The Corps Value of Music
A History and Overview of Drum & Bugle Corps in the United States
  1. Make sure your instrument is allowed in a drum corps. Drum corps are relatively exclusive when it comes to instrumentation- no woodwinds of any sort are allowed to march, including all variety of saxophone. In the brass family, the DCI and DCA (more on them later) both recently passed rules only allowing bell-front valved brass instruments into drum corps. That means for trombonists, French horn players that donít want to learn marching horn, and tuba players who refuse to play anything but sousaphone, youíre out of luck. Percussion instruments offered generally shift from corps to corps, depending on their style or show each year.
  2. Learn the terminology. Drum corps is a world with a different vocabulary than that of the rest of the world. Some of the more commonly used terms are listed here.

    • DCI is short for Drum Corps International, which is in charge of junior drum corps. Junior drum corps are drum corps that allow members between the ages of 13 to 21, though they may be more exclusive if they chose.
    • DCA stands for Drum Corps Associates, and is in charge of all-age drum and bugle corps. While not as popular as DCI drum corps, all-age corps are starting to be more popular.
    • "Phantom" style is a reference to The Phantom Regimentís marching style, which is unique. You may hear any other corps name inserted, though, as nearly all corps have their own unique style. Spirit, for example, has a "rolling walk" style, while Cavaliers have a "high walk" of sort, and Phantom has a "sharp" style.
    • World class/open class/international class are the different classes of drum corps as of 2008. World class corps have 150+ members, while open class corps have 30-150 members. International class is the class for corps based in countries outside of North America that wish to tour the DCI circut.
    • "Contra" normally refers to the contra-bass, which is the tuba of drum and bugle corps. They look rather like very large baritones, slung over one shoulder, as seen in this picture.
  3. Look into (relatively) local corps first. Since practice schedules are often extremely difficult to follow, but time commitment is a huge part of making a corps, when looking into joining a corps, look at the local ones first. You may be surprised what isnít that far away- in 2008, there were 24 different drum corps in the World Class of DCI alone, almost all from different states.
  4. Notice gender-specific corps. Currently, in DCI, at least, there are no corps that are female-only, however, the Cavaliers and the Madison Scouts are male-only corps. In other countries, female-only corps are, while not common, existant, at least.
  5. Look into dues once youíve found a corps youíre interested in. In todayís global economy, fees may be the deciding factor between you marching in a corps, and you just watching the show from the stands. If you have financial problems, but are talented, some corps offer scholarships to help with dues. After youíve marched a year or two of corps, though, itís much easier to get money for marching.
  6. Get into shape. Regardless of what corps you decide on, when the audition weekend is, how your marching, playing, or attitude is, if youíre even considering getting into corps, you must be in shape. Youíre not looking to build that much muscle mass, though, so standard workouts may not be exactly what you need. You should be looking to be lightweight, true, but quick and nimble. Running, biking, and swimming all help out with this without weighing you down with extra muscle mass. Push-ups and crunches are also recommended, as they will help you build the endurance you will need to survive drum and bugle corps.
  7. Check your calender. Drum corps schedules are demanding, to say the least, and there is very little room for error when first going out for a corps. People understand, though, that everyone has lives outside of drum corps. As long as you are upfront and clear about any conflicts in your schedule, and they donít conflict too often, of course, you can normally have a bit of "wiggle room", though that really depends on the corps most of all
  8. Find the audition music/routine. Also, look into what else the audition exactly entails. A standard audition for drum corps includes prepared pieces of some sort, a piece of your own, sight reading, basic marching skills, and a section in which you have to march and play at the same time. Itís obviously best to practice as many of these things as possible, especially if you are particularly weak in any of these areas. Range, lip setting, dynamic ability, posture, and tone are all major factors for brass players. Keep in mind, meanwhile, that many drum corps also judge attitude! Be positive, polite, and donít make excuses for yourself.
  9. Look into the corps marching style. Each corp, as previously mentioned, has their own style. You donít have to know this prior to auditioning, as the instructors will teach it later, but it canít hurt to be one step ahead.
  10. Show up on the audition weekend, prepared. Make sure that, a week or two prior, you registered for the audition, if that was required, and payed any audition fees. Instrumentalists should bring their instrument to the first camp (normally corps-owned instruments arenít distributed until at least the second weekend), a folding music stand, their music, and any oils, tuners, metronomes, etc. that may be needed for the weekend.
  11. Audition. At this point, thereís nothing that should be said. If you have practiced enough, have the talent and ability, and just a bit of luck, you should do just fine. If not, thereís always next year!