By Lindsay Starr Platt
The sound of beating drums and the harmonic pitches of brass instruments filled the air Thursday night at Crusader Stadium at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB). Twelve teams of Drum Corps International (DCI) convened on the campus of UMHB to compete in DCI Central Texas before heading to San Antonio for the next competition. Hundreds of parents and fans of DCI filled one side of the stadium and watched the teams give their best performance.
“The audience is DCI fans, parents, high school students, college kids and board members,” said Jeff Pearson, Corps Director, Boston Crusaders. “We travel all over the country, sleeping in school gyms. It is great that at this stop in Belton, we get to stay in the university dorms. The kids are very excited. We travel by bus and a truck/trailer that has a full kitchen. There are 200 people and another 50 support team members. More than half the kids come back to DCI year after year.”
The Boston Crusaders was one of the 12 teams that competed Thursday night. Boston Crusaders has 150 team members that come from all over the country and the world to include Netherlands and Japan. The team members travel with the team from May 21 to the end of August.
“My family is here to see me perform tonight. No matter what you go through while on tour you have another 149 people that have your back,” said Nicholas Winkle, age 19, Austin, Boston Crusaders, third-year team member. “This program disciplines me and gives me work ethic. I will be going into music competition. I currently attend Austin Community College.”
Winkle’s parents said, “We sent a boy off three years ago and he came back a man. He is now committed and driven and developed a lifetime family of friends. Next week we will all be together in Atlanta. I remember DCI from when I was in high school and I am so glad he joined.”
Each team’s performance is graded by a panel of nine judges. Each performance is graded on the following criteria: General Effect, Visual, Music, Sub-Total and Timing & Penalties. Teams have 13 minutes to show off what they got. It is said to be, “Like Broadway on a football field” teams will have theatrical performances that include costumes, make-up, and props.
“This is his second year doing this. Matthew has been playing since seventh grade and was the top drummer at his high school in Highland Park. They start trying out in November and they are trying to get to the U.S. Finals in Indy,” said Beth West, parent, Dallas.
The team that came in First Place on Thursday night was Genesis a drum and bugle corps team based out of Austin. Genesis originally started in the Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg in hopes to give youth in that area to perform in drum corps. Genesis got their first real uniforms this year and many of its team members still come from the Rio Grande Valley.
Anna Eberhart from the Boston Crusaders has suddenly found herself “famous”.
“She went viral! A video of her playing the synthesizer keyboard was uploaded to Reddit of her performing and making crazy faces. She has had over 3 million views already on “Possibly Possessed Pit” the video on Reddit,” said Pearson.
“The Madison Scouts were awesome!” said Manny Neault, Killeen resident, Madison Scouts Alumni.
After the competition, team members headed back to their buses and also for a late-night meal. The traveling kitchens make it possible to feed the musicians four meals a day. Even with plenty of meals, the work is hard and many team members often need their uniforms taken in before the season is over. Some teams were leaving that night to go to San Antonio for the next performance.
“We are staying here until Saturday morning. We will rehearse one more time and head out,” said Pearson. “We are going to have a barbecue for them on Friday night and enjoy the campus here at UMHB.”