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Choosing The Best Drum Corps/Winter Guard For You

Updated on May 27, 2013

Drum Corps & Winter Guard

Where To Start...

So you're involved in your high school marching band or color guard and are interested in marching drum corps or winter guard. You're not alone. Thousands of people are in your same predicament and are seriously looking around for what to do and where to go but have no idea where to get started. Let me help.

The hardest thing to do, in my opinion, is to jump head long into DCI which is all Junior corps (age 14-22). these are the elites. the best of the best, the creme de la creme. These corps are profoundly harder to make as they practice and perform for 12 to 14 hours a day EVERY day for three months in the summer. It is far better to go into Senior corps first all age corps (common range 14-?). this level is often misconceived as the weaker corps, the lesser corps the not so great corps. But don't be fooled by the ignorance of the uninformed. Senior corps, in my opinion have it much harder as they only have weekends to practice, learn a show and choreography and have only weekends for three months all summer to compete at various competitions across the country. Championships for the Senior corps are now usually held in Rochester, New York as the Junior corps championships are usually held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Both corps have dues, but the Junior corps dues are FAR more expensive and upwards of (at least) $1100 - $1300 per season. Senior corps dues are FAR less expensive for doing the exact same thing, but only on weekends with dues upwards of (at least $500).

The Junior corps are affiliated under the Drum Corps International foundation or DCI and the senior corps are affiliated with Drum Corps Associates or DCA. There are corps just as flashy, impact worthy and impressive in DCA as there are in DCI. the only difference?... Age. Nothing more. So, with this comparison in mind, the possibilities as far as choice are concerned, are endless. the sky is the limit for where to march, where to perform, and how much you take from these learning experiences.

Take it from someone who has made it a sort of lifestyle. The first thing you will need to do is sharpen your skills in marching, sight reading (if you're a musician), exercise, and free up your weekends for the ENTIRE Summer. Believe me, Summer is no time to get lazy or complacent with your skills. If anything, Summer is the best time to sharpen your skills/chops. Most drum corps start auditions in the late Autumn and others in early January. Usually on Weekends, as most students in high school and college will have plenty of problems with membership during the week while still in school. Free up your weekends, but don't worry, if you have band contests in the Spring semester, fear not. All drum corps are more than willing to allow at least a few absences for musicians interested in their program. As long as they are reasonable absences and have something to do with music. The next thing you have to do is contact your program of choice. First things first. Look online for the nearest program and look into their activities. Keep the following in mind:

Are they to my liking? Nobody wants to even try to audition for a corps that is lackluster or unimpressive.

Will I enjoy being a member of THIS organization? Can you see yourself being proud of your membership in this establishment and can you see yourself enjoying your membership?

be not afraid, there are VERY few corps out there that require memberships dues to be paid in full up front. In fact almost all corps and winter guards have payment installment options.

Are they reputable? You really want to look into the organization first. create an account online with their forum or membership to their website first. Doing this will allow you easy access to their forums which will give you a good idea of how most members interact, who you might get along with, and what they do to bond with each other on their off time.

Now, it only seems too easy to pick an appealing organization by reading their history and look at their posted pictures, but don't be fooled. Never judge a book by it's cover, or a corps/guard by their pictures. the typical thing to do in a photo is smile. smiles and photos can be misleading. If you cannot find ANY current information posted on their website, then most likely the administrators are either very busy(unlikely) or lazy (likely). Another good thing to do and these days, the best thing to do is go onto YouTube and look for any posted footage of their performances. If there are no videos of them, then obviously they are either new or not worth posting. Then and only then you will have this choice: 'Are they worth taking a chance on? Or should I move on to another?' This dilemma is more common than you know. It happens all the time.

If there is no organization in your immediate area, don't worry, there are some seemingly EVERYWHERE. Be prepared for a commute. Even the best corps and guards have members that travel from states away just to be a part of a worthy corps/guard. You will most likely not be the only one coming from the city you are coming from. Ask around, most likely you can find a ride in a carpool to the same place. Never assume ANYTHING.


The next thing you will need to do is contact a representative available and ask every question you can think of about everything from audition dates to uniform costs. The more questions you ask, the more you will find out. Don't wait until the audition to ask any questions. The last thing you want to is show up unprepared to an audition. Try not to feel embarrassed about the questions you may ask. Keep in mind, these people have done this for years and have heard it all from "are you married?" to "can we smoke?" These people are there to answer your questions (even the awkward ones). Once you have found out all you need to know, you need to practice. practice what you need to practice for the actual audition, plus your best moves, your best exercises, and your best arrangements to be played either by memory or reading. be ready to have your soft tennis shoes, comfortable clothing, gloves, sunglasses, depending on the weather, and your instrument/mouthpiece or sticks/mallets ready to play. Most corps will have an audition piece ready to print out on their website for you to rehearse. Have that piece ready by the audition date and have it memorized (if they require that).


Be ready to stretch, have your own weapons and if you have a flag of your own, bring it. Be ready to perform some fundamentals, dance moves, wear form fitting clothing and dance shoes, sun glasses (depending on weather), and gloves. have drop spins, speed spins (Peggy spins), angles (27 points), tosses (vertical, horizontal, and 45's) ready and solid on flag. Weapons need to have left spins, right spins, double spins, tosses (vertical, horizontal, and 45's) ready and solid. Be ready to do across the floors, jazz runs, jazz walks, leaps and turns ready to perform. Not all corps will require a prepared routine for review, but in case they do, here is what you need to utilize in your routine:

High tosses with solid catches

Aerials under tosses - Body movement under tosses

Tosses on the move - Move- toss- catch - stop

Plenty of dace/movement in your routine

Artistic expression - (facial composition during the routine from beginning to end)

Proper execution of free hands

Pointing of toes EVERY time feet leave the floor

Listening to the music and only tossing high tosses at high points in the music

Proper use of evidential fundamentals

Making a good impression

Eye contact

Once you have auditioned, comes the hard part. The wait. More often than not, there is three days to a week of deliberation during which is the process of elimination. No respectful corps director will just choose anybody. There must be training prior to auditions. There is in no way, enough time to train someone from scratch to perform at the level as everybody else in just a matter of weeks. It just isn't possible. Unless you are Japanese. Is there anything they cannot do and do it well? Anyhoo, practice as much as you possibly can. Practice does not make perfect, but it does make you better at your craft. There are perfect strangers out there with so much in common with you willing to collaborate with you and do just what you want to do. All you have to do is get out there and find them. I marched drum corps and winter guard for years, and it changed my life forever, for the better. The memories will last you a lifetime and so will the friendships you make while you are there.

Senior Drum Corps

Junior Drum Corps

Winter Guard


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