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Drum & Bugle Corps

Drum corps can trace their origins to the many Veterans of Foreign Wars ("VFW") and American Legion ("AL") meeting halls, where veterans met and formed musical ensembles to entertain their communities. In addition to VFW- and AL-sponsored corps, other drum corps were founded by Boy Scouts of America troops (such as the corps that would become the modern-day corps: the Racine Scouts, The Cavaliers and the Madison Scouts), Elks lodges, YMCAs, the Catholic Youth Organization, Police Athletic Leagues (such as would found the Bluecoats), fire fighter organizations, and local businesses, as well as Churches, grammar schools, high schools and colleges. By far, Church-sponsored organizations predominated the east-coast drum corp circuits.

Rivalries between corps led to a shift towards competition and the AL and VFW both ran successful competition circuits through the late 1960s and early 1970s.

With improved national transportation trends by the 1960s, drum and bugle corps proliferated, both in the sheer numbers of both new and established corps across North America, in the many competitions held then, and in the stadium attendance counts.

At this time, however, there was unrest among some directors and instructors who were critical of the competition-rules committees of the veterans' organizations which governed and sanctioned state and national championship competitions.

The payment structure for shows was weighted so that the corps with the highest placement got the most prize money; corps who attended shows from great distances but placed poorly were at times left with financial losses, and some corps sought a fixed payment structure for all participating corps.

The second major reason was the desire by some corps to have more control over their competitive performances. As an example, at the height of the Vietnam War a 1971 show by the Garfield Cadets drew criticisms from VFW organizers over a formation where the corps formed a large peace sign, which angered the staff of that corps over its loss of "artistic freedom". Both the Combine and Drum Corps International demanded that corps themselves should control rule making decisions.

The VFW and American Legion rules differed to a degree (although American Legion rules predominated in nearly every contest) and pressure increased to find a common judging system. Concerns were also voiced over contest promoters' rights in choosing sponsors and judges, and complaints arose regarding the lack of self-governance of competition circuits. The dissenters also expressed reservations about the increasing numbers of independent non-corps-sponsored competitions.

Some corps managers, directors and instructors walked out of the 1969 VFW national rules committee meeting after their requests for major rules changes were not approved, and some of the protesting participants then formed the by-invitation-only (and short-lived) Midwest Combine in 1971.

In 1972, Drum Corps International was founded, and was designed to create a uniform, corps-governed competitive circuit for junior drum and bugle corps (members aged twenty-one or less). DCI formed its own rules-governing body and enacted membership fees causing further disparity between startup drum corps and more professional units. This milestone event marked the beginning of the modern drum corps era.

Most of the still-numerous North American competitive corps joined in the movement of change under new leadership, and by the mid-1970s the rapid introduction and proliferation into competitive drum and bugle corps of previously-unfamiliar innovations (on-field dancing, creative costuming, novelty effects and unusual instrumentation) effectively ended the Classic competitive era.



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The Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps is proud to announce the GearWORKS:  Their educational events are geared toward motivated students who are looking to grow as performers through direct learning opportunities with The Cavaliers' world-class staff of educators and members. Each GearWORKS: Summer Academy event is open to beginning, intermediate, and advanced level students focusing on brass, color guard, percussion, and woodwind performance. 


The mission of System Blue is to engage band directors, teachers, staff, designers, performers, and marching members to promote musical excellence all over the world.

System Blue Education provides an opportunity for students, educators, and fans alike to hone their performance, leadership, and teaching skills under the instruction of the finest educators in the marching arts. From intense multi-day skills camps to instrument-specific clinics and master classes, participants are able to study in a focused and enriching environment that includes performing alongside the members of today's top drum corps.

​​Music for All is one of the largest and most influential national music education organizations in support of active music making. Music for All is unique in that it combines programming at a national level with arts education advocacy. Bands of America (BOA) and Orchestra America are programs of Music for All, first founded in 1975, with a heritage in providing spectacular educational experiences and performance events for instrumental music programs and students..

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