When Drum Corps International caps its whirlwind national tour in Indianapolis, it will mark a homecoming of sorts for a number of performers and instructors from Fort Wayne.
This newspaper spoke with several of those participants.
• Jacari Banks, a 2015 graduate of Homestead High School, is on the field with the Phanton Regiment, of Rockford, Ill.
• Geoff Goelz serves as color guard instructor for the Legends, of Kalamazoo, Mich. Goelz will become the color guard director at Homestead High School this fall, while still contributing to design at Carroll and East Noble high schools. Goelz is a graduate of Heritage High School.
• Taylor Healy, a graduate of Wayne High School, is marching for the third year with the Legends.
• Jonathan Meader, who is leaving Homestead after several years as color guard director, is a dance and body movement adviser to The Crossmen, of San Antonio, Texas.
• Bryen Warfield, the new assistant band director at Homestead High School, is teaching with the Bluecoats, of Canton, Ohio. The Bluecoats are the defending world champions.
DCI shows feature the musicality, pageantry, precision and themes of traditional marching bands, but without woodwind instruments. Unlike the even larger groups that compete in Indy with Bands of America, each drum corps is limited to 150 performers.
Open Class units compete Aug. 7 and 8 at Michigan City. Then the attention turns to Indianapolis for a week of activities culminating in the DCI World Championship Finals at 4:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12.
Performers and staff participate in hours of rehearsal each day. Each performer pays a fee for the right to tour, learn and compete on the national level.
“This is my first year in Drum Corps,” said Banks, formerly of Homestead. “It’s a pretty packed day. For the first month of spring training we got up at 7 and had an hour for breakfast and then practiced until 12 or so, and then an hour for lunch, and then we would go back to practicing until 6. Then a lunch break and then we would practice for the remainder of the night, from around 7 to 9 p.m. Lights-out would be around 11.”
Banks marched with the Homestead band for four years. He said he has always been a fan of DCI. “Just being around everyone who has the same passion that I do, it’s definitely worth the hard work,” he said.
Banks attends Indiana State University, where he studies aviation. “I do want to keep up with music, because I’ve been playing trumpet for almost 10 years now,” he said.
Goelz marks his fourth year with the Legends, his second as color guard supervisor. He marched with the Cavaliers of Rosemont, Ill., in 2008 and 2009. The corps was national bronze medalist in 2008.
This past school year, he coached the Carroll High School winter guard to first place in Class A in the Indiana High School Color Guard Association. He served with Carroll for 10 years. During his brief break between high school band years, he’s busy with another brand of band. “Honestly it’s just a lot of the activities and a lot of performing,” he explained. “It’s good experience getting to be with 150 other people who you just met and you get to perform in these huge venues and stadiums. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing.”
The Legends has 32 in the color guard. “It’s fun because they’re pretty dedicated,” he said. “They’re spending their whole summer doing color guard and they work really hard. It’s fun to watch them grow as performers throughout the season and see them come back the next year and take on a leadership role. Seeing them mature as individuals is pretty awesome.”
“Legends is an Open Class drum corps, so they have their own finals in Michigan City and last year they were the bronze medalists in Open Class,” he said. “And after that the Open Class corps go to compete with the World Class Corps, and the last two years they were semifinalists.”
Healy, a 2015 Wayne High School graduate, is in her third year with the Legends color guard. She said a typical rehearsal day contains two or three blocks, each spanning three to four hours, depending on the travel schedule. “First block for color guard is just stretching/dancing and then we go and join the rest of the corps for visual rehearsal. And then second block is usually just dedicated to us cleaning the show, fixing things, etc., and third block usually we have an hour warmup and then we all go to full ensemble with everyone else,” she said. “On show days we wake up early, have one to two blocks depending on the time span we have until performance, then we shower and get ready and head to the performance site.” Then it’s warmup, uniform and “go perform out hearts out,” she said.
Healy said she had to pass up a high school color guard teaching post this summer to make way for DCI. “I plan on being a part of the color guard community for a while,” she said. “It’s not even a hobby for me anymore, it’s my life. DCI has assisted me a lot. It’s given me so many amazing experiences and it’s definitely taught me a lot about myself and what hard work truly is.”
She offered a tip for anyone who wants to march in DCI. “It’s going to be the hardest thing you do,” she said. “You’re going to want to give up within the first couple days, but don’t. Spring training will be very, very tough and you will cry and break down. But as soon as tour comes things get a little easier, so just hold on.”
She said anyone who wants to audition for DCI should make the effort. “Even if you don’t make it, audition camps are so great. You’re going to learn so much about yourself. And if you get contracted, take it,” she said. “I always have to tell myself that this only comes to certain people and you only get to march for so many years …”
Meader directed the Homestead Winter Guard that took first place in Open Class at the Indiana High School Color Guard Association finals in Indianapolis in 2017. He also consulted with the 2017 Carroll indoor percussion squad that took second place in Scholastic A in the Indiana Percussion Association.
In addition to his work with the drum line, he does choreography for the musicians of the Crossmen. This is his fourth position with an elite drum corps.
“I stay involved in DCI because it helps keep me relevant,” he said. “It’s the most forward of the activities. They’re great kids and they’re paying $3,600 to do it.”
He will cut back on his commitments this fall. “I’m just doing some other things,” he said. “I’m teaching yoga and traveling and teaching more stints with the Crossmen.”
Warfield works with the brass staff, primarily the tuba section, of the world-champion Bluecoats. This is his first year on staff. He also marched with the corps from 2007-2009.
He aged out of marching in 2010, but spent five summers with the brass staff of DCI’s Santa Clara, Calif., Vanguard.
“It’s still music education and so for me it keeps me on my toes as a director because the talent level of the membership is so high, some of the best in the world,” he said. “It’s very quick. It forces me to really think hard and find new ways to say certain things.”
Warfield graduated from the University of Louisville, with a degree in tuba performance. He worked with the marching band staff of North Hardin High School in Radcliffe, Ky., for three years before going to The Ohio State University in the fall of 2014 for his master’s in conducting. He graduated in May 2016 and invested one year as assistant band director at Whiteland Community High School before taking the Homestead post. He will be assistant band dirctor and orchestra director.
He works among outstanding marchers and instructors, he said. “Some of them are some of the best in the activity, so it’s a chance for me to step back and learn. I keep a note on my phone of catch phrases and exercises and really anything to share it with my students back home.”
Drum Corps International held festivals at the University of Saint Francis in the summers of 2015 and 2016, but will not return to Fort Wayne this summer.
Tickets for the Open Class preliminaries and finals at Michigan City start at $20.
Tickets for the World Class finals at Indianapolis start at $39.
See the full schedule and buy tickets at dci.org.