The Making of DCI Minnesota

After months of planning, Drum Corps International is setting up a competition next summer unlike any the state of Minnesota has ever known.

When Brent Turner, president of the Youth in Music organization, first considered the possibility of a Drum Corps International (DCI) competition coming to Minnesota over a year and a half ago, he wondered whether such an effort could realistically work. Organizing the logistics of several unique parties could be difficult, and the summer schedule was already tight with other plans. Still more worrisome, the construction of TCF Bank Stadium, the arena of choice, was far from finished at the University of Minnesota. Even when the building was complete, it would soon have a number of other events to worry about.

Months later, to Turner’s delight, the details all began to sort themselves out, and the ripeness of the opportunity before him was impeccable. “It really was the stars aligning on a lot of projects that a lot of us had been working on,” he says.

Now, Turner and a host of others are starting to see the fruits of their labors. A press release on Nov. 20 announced that 24 corps from around the country would appear in Minneapolis for a DCI competition next summer. The recently finished TCF Bank Stadium will likely host the event, called DCI Minnesota, on July 17, 2010 from noon until around 10 p.m. The competition will mark the largest drum corps event ever to be held in Minnesota and the first time all of the corps come together in 2010.

“There are about 17 World Class, two senior corps and about five Open Class corps,” Turner says.

The Stars Align

Although the stars ultimately aligned, organizing DCI Minnesota required a lot of work from Turner and others. One of the main reasons it worked out for Turner was Youth in Music’s involvement with sponsoring and helping set up the System Blue Marching Band Skills Camp. The camp invites high school and college band students, directors and staff to work on marching, playing and performance skills with the Santa Clara Vanguard and The Blue Devils, current world champions. The camp estimates between 100 and 500 participants and is scheduled to take place Wednesday through Saturday leading up to what is now the date of the DCI competition. The System Blue camp drew attention to Minneapolis as a potential site for a competition.

“DCI wanted to continue to grow their demographic in the upper Midwest,” Turner says. “This is one of the only places all over the United States where ticket sales have stabilized and/or are increasing in the economy.”

He added that TCF is the perfect outdoor stadium for a DCI competition, and an extra weekend in the 2010 summer schedule made the event seem much more plausible.

Turner is currently working with the Minnesota Brass corps as a Tour Event Partner under DCI. Minnesota Brass has developed a local committee to organize the competition, says Melissa Berg, manager of event operations at DCI. They will be working to promote the event, provide housing for the corps and tend to other managerial details for the day of the event.

No stranger to the marching arts himself, Turner has been involved in marching groups since 1983, in many cases playing the role of leader, director or drill writer. He originally wanted to have a Youth in Music marching band show at TCF in September and had contacted Athletics Director Joel Maturi at the University of Minnesota about 19 months ago as digging began for construction of the stadium. At this point, building managers had yet to even be hired for TCF.

“The timing of the September event just really wasn’t a good fit for them because they were just trying to get the stadium built and all the kinks worked out,” Turner says. “But my connection with Derek Hillestad [operations manager of TCF] over there allowed the timing of the DCI event to be perfect. They had most things sort of figured out from the fall season and were looking toward other revenue.”

Hopeful Predictions

DCI Minnesota’s organizers hope to see a large audience at the event, and expect around 6,000 people, Turner says. He has seen interest from current marching bands, former participants and the general public in areas mostly around the Twin Cities but sometimes extending out as far as Milwaukee. One friend even says he would fly in from California.

But regardless of where they come from, more fans will be able to fit in the stands than they predict will come. About 12,500 seats are on the “concert side” of TCF, Turner says, which is the slice of stands all the viewers would need to be sitting in to see the show. There are a couple hundred more in the sky boxes.

As a proponent for Youth in Music’s goals, Turner saw the DCI competition as exactly what this region of the country needed. “We’re kind of starved for drum corps up here,” he says.

He added that Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps have held a lot of camps in the area before and found that there wasn’t a lot of interest in drum corps from children in the area.

Part of the reason for the decreased interest in drum corps is the national tour rather than local focus. “There were a lot of drum corps in this area,” Turner says. “Like the St. Croix Rivermen, the St. Paul Scouts … a lot back in the ‘50s and ‘60s and early ‘70s. I think there will be a lot of that crowd that will come out to this event.”

Although the upper Midwest lacks the involvement it used to have, several noteworthy shows do still happen. “The major show we’ve had is Drum Beauty, which is in Stillwater,” Turner says. “That show is still happening on June 27.”

Later on in the summer will be smaller shows, mostly performed by senior corps like Minnesota Brass, Inc., Govenaires, and the Chippewa Valley Brigade in Eau Claire, Wis.

DCI remains optimistic about the turnout. “With many nearby high school music programs, winter guards, drum lines and Minnesota Brass, you can expect to see a large gathering of fans cheering in the stands come this July,” Berg says.

She added that DCI Minnesota is one of the largest events the organization has planned for the summer.

Currently, DCI sponsors are funding the competition, but organizers are looking for local sponsors to help manage the costs, Turner says. Organizers are likely to ask the local Best Buy and Target stores as well the University of Minnesota Marching Band, which performs its home football games at TCF Bank Stadium, for sponsorship.

“We really want [U of M] involved because obviously it’s their home, and we want them to get a lot of good exposure,” Turner says.

He added that it would be a good recruiting tool both for the marching band and for the U of M itself.

Furthering the Mission

For Turner, the event has allowed him to further his organization’s mission. Youth in Music is a musical arts organization dedicated to promoting musical events and education in the upper Midwest. It began in 2005 by establishing its own annual marching band competition, which has continued every autumn for the last five years.

While Turner has gone beyond his role in Youth in Music to see that DCI Minnesota became a reality, many of the organization’s objectives are still served by his efforts. The DCI competition will bring a new magnitude of show to the state of Minnesota, and organizers with DCI, TCF and Minnesota Brass are all waiting to see what will become of their efforts.

“Hopefully this will inspire the next generation to continue to be a part of it,” Turner says.

About the Author

Kevin Coss is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis. He recently spent nearly two years as a staff writer reviewing upcoming indie rock albums at 30music.com. After the site’s closure at the end of 2009, Kevin continued on to freelance writing, keeping music as a primary subject of interest. He was an active clarinetist in “The Pride of Minnesota”, the University of Minnesota’s marching band, for three years.

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