What is Drum and Bugle Corps?

Drum and Bugle Corps is an original American art form. The beginning can be traced to veteran’s organizations such as the VFW and the American Legion, as well as organizations such as community Churches. Soldiers returning from World War I celebrated Veterans Day and the Fourth of July by marching parades to the drum and the bugle, just as they had done during the war.

Since the formation of Drum Corps International (DCI) in 1972, the sophistication of creative and artistic skills in drum and bugle corps has increased tremendously. The activity has developed to a level that is now considered a contemporary art form, while the organizational efforts of DCI have elevated the status of the activity to its current position as the second largest youth program in the United States.

While it would appear that a drum and bugle corps (or "drum corps") might be easily defined, it is much more than drums and bugles. The modern drum corps is comprised of 150 performers from around the world. Drum and bugle corps is a visual explosion of color, energy and music put into motion on football field. This synchronized, artistic ensemble consists of bugles large and small, percussion instruments of every variety and a color guard that heightens the visual impact. Drum and bugle corps is about the thrill of competition, striving for perfection and being rewarded for a job well done. Most of all, drum and bugle corps is about talented individuals who devote their time, skill and a love for performing each season before thousands of enthusiastic fans throughout North America.

Each fall some 20,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 22 begin long hours of practice for the coming summer of exhibitions and competitions. The new season’s music is introduced, technique is developed and individuals learn to become a fine-tuned ensemble. The show design is introduced and music is put into motion. Many more hours, days and weeks are spent polishing the 10-minute show. For the performers who have made it this far, drum and bugle corps is more than a hobby or a pastime; it is a way of life. As each corps becomes a team, the combined talents and personalities of its members create a unique style and identity. The collection of individual corps and their common passion is what constitutes the drum and bugle corps community.

A number of associations and circuits exist throughout the United States and Canada. Drum Corps International (DCI) is the largest and most influential of these associations. DCI is a nonprofit youth organization serving junior drum and bugle corps around the world. Corps participating in DCI competitions perform in two divisions: World Class & Open Class. Each season culminates with the DCI Summer Music Games, the world championships of drum and bugle corps.

Nathaniel Lewis