This information is from the “Cavalcade of Champions ” website.
A Brief History of Drum Corps
Since the 1800’s, drum corps has been a part of the American heritage-starting with the military tradition of drum and fife corps, as known during the American Revolution, through the bugle bands of the early 1900’s, to the modern day drum and bugle corps which has evolved into the most disciplined, precise audio/visual display of musical pageantry in existence anywhere in the world.
What makes this youth activity impressive is the level of performance quality displayed in the competitive drum corps achieved by members usually between the ages of 12 and 22 years and in senior corps have some people in their seventies. The exaggerated display of semi-military marching programs, precisely coordinated with progressive, classical, modern and marching music has grown into one of the largest youth-oriented, crowd appealing activities in the United States and Canada. The competitive atmosphere has much to do with the level of quality drum corps project into their performances. No other competitive or non-competitive youth activity has so consistently attained the performance quality that is common in the average drum and bugle corps.
Many of the performers have musical backgrounds, but some of them do not. Those with no previous musical training are taught from scratch by the staff of each drum corps. The fact that each section is so superb is due to many long hours of individual practice and group rehearsals.
The competition itself is primarily a spring and summer activity for those who participate. Preparing for competition takes hundreds of hours during the winter and spring months to improve techniques and to learn and perfect the musical and marching repertoire.
In the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan, competitive drums corps number well over 2,500 units, representing approximately 250,000 boys and girls, and 90,000 to 100,000 adult staff and booster club members. This does not include several thousand non-competitive, parade drum corps, which will bring the participation level to well over the million mark.
Marching bands can range how many members there are on the field at one time. In Drum Corps, the maximum number of members is 135. In Marching bands, you usually have the Middle School, High School, or College. Drum Corps ranges in ages, 5-70+. Drum Corps is also split in categories. Cadet Corps, Junior Corps, and Senior Corps.
Another major difference is the instrumentation. Drum & Bugle Corps play on bugles whereas a marching band plays on concert instruments. This means that there are no woodwinds in Drum Corps. The corps’ are split in 3 sections: brass, guard, and percussion. Drum Corps is an experience and not just an activity. It is 7-months of winter one-weekend practices and 3 nonstop summer months of rehearsal; perfecting, performing, more perfecting, and competing. All of this is done on a football field.
Many corps’ started around the turn of the Century. Alot of their roots are with the VFW and American Legion posts. Then, the corps would march in files, and squares and march with strict military precision. NOW, the corps’ are entirely different. They are lightening fast – by the seat of your pants – in your face – edge of your chair – type drills, combined with classical, jazz, and pop music scores that are usually played by symphonies and other professionals.