DCI's voting membership recently passed new policies on safety. One of them includes having the 3 on field judges (visual, brass, and percussion) held to the front sideline and 2 yards in field. While myself and many others believe this will have the largest impact on the battery, it will still affect brass and individual visual scores as well.
When I first heard about this, it left me scratching my head. I totally understand keeping performers safe and avoiding unnecessary injuries. Especially in an activity that's so physically demanding. However, it's very difficult to try and gather stats on how many instances there has actually been of a performer sustaining a significant injury because of colliding into a judge. It definitely happens but the frequency is tough to nail down. DCI presumably hasn't tracked that either considering they'd likely publish it to support their new position. If there was a large volume of data that showed on field judges were specifically responsible for a certain amount of say performer hospital visits, I would be more on board with the change. Has there ever been a case of a performer's marching career being ended because of a physical run in with an adjudicator?
Restricting a percussion judge to the front sideline is probably good news for front ensembles. I've long thought that they usually don't get the credit they should. A great judge moves back and forth between them and the battery as evenly as possible. But being up close and personal with the drumline allows you to see firsthand the nuance and musicality of the passages they pull off. You can FEEL the cleanliness of a triplet roll at mezzo piano. They NOTICE the skill of keeping hands consistent while completely changing lower body direction at fast tempi, as will a visual judge. The brass judge can hear individual intonation and how that contributes to the overall power of the section. Put those judges on the front sideline and you potentially lose all of that or at least hinder it greatly. How is a judge on field level supposed to determine how clean a line is playing from 30 yards away with winds and guard mixed in between them?
In an interview with Kevin Shah about the change, he mentions groups writing drill differently to accommodate this. I'm sure many corps will have contrasting ways to approach it, but what would stop them from doing the opposite? If you know your battery might be in a rebuilding year or perhaps not the cleanest, just keep them backfield away from the judge. Shelter them from the professional criticism. Is that something they'll take into consideration when it comes to scoring? I'd much rather an adjudicator get a solid read on all the groups and reward the best performances instead of penalizing some for staying too far away to get a clear enough read. That may not happen, but the incentive is there in a way it wasn't previously.
Another part that confuses me is that these performers, most of which are high school and college aged, spend entire summers rehearsing. They spend 12+ hours a day, every day, often in extreme heat, being pushed and working ridiculously hard while also sleeping on gym floors and buses as they travel the country. This isn't a great source since it's a forum and over 6 years old, but it's the closest thing I could find attempting to research injuries in DCI.
Unless someone can reach out and show me harder, recent evidence of judges causing more injuries to performers than their regular day to day; how can anyone make the argument that putting a judge on the field for 15 minutes every other night during a show run is a much higher risk and more dangerous for these corps and their performers? I'm not saying they need to change their rehearsal structure. I'm very much on the side of them continuing to work as hard as they do considering the incredible shows they put on and as a fan for nearly 15 years, I love being amazed at what they accomplish. Plus, being a percussion instructor, I think it's GREAT for young students to have that insane work ethic instilled since it'll suit them better later on in life. But DCI isn't suggesting changes to rehearsals and performers often times push through injuries which don't always heal correctly. I know from marching WGI, my knees will most likely be a problem later on in my life. They cramp and are sore easily and I can hear them move when I stand up from a squatting position. That's just from weekend rehearsals, not every day.
Also add in the fact you're now preventing moments like the 2 videos below from happening altogether. I've referred back to that clip of Jeff Prosperie's tape from Cadets in 2013 consistently with friends and students of mine. Imagine making a highly respected rock star of the marching percussion community absolutely lose his mind like this! Do we honestly think the energy he has here would be the same if he was on the front sideline? He would have had the same experience? The clip from Crown is Allan Kristensen not letting a simple equipment slip ruin an age out performer's finals run. Judges frequently pick up sticks and other equipment, in this case a drum, to help out the performers because of the high amount of respect they have for the art. Sadly, this won't happen any longer either.
Obviously I'm not a voting member, I didn't even march DCI, and the higher ups can do as they wish. But as a fan and supporter, I hope they reconsider or realize how bringing on this new limitation will detract from accurately scoring the quality of an entire ensemble.
What's more beneficial for young, developing musicians? Avoiding a very low risk of injury or having professional commentators up close and personal dissecting, critiquing, and crediting their tireless body of work?
In honor of WGI Percussion finals this upcoming week, I've decided to look back and do a bit of analysis on my favorite moments in PIW of the past 5 years. I marched in PIO finals in Dayton in 2011 and 2012, so I may be a bit biased towards those years but can you blame me? We all know seeing these groups in person is totally, completely, more appealing than scouring YouTube and Twitter for show clips. Feeling them trumps hearing them every time.
After deciding on my top 5 and looking the list over, it truly was nothing but a sheer coincidence that it went chronologically most to least recent. I debated switching 2, 3, and 4 around a bit but defaulted with the higher scoring groups to round it out. And as stated before previously I saw 1 and 2 live at UD Arena. Even though most of my marching was done with a snare drum strapped on, it's been interesting to see how I've tended to slide a little more on the front ensemble side as I've been writing and teaching more. That's reflected below where it otherwise may not be.
5. Cadets Winter Percussion 2015 - DECONSTRUCTED
Three years ago, this group didn't even exist. Obviously the Cadets aren't newbies to the marching activity, but this has been the first time we've seen a group score so high right out of the gate in almost 10 years. We've really only seen a couple groups make historic jumps in the past and those ensembles have been consistently in the top 4 ever since. Rhythm X took bronze in '04, their second season in PIW. Even Pulse hung around 10th in PIW in the mid 2000's before jumping to 4th in '09 and winning it all in '10. Over the past 7 years, X and Pulse have a combined 5 championships and medaled another 3 times each while competing alongside the indoor percussion staples of MCM and RCC. What does that say for Cadets Winter? Who knows, but if history has any meaning in these early beginnings of WGI, don't be surprised if Cadets medal this year and possibly win it all within the next few. They have the pedigree. Winning PIO in your inaugural year and placing 6th in PIW the very next is pretty insane. They've technically risen quicker than X within a much thicker pool of groups and development of the activity.
4. Orange County Independent 2014 - THE WORLD IN YOU
This is another new and upcoming ensemble. Made the jump to PIW after 2 years in PIO and receiving the silver in '13. I'm just a huge fan of their writing. With so many lines trying to ram notes and show off chops, it's refreshing to see a group like this where the focus is obviously on the musicality without force feeding the audience an onslaught of ink. They still have those moments, especially in the front ensemble, but the phrasing player to player and as an ensemble is on point. Everything looks, sounds, and feels like it should be where it is. I know that's something I try to work on as a writer. Warmth.
3. Matrix Percussion 2013 - COVERED
How can you not love this show?! They cover Skrillex, top 3 basses are women and kill it, dancers get painted, tenors get a bucket poured over them at the end, emotional presence is undeniable, and not to mention they broke into the top 4 that year. First time since '08 anyone besides X, RCC, MCM, and Pulse have done so. The writing is similar to OC Independent above; very easy to listen to and warms over the audience.
2. RCC 2012 - THE GIFT
RCC has been a staple and envelope pusher in the activity ever since WGI Percussion began. I remember first seeing them in '07 with the Kids at Play show. Their show in '12 couldn't be a bigger contrast to that. A championship year for them and at no surprise. They hold true to consistent ensembles they've put on the floor over the years. Challenging book all around and when it's oxyclean, they're hella tough to beat. Not afraid to load up on notes and stretch boundaries on rhythm structures.
1. Music City Mystique 2011 - MANTRA
This was my first in person experience with PIW and will always be one of my all time favorite shows. MCM's individual performance commitment is without a doubt at the top. Even away from the floor, even walking to sub sectionals they were in that mode. Watching the dude playing the big drum do tai chi on his own, the snare line walk around with a skull staff, the front ensemble incense, tenors all shaving their heads and the calm, entranced mood the whole ensemble was in hours before they performed had an impact. They all knew this show religiously. Dogmatic confidence. I could go on and on. The book across the board is downright ridiculous. Unique in a lot of different ways. Front ensemble refuses to let you out of the show concept. Lots of battery and auxiliary play. Lots of alternating herta figures and singles look like nothing to these guys. Woods are constantly moving and making knowingly tough motives look simple. Mystique always has an incredible pit, but this year especially they were on another level. Established quality of sound and unquestioned rhythms. It really does blow my mind how the writers put down the ink they did and thought, "yeah we can clean that." Watch the whole thing. A lot.
This may seem partially misleading. As I'm ranting and raving about the book demand (and you'll see more of what I'm talking about below with the marimbas) one of the more impressive things I notice in this show is the unison at the end of this tenor break. The 9 person snare line is spread out across the floor. Maybe it's just the area I live and teach in, but recognizing how time and sound work is unfortunately often overlooked so something like this may not seem as it is. Take a look at the picture below.
Middle of the ballad. Marimbas showcase their technique and interval control. Both hands are in octaves with the left double verticals and right laterals. As if those strokes at those intervals aren't tough enough, the range of this lick causes the performers to physically lower their whole body just to reach the bottom of the left hand arpeggios. The right hand virtually remains stationary considering their covering less than half of the intervallic ground than the left hand. Chops and clarity.
Boom. My favorite moments and shows from the past 5 years. Hopefully I'll be putting up more posts similar to this. A little more in depth analysis to what's actually going on, at least more so than I've seen personally. Have suggestions? Disagree with this list? Think I missed something? Let me know in the comments. Happy WGI Finals week. Best wishes to all the groups performing. It's an exciting time for the activity with the influx of ensembles and competition. We can only hope the growth, expansion and popularity continues. These groups deserve and need more publicity and exposure than they actually get.
"Percussion is the most adaptable family of instruments. The biggest challenge is to project percussion in a lyrical way."
Boom. This is my site. This is my stuff. The site is still very much in the development stages, but as a young writer, educator and artist, something like this is necessary to get my name and music out there more. This blog page will contain a little bit of everything. My current feelings and thoughts on writing and teaching I'm doing, and breaking down other groups and what they have going on with their music. I'm an avid believer in constantly learning and personal critique, hopefully this will provide a display of that.
As long as I can remember, music has been a huge part of my life, and that in itself is an understatement. Piano and simple theory lessons began at the age of five and I played through middle school. I picked up drums and percussion in 5th grade and continue that on through today. In fact the whole point of this site, composing/arranging, didn't even come about seriously until I was in college. I'm lucky enough to have a father who's an increasingly accomplished and well known writer and arranger himself, R. Kevin Boesiger. So from the age of fourteen-ish, Finale was readily available. My dad's influence can't be stated enough from always being there, Finale in hand, being able to "talk shop" and go back and forth on the ins and outs of what's helped him over the years.
It began with stupid drum cadences when I was in high school, never really knowing or understanding the depth of potential in what I could do, in most part due to my father. Once I began grasping voice leading and harmonic structure, my curiosity grew. It's an interesting thing growing up as a drummer. Even though I knew basic theory, rhythm came first. Four quarter notes, four quarter rests. I always talked with my professor at UNL, Dr. Richards, about how we needed more percussionists as composers since the upbringing is somewhat reversed. The approach is something different, something fresh, not lacking in musicality as often seems to be the case or perception of percussionists.
That's what I want to bring. A different feel, a different vibe, something NEW. Yes, I've spent countless hours drumming; practicing keeping eighths and sixteenths as even as possible. Making sure there's a noticeable, definite difference between 3 inch, piano strokes and 6 inch, mezzo piano. All while running through multiple drum pads and countless batteries in metronomes. But hopefully you'll find that same attention to detail here. I could not be more excited to write music that doesn't yet exist.
"Ever since I began to compose, I have remained true to my starting principle: not to write a page because no matter what public, or what pretty girl wanted it to be thus or thus; but to write solely as I myself thought best, and as it gave me pleasure."