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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