Earlier this week, Drum Corps International (DCI) announced the decision to no longer allow judges onto the field during a performance. Field judges will now be heavily restricted, only being permitted to go 2 yards onto the field from the front sideline. DCI has cited safety as the main reason for this change.
The activity has been heading in all kinds of new and exciting directions for a long time now. It seems like what was once thought impossible is now done at Lucas Oil stadium year after year. The marching is faster, the drill is more dangerous, and the size and design of props are pushed farther and farther with every new show concept. DCI says the decision to remove the judges from the field was made to protect people from being injured. While I agree they are right to be concerned I feel there is an even better reason to keep judges off the field:
How many times have you watched a show recently and thought to yourself,
“Wow, that was awesome. I have no idea what that show was about but that was awesome.”
More and more lately I find myself quickly turning to google after a first-watch of a show to figure out the meaning behind it. I feel as if the activity is heading in a direction where we are so focused on entertaining our peers we are beginning to forget that not everyone that attends a DCI show marches. Don’t get me wrong for one second, the pursuit of excellence has been the driving force of why the marching arts have grown into the powerhouse they are today. We should continue to push the limits of what can be done on a football field in ten minutes.
However, the show design and judging thereof has been heading in a direction that… well “worries” is far too strong of a word so I’ll say… gives me pause. I take the hashtag #GrowDrumCorps to heart. I hope that before I leave this earth I’ll see promos for DCI finals right along side the promos for the NFL. But for this activity to be recognized by the outside world, the activity needs to focus more on the people in the seats. ALL the seats. Not just the ones that are between the corps and the box judges.
A show concept should be understood after watching the first time, not after seeing several videos, googling the corps website, and searching reddit. And most importantly, the judges should only be judging what can be heard and seen from the audience. I feel like this would help push corps to focus on the people in the seats, changing how they approach their overall design. DCI is supposed to be entertainment afterall. If something is being judged on the field that could never be seen from the stands then what is the point? Who are we designing these shows for? Again, I cannot stress enough I’m not calling for the dumbing down of DCI. Some great examples of what I’m talking about would be Cadets 2011, The Cavaliers 2006, Santa Clara Vanguard 1989, Bluecoats 2014, and of course Phantom Regiment 2008. These shows are the perfect example of excellence and accessibility to the uninitiated.
If DCI is heading in a direction that allows for more judging from the audience perspective, I’m all for it. I think by changing how we judge our activity we can change what we want from our corps. And personally, I want more Phantom 08’s.
However, I’ll certainly miss golden moments like this:
Love it or hate it, I’d love to hear from you and continue this discussion. Please feel free to comment below and I will be sure to respond!
This is an opinion piece. The views reflected do not reflect those of LotHype or it’s affiliates.