After many years of drumming and drum "corpsing", being aware its existence, and hearing the show, I have finally watched the 1993 Star of Indiana DCI finals performance. The 1993 Finals DVD arrived today and the crisp yellow and blue case immediately cracked open and the disc thrust into the DVD player. This was a big moment for me, through high school I worshiped the 1993 Classic Collections CD that one of our instructors owned. Every performance on that CD became my reason for drumming and my drive for auditioning for any drum corps, ANY! Any second that my house was completely empty this CD was played at stadium volume on the stereo in the living room. You could feel the brass and percussion in the floor, the couch, and the walls, the windows would rattle, and it was heaven!! There was nothing better than Santa Clara's drumline or Bluecoat's Night in Tunisia; for reasons unknown I always favored the second (bottom six) CD.
In high school my mother always used that dreaded term, BAND, to refer to what I was listening. When I'd hear her talking about MY drum corps to anyone, be it on the phone, in person, or on the moon, I was quick to correct her mistake - Band is high school, corps is NOT! I always tried to explain to her and any other confused or uninitiated person that there was a big difference between band and drum corps. I eventually realized there isn't a perfect or even a barely decent example to allow those who don't know what it is to fully understand it. No it's not part of a high school, no they don't get paid. Occasionally you could say band was high school baseball and drum corps was professional baseball but nobody would believe you because they saw THEIR high school band and it was full of those nerds, fracked notes, and sub par equipment.
I guess it's true, if you have to ask you'll never know. The person yelling "band is gay" to the corps out the passenger window as they drive by in their station wagon really has no idea that all 135 people, in perfect time, just thought he was a moron. That person yelling has no idea at what he's looking, no idea that there was a cutthroat audition process just to stand in the sun for 16 hours a day while the temperature was always blazing near 100! Maybe that person would better understand the comparison of the Boston Pops Orchestra to your junior high band concert; there really is no comparison other than both perform indoors.
Never seeing more than a brief minute of the show during a lunch break in the summer of 1999 (with Cincinnati Glory) I still argued with everyone else that Star of Indiana was robbed, drum corps is too political, and that Cadets should have been second place and they new it!! I had no real information on which I based my argument. I listened to the shows and I enjoyed most of each of them. Star of Indiana wasn't extremely exciting until that last quarter or so, but what do I know I'm just a drum guy?
What do I think now having watched the complete production of each corps from that year? Does it really matter what I think? The problem with answering that question and solving the argument of who should have been in first place isn't cut and dry. There are two major problems with drum corps that have existed since the dawn of time: the judges, and the fans. Both of these entities simply cannot exist in harmony and therefore we must decide immediately who gets to stay and who must head for the parking lot!
How can something be judged so low but still receive an incredible response from the fans? I know there are those well versed in music and those who could care less in the audience but you cannot say that any of those watching a show are unable to determine mediocre from amazing. How can something be judged and placed in a class of "best performance of the decade" (if there were such a thing) but have the spectators yawning? Not all fans are educated to the extent of judges nor are both entities looking and grading for or on the same criteria.
Why do we complain about judges? Do judges have secret meetings where they complain about the fans or do they just complain openly?
You can't watch a finals DVD in order, you always go to your favorites first. For me this DVD was more exciting than any other because I'd always heard but had never seen the performance. I had images in my mind of what I thought might have been going on and I was a little worried that I'd be let down. Could I be more creative than the corps' show designers?
What I saw in the Cadets' performance was what I thought first place should be. Next, Star of Indiana, then Phantom Regiment. While everyone had told me that Star of Indiana's show was full of innovation and was more intense than anything I could handle I don't agree. While there were visual elements that hadn't been done by anyone else up to that point they weren't difficult; different doesn't mean it took more effort to create them once a staff member thought it into existence.
I think the placing of Cadets first and Star second is more than fair. As a fan I must say the second place show wasn't very exciting until the last five minutes. There were interesting moments but they were very isolated and not very extravagant by 1993 or 2009 standards. While overall Star's drill was very clean it wasn't terribly challenging compared to that of Cadets. I don't mean to say that Star's show wasn't difficult or any less deserving of their placement but claiming they should have won finals is a bit over the top. I might even go so far as to say they should have been beaten by Phantom Regiment! While Star and Phantom had traditional shows than Star I don't feel the level of difficulty was present in Star's as it was the others. While being clean is important so are relative difficulty and a challenge.
As an instructor I can't say I was anymore impressed by how clean they were since what they were doing wasn't difficult, it was different, only different. Not amazing, not god-like, just different. There should have been more notes there should have been more difficult drill. I once had an instructor who marched Star '93 who shared with me that the drill of four crosses was hammered out on the fly during an afternoon rehearsal. While that is impressive it might even show a little bit in their inability to keep them perfectly formed and in time.
Since finding that 1993 CD I had always sided with Star of Indiana because I hoped that what I wasn't seeing would be the icing on the cake that everyone was raving about. Surely all these people couldn't be wrong and I was happy to blindly argue that point to anyone who opposed me though I had no ammunition to fight with. I know change my mind, now that I'm fully informed and educated I can say that Star should have been in third place. While their show was wonderful and clean it wasn't demanding compared to other shows of that year, Vanguard should have placed higher, Blue Knights should have placed higher. Star was full of interesting elements that are now commonplace in show design but they aren't difficult, not by a long shot.