Drum and bugle corps from around the country are joining forces for a competition and performance at Stewart Stadium on Tuesday, July 3, presented by Drum Corps International.
Corps Encore includes 12-time title winners The Blue Devils of Concord, Calif., as well as six-time world champions Santa Clara Vanguard of California. Also on the bill are the Blue Knights of Denver, the Crusaders of Boston, the Phantom Regiment of Rockford, Ill., and The Spokane Thunder and the Cascades, from Spokane, Wash., and Seattle, respectively. All will compete for regional honors and the chance to play at the DCI national finals in August.
The Corps Encore event returns to Weber State University this year after moving to Salt Lake City last season while the Stewart Stadium field was being refurbished.
"The field was actually ready in time, as it turned out, but we didn't want to take a chance of people coming from all over the country and not being able to play and made other arrangements," said George Lindstrom, calling from Denver. "We are thrilled to be back in Ogden this year."
Lindstrom and his wife Lynn volunteer with the Blue Knights and are the organizers of Corps Encore. DCI officials asked them to take over as organizers of the Ogden event about eight years ago.
"Before that, the Ogden event wasn't much promoted and did not even happen with consistency," he said. "We have worked to make this one of the better stops on the tour."
Lindstrom was a drum major and also part of the color guard in the 1950s and 1960s before becoming an event organizer.
"I have also judged and taught color guard as well for two previous corps," he said. "But these days I just help out presenting these events. I do like to say that my condition is terminal, because I am sure I will be involved one way or another with this the rest of my life."
Each competing corps today includes about 150 members each, ranging in age from 14 to 22. About 500 musicians audition for each of the corps; many attract musicians from around the world. Lindstrom says most of those chosen are at least 18 years old, as the demands of the corps life are great. Talent and discipline are key, says Lindstrom but so is being grown up enough to handle the rigors.
"Maturity is important, and a 19-year-old will likely have more of what it takes so far as that than some of the younger kids," he said. "The demands really are fairly brutal."
Auditions take place each November and December, with the core of the corps decided by the first of each year. Musicians are then required to participate in a weekend's worth of rehearsals once a month through May; members from elsewhere must fly in.
After Memorial Day, out-of-towners must join the group full-time to prepare for the eight weeks of touring and competing. Ten to 12 hours of rehearsals daily ensue, until the corps hits the road. Then the band travels much like an army, traveling by bus convoy and camping out on gym floors in sleeping bags.
"The demand level on the individual performers is very high, too," said Lindstrom. "We start each day with exercise and stretching and physical therapy. If anyone has a sore ankle or whatever, we take care of them, prior to hours of rehearsals."
The staff as a whole is key to success as well, said Lindstrom.
"Staff designs the show, teach it, clean it up, ready it for performance," he said. "There are a lot of people behind the scene -- physical therapists, nutritionists making menus, four to six people just doing meals every day for the corps, choreographers and arrangers."
Money is also key to training and traveling with these large armies of talent. Lindstrom says that cash flow for most of the participating corps can run from $800,000 to $1.5 million a season.
Drum and bugle corps have existed at least since the Middle Ages, when armies used music to communicate over long distances.
"We are built for the outdoors and have no problem being heard," said Lindstrom. "That is one thing that made such groups useful in warfare."
World War I musicians returning home from the front were the ones who started drum corps around the country.
"It started casually," Lindstrom said. "One band from a VFW hall would take on another. Then it really kicked into gear after World War II."
Lindstrom said he marks the golden age of drum corps as the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"At that time, there were about 1,200 drum corps around the country," he said. "The numbers have dwindled significantly -- both because it takes more money than ever to do it right, and also it has become fiercely competitive."
But even if there aren't as many corps as there once were, Lindstrom said he has seen the quality skyrocket in recent years.
"When I started this activity, we took kids off the street, and taught them from the ground up," he said. "Now we get these kids with amazing abilities to work with right off. The level now is better than I could have ever imagined. And the entertainment level, as helped by the staffs, just keeps getting better, too.
"You think you're good this year? You better get even better next, just to keep up."