It’s our great privilege to have Zach Ashcraft, founder of Music & Marching, share his perspective of the 2017 DCI Season with us in this guest blog post! Music & Marching is a blog that exists to tell the unique stories of those watching, facilitating and performing in the Marching Arts activity, in hopes to garner a deeper respect and appreciation for what goes into each performance.
From the dynamic photography to his unique perspective, we are so thankful to have this opportunity to share Zach’s “DCI 2017 Year in Review” with our readers and followers! When you have finished reading, be sure to go to MusicAndMarching.com for other stories and interviews that took place during the season. Also, you can follow Music & Marching on Facebook and Instagram (@MusicAndMarching)
*All images in this blog courtesy of Zach Ashcraft, Music & Marching*
DCI 2017 Year in Review
This summer marked my 10th season of involvement within DCI. From my first 4 years as a performer with The Blue Stars, to a few years on staff with the Crossmen, and now as a freelance photographer, I’ve witnessed an incredible amount of change over the last decade, both on and off the field.
Visual Identity Shakeup
The most notable change of this era, in my opinion, has been the visual identity of each corps from year to year. In generations past, many corps wore the same uniform over the course of multiple decades, with slight updates or adjustments coming every few years or so. More recently, Corps have increased both the frequency and scope of uniform changes, with many groups presenting audiences with drastically new looks on a now yearly basis.
While some critics believe this has diminished the visual identity of each corps, many within the activity agree that it allows designers to create a more cohesive program that more clearly communicates the concept of a show. Several designers are taking advantage of this new found creative freedom. Something as simple as The Bluecoats decision to forgo helmets in 2016 has already had an impact on the activity just a year later.
Several corps opted to perform without headgear this year, and its had a huge impact on the way that both audience members and the performers experience the performance. Having a clear view of each performers face not only allows the audience to better feel and experience the emotional content of each show, it allows brass members to explore new avenues of expression and performance not available to them.
Not all corps have taken this route, however. Many have chosen to keep their shakos, aussies, and helmets, and have found creative ways to adapt them with their new uniforms. The Phantom Regiment, for example, had two helmets to convey different emotions throughout their show. The Boston Crusaders had an entirely new look, and the shakos and uniforms themselves perfectly personified the story their show was trying to tell.
From new uniforms, to innovations in electronics and prop staging, the last several seasons have indeed been wrought with change. One thing that has remained constant since my first day in the activity though, is far more important than what the corps are wearing.
Standing in the Lucas Oil Stadium parking lot following each corps final performance of the season, I was reminded that the true importance of this activity goes far beyond what happens on the field. Watching as the performers walked out of the tunnel with tears streaming down their faces, embracing their fellow corps members one last time was a powerful reminder that design trends may come and go. But the one constant in Drum Corps is the life-changing affect each tour has on the individuals who participate in it.
Everything comes to a screaming halt at the end of DCI Finals Night. With the design process for most corps 2018 programs already well underway, the 2017 season will soon be left in the history books. But the one thing that will always remain are the friendships and families formed during those 85 days.
I have to agree that the scene in the parking lot on Finals night shows what drum corps is really about. Rivalries on the field are largely artificial, the corps members truly respect each other and are drawn together by their common involvement in this amazing activity. I began going to Finals in 2012 as a relative's son was marching. Last year, I decided to volunteer at Finals and did so again this year. I opted to not watch the Blue Devils' encore and walked out the tunnel and up the ramp to the south lot, where corps were loading up their gear and saying their goodbyes. I was out there in time to watch as Santa Clara circle up and play \”Send in the Clowns\” before putting their gear away. Soon after that, the Cavs, who were right next to SCV, circled up and played \”Somewhere Over the Rainbow\” to end their season. I can't think of a better end to the drum corps season than that!
It is a special family, for sure.That's awesome that you get to experience this bond, while volunteering!