The silver compliments the silver of the horns forming more of an active contrast where the reflected light is engaging you in different ways depending on your angle. This concept flows nicely with the laid-back, easy-going reputation of the corps.

The lower half of the body is shrouded in darkness, like the Cavaliers, obscuring any clear read on the technique. Personally, I am not sure exactly how they teach it, but from being around the activity and talking to people, it seems as though they do everything in the easiest way possible that still looks good. The marching technique is definitely not a "bicycle" like the Cavaliers, however it isn't a strict straight-legged technique either. The black pants allow them to
become more relaxed and take a more natural approach to marching.

Thats it for BD, I probably missed something, so drop me a line and let me know.

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Hello (Part Deux)...

Seeing as I'm going to be a contributor to this blog, I figured I would introduce myself a little. My name's Amber, and I will be a sophomore at the University of Maryland in the fall. I'm majoring in music education on clarinet, but I picked up baritone last summer for drum corps and play that in the marching and pep bands. I did the whole marching band thing in high school, and while college band is an entirely different experience, I love it. I haven't marched corps yet, but I will be auditioning in the fall, and with any luck I'll be marching for the next two summers. The first corps show I ever saw was Cadets 00 on a VHS at band camp my freshman year of high school, and my first live corps experience was the Cadets' memorable performance at West Chester University during the summer of 2004. It was after that that I began to follow corps heavily, and I've only become more interested (a.k.a., a nice word for fanatical/obsessive/etc.) since then.

Since I have not marched, I can't and won't comment on some things the same way Nick and Joe can. However, I hope I can add some interesting discussion from an outsider's point of view.

Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy the blog.

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Uniform musings, Part 2 - The Cavaliers

The Cavaliers (Rosemont, Ill.)
The Cavaliers white collared green top and black pants provide a stark counterpoint to the Cadet's "West Point" uniforms. As different as the uniforms are now, The Cavaliers original uniforms have a similar design legacy to the Cadets. The original uniforms were khaki affairs complete with shoulder braids reminiscent of military stylings. New uniforms were purchased from Army surplus stores in blue of all colors, then the following year, new uniforms yet again. These uniforms resembled more the style associate with the Cavaliers today, save for the shako and cummerbund. The "Cavalier" hat was first worn by the corps in 1976. The shape and height of the crown of the hat is different from an Aussie.Variations of the '76 uniform were worn through 1983. The first edition of the current uniform was worn in 1984. (thanks j_paul!) These uniforms assist the Cavaliers in executing a completely different visual style than The Cadets.

The short jacket and absence of a cummerbund obscure a good portion of the performers' figure beneath a shroud of dark material. This brings the viewer's focus to the top third of the body. The uniforms are designed just the opposite of the Cadets' - not only is the focus entirely on the upper body, but the white "wing" elements on the shoulder serve to broaden the upper body, building a strong horizontal presence. The sash is even curved a bit in a downward sweep, minimizing any height drop. The entire Cavalier visual program is based around this premise of horizontal over vertical. When horns are in playing position, the imposing nature of their posture arises, not from height, but from this broad encompassing stature.

The lower body being shrouded in a vague, dark mass makes it easy for the Cavaliers to pull off their signature "Bicycle" marching style. The style involves significant leg motion and knee bend to achieve. Since the uniform is not dependent upon a stature of height, the drastic height changes associated with this style of marching become less noticeable and less offensive to the eye. Timing and spacing errors also become less obvious due to less contrast between the black pants and the green field. The use of this style of marching makes possible many swift moves that would prove to be almost prohibitively challenging to the straight legged corps.

The upper body is clearly contrasted through the use of a white collar, white "wings", a white sash, white gauntlets and white gloves. These aspects of the uniform are seen to move smoothly across the field - to "float" if you will. It is these elements that make up the forms of the drill. The audience doesn't see a tall thin figure (as with the uniforms of The Cadets), but instead, a figure almost wider than it is in height. It is almost as if there are little white rectangles (or more accurately, triangles) moving around the field at a very quick pace, forming pictures and developing forms.

The Cavaliers visual staff makes full use of this visual aspect of the uniforms. More often than not, visuals involve the upper body creating motion. This is most clearly seen in "Machine" near the beginning when the trumpets move into two huge vertical lines . The visual is one where the upper body is tilted to the left and right, alternating every other person (sorry, I cant find my video or I would give you a time marker). This works only due to the uniforms and the visual spectacle they create.

Thats all for right now...tomorrow, The uniforms of the Blue Devils

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Musings on Band and Corps Uniforms in Visual design...

Well for my first installment of what I hope to be many postings, I am focusing in on something that I have been thinking about for some time. Uniforms are the most basic, recognizable aspect of a corps - even defining part of their heritage or tradition. Sometimes there uniforms even affect the development of a corps visual and marching styles. Often, this most basic part of a corps identity is overlooked with regards to the visual aspect of the performance. The guard is what we think of mostly as defining the visual design of the show, but what we don't always realize is how much this is affected by the type and style of the uniforms of the corps. I will start out looking at different uniforms and showing how they define the visual characteristics of the corps. Then I will turn my attention to the future of uniforms in the marching activity.

The Cadets (Allentown, PA)
The "West-point" style maroon and cream uniforms date back to the oldest incarnations of the corps. This design (with the notable exceptions of 2005 and 2006) has remained largely intact throughout the years. It has become an icon for the oldest corps in America and is a symbol of pride for those who wear it. The picture is somewhat dated as it depicts the uniforms worn from 2003-2006. The current uniforms have slight changes in the detailing.

Visually, the most striking parts of the uniform are the cream colored pants with the maroon stripe running down the side and the reflective buckle on the cross-belt. The uniform is designed to enhance the height of the performer, mainly through the long light colored pants, the short jacket, and the high yellow cummerbund. An interesting tidbit is the shrinking drop sash over the years. Back in the 60s and 70s, the sash came down to about the knees of the performer. This had the effect of shortening the performer visually. The sashes of the 80s shrunk a bit, coming to around the mid-thigh region. Gradually over the years it has been shortened to its current length, ending around the "crotchal" region. The elongated vertical line created by the uniform is accented by the classic plume that emerges straight from the top of the shako.

Anyone who knows the Cadets know they are famous for their straight-legged marching style. The uniform accentuates this style by drawing the eye to the cream colored pants with the maroon stripe. Theoretically the maroon stripe is never supposed to be broken while marching. Watching the Cadets perform, it is clear the visual impact the technique and uniform create. The drill focuses mostly on form development such as pass throughs and evolving amorphous forms that serve to bring out the movement of the lower body. Rarely will one see an effective upper-body movement with the cadets (I'm thinking of the terrible ones added into the 2003 show as an example) because there is no striking visual impact to be had from the upper body movements.

Due to the focus on the lower body, timing is extremely important for this corps. Lagging visual scores have been almost a signature for the corps in recent years as the cream pants do not forgive even the slightest timing errors. Spacing errors are also highlighted by the tall vertical cream pillars seen on the field.

That's all for tonight, more tomorrow! - Next post - the Uniforms of the Cavaliers!

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Friday, June 8, 2007


I have been surfing around the online Drum Corps/ Marching Band world and have noticed a distinct lack of serious scholarship of ideas about the activities. It is reasonable to assume that there are many, many fans out there, but I found it odd that there was no person service compiling intelligent conversation about the activity itself. What I am hoping to create is conversation dealing with pedagogy, marching theory, aesthetic theory, show designs, history, and anything else along those lines. I favor intelligent and thoughtful posts that shy away from self-serving gloating or complaining, instead focusing on an objective (or as close to it as I can get) evaluation on the topics at hand.
I will be joined by fellow posters Amber and Nick who will add their own elements to the blog. I pretty much allow anyone to post what they want here if you want to be heard - just drop me an email.

Over the next week I will be fully launching with postings dealing with musings on show design and uniforms, so stay tuned! Leave a comment if you have something you want to hear about.

In case anyone was wondering, "point two-five" means playing incredibly softly...

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