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Thanksgiving weekend: Of turkey and drum corps

Thanksgiving is approaching and with that the single largest weekend for drum corps auditions. If you are still planning to audition for any drum corps within DCI or DCA it's you'll be working double hard to catch up to all the drumline and percussion hopefuls who have been memorizing their music and perfecting the line's technique. Other than your travel plans and arranging pick up from an airport or bus terminal by your corps here are a few things on which you will want to focus for the weekend. 

You are always auditioning! No matter if you are auditioning on bass, snare, quads, cymbals, or any position in the front ensemble, even auxiliary percussion, you are always auditioning. When you are in small sectionals or even in full ensemble you might not always be playing on the drum or instrument you wish to play. Because of the large number of applicants for any single section there may be too many people and not enough drums. Often times there might be 100 people auditioning for two openings. You might be drumming on a pad or you might be standing against a wall. If you are not told to drum on a pad when no drum is available don't wait for others to do it first. Your enthusiasm and initiative to 'always be drumming' will be noticed and recognized in a positive light when compared to drummer sitting idly in the corner.

Attitude! In addition to time spent drumming, remember your attitude. There have been situation where two people are even in talent; your attitude might be the deciding factor in being cut and making the line. Bring talented hands but be polite, positive, flexible, willing to try a new technique, and even be willing to change to a completely different section than what you hoped to play. As your mother might say, "mind your manners!"

Bring a drum! While not required it helps you increase the amount of time the instructors and corps staff evaluating you actually see you drum.

Drum! It's important to that I say this and you not dismiss it. This is not the time to be a wallflower. I cannot know how many people will be at your audition. You might be one of four people auditioning for snare and therefore you'll be able to play snare all weekend. If you are one of 200 people auditioning for quads you'll be switched around and mixed up between the available drums and the sideline. In the case of the latter you need to take advantage of every opportunity to drum. If you are rotated through the audition in small groups and a person from another group is in the restroom or away from the line for some reason step up and fill the empty drum. Don't be shy, don't force others out, but be confident and show them what you can do. Another time through an exercise might give the percussion caption head a chance to see you shine.


Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps | DCI Finals 2001

Nobody cares! While experience is important drum corps experience is usually what matters most for the drumline. Everyone was in marching band and everyone thinks their marching band was/is the best. Nobody wants to hear that you were all-state or that your mom thinks you're a great drummer. There is a time for sharing little bits of information like this over the summer long tour; the audition is not the place. Too many times your sharing can be taken as over confidence or arrogance. Because you were in five different school music ensembles doesn't mean that you are any better than a guy or gal who has never drummed outside of his or her homeschool classroom. No matter your experience your actual talent and willingness to grow and learn will show in the audition process.

Don't make problems where there aren't any! Don't make your problems worse than they are! Professionalism and excellent musicianship are excellent qualities to possess. You can display them proudly when you drop notes or blow an otherwise stellar attack. What I mean is that you don't need to increase the visible and audible qualities of a mistake by throwing your sticks on the ground, failing to continue after your mistake, immediately look at the instructor, or make any other facial expression. If you make a mistake don’t dwell on it, move on. Play confidently and make mistakes confidently. This is not the time to offset how silly you feel for messing up by pretending or even honestly throwing a tantrum.

Memorize your notes! Do whatever else you can from memory but don't try it from memory if you really haven't taken the time to look at the music. Bass guys should make attempts to be familiar with all parts because you may have no idea what spots are open or what drum you'll be asked to play for the sake of the audition process.

Have fun drumming! No matter if you make the cut or don't, you should see attending a camp as a huge step towards educating yourself and pushing yourself new limits. If you were cut consider a smaller corps or ensemble where you can gain the experience needed to take you to corps such as Phantom Regiment, The Cavaliers, Santa Clara Vanguard, and others.

If you aren't looking to march all summer, or all weekend in senior corps, attending a camp is still a great way to grow as a musician. Many weekend camps are setup like a clinic or master class and you spend a great deal of time learning how to approach the drum.

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Memphis Sound Drum and Bugle Corps 2006




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