Summer Music Games 2000 marks the 25th year of the DCI Division II/III community. And what has evolved in the quarter century is an entertainment medium not that far removed from Division I corps. Unfortunately, as this musical commonwealth grows and their performance maturity increases, certain myths continue their grip on these fine organizations.
So, lets take a moment for closer examination of a handful of the more prevalent misconceptions. First, the Division II and III arena is a breeding ground for Division I corps. Yes, there are corps directly or indirectly providing that role. The Blue Devils B and C Corps, Vanguard Cadets and the Colts Cadets come immediately to mind. There's also other corps that see this as their cross to bear and, consequently, accept it as a way of life. But for the most part, these organizations are stand-alone corps with a passion and tenacity to spur their own growth and success. Armed with programs and policies designed to entice members to stay beyond age-out, many enjoy a loyalty that permeates all levels of staff and support with generations of corps alumni.
Next, Division I is the ultimate goal of all Division II/III Corps. Granted, this is the long-range goal for a number of organizations. And yes, the Blue Knights, Glassmen, Kiwanis Kavaliers, Les Etoiles, Pioneer, and Tarheel Sun have made the successful crossover in the past quarter century. Interestingly, there are many groups quite content right where they are. What is really waiting on the other side: a pot of gold, the mother lode? As JW Koester pointed out recently at a Division II/III directors conference, any thoughts of inheriting more money by coming to Division I is a fleeting reality. There's a cost to entering the upper division arena. Corps must face the mental and physical challenges of heavier tour and rehearsal requirements, as well as the chronic anguish of mounting upkeep expenses.
Finally, Division II and especially Division III provide a training ground for weak or non-musicians. Yes, there are corps who offer that service and many others incorporating fledging musicians into their mature lines. More importantly, though, understand that Division II/III corps still subscribe to drum corps' original charter of community-based organizations. And adhering to that tenet often means creating musicians from scratch. Fortunately, II/III corps are blessed with caption heads and techs who have the divine ability and superhuman patience to turn these kids into world-class performers. If you find that hard to believe, you might want to ask Kiwanis Kavaliers, Les Etoiles, Tarheel Sun, and Troopers what it's like to lose to Division II and III corps. Last year's DCI Quarterfinals saw the Patriots (Division II Champions) score 3.8 points over the lowest placed Division I corps and the Mandarins (Division III Champions) enjoy a gap of 1.2 points over the same corps. What's more, in previous years the gap has been as much as seven points!
Too often the II/III community finds itself in the same boat as Rodney Dangerfield -- looking for a little respect. Once referred to as the "baby corps," these organizations have come along ways. Despite the myths carried with them the past quarter century, there is a pride and sense of accomplishment that has also grown over the years. And to those of you who say the Golden Age of drum corps died years ago: maybe take two or three steps back, because its been here all along.