An Introduction to Drum Corps International

Marina McLerran

Editor, McLerran Journal

Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX


The American tradition of marching band in schools stems from the ceremonial performances of military musicians in the form of concerts, parades, and small marching drills. The art takes on many forms throughout the fifty states, but generally involves the performance of live (memorized) music by musicians in motion with colorful flags and dancers (color guard) integrated into the drill. In the majority of cases, marching band is the focus of band programs in the fall semester only, but for students who desire to perfect their craft during the spring and summer also, there are numerous opportunities sponsored by Drum Corps International (DCI); “marching music’s major league.” 

Established in 1971, Drum Corps International (DCI) was originally made up of only thirteen corps throughout North America. Currently, the organization sponsors “numerous programs around the globe” as well as supporting other musical projects like SoundSport performance ensembles and DrumLine Battle teams. The mission of DCI “is to bring the life-enriching benefits and enjoyment of marching music performing arts to more people worldwide […] by creating a stage for participating organizations to engage in education, competition, entertainment, and the promotion of individual growth” (DCI). The core values of Drum Corps International, according to their website, are pursuing excellence, encouraging teamwork, visionary leadership, commitment to the arts, and respect for others. 

Annual Drum Corps International Tour

Between the months of June and August, thousands of student musicians nation-wide will participate in the annual Drum Corps International Tour and competition. During this eight-week period, members of the various corps will spend the majority of their time rehearsing, traveling by bus, and performing in showcases around the country. The corps are divided into three divisions based on program size and amount of traveling; World Class, Open Class, and International. Participants are required to be between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one and must be capable of performing at the expert-level. Traditionally, corps instrumentation has been limited to brass and percussion only, but there has been the surprising addition of vocalists in recent seasons by premiere corps like the Bluecoats with their 2018 feature soloist, Olivia Hayter (Potter).

At the conclusion of the tour, from August 9-11th, both the Open and World Class corps will compete in the DCI National Championship in Indianapolis, IN. By winning this title, a corps earns what is widely considered the highest honor for a marching ensemble. Champions in the last five years include the Blue Devils (2017, 2015, 2014), Bluecoats (2016), and Carolina Crown (2013). The ceremonies also include an important nod to the many individuals besides the performers who make the DCI experience possible (administrators, judges, instructors, drill-writers, etc.) with special time devoted to inducting new members to the DCI Hall of Fame. After the 2018 induction ceremony, where Mr. Jim Coates (Executive Director, Carolina Crown) and Mr. Ken Turner (DCI Brass Caption Chair and Judge Administrator) will be honored, there will be a total of one hundred and twenty-eight honorees since the first in 1985.

Whether students desire to hone their musical abilities or simply to tour the country, the annual DCI tour is an amazing opportunity for those who are able. Participants will be pushed harder than ever before, forge life-long friendships, and potentially discover their career path. Employment opportunities with Drum Corps International include a variety of both seasonal and full-time work and will be posted here.


Keep up with current competition standings on the DCI Scores page. Subscribe to FloMarching to stream DCI competitions live on your computer or purchase tickets to watch the championship in theaters, sponsored by Fathom Events. 


Visit the DCI Auditions page for current information about performance or volunteer opportunities. 




Drum Corps International. (2018). About Drum Corps International. Web. 21 July, 2018.



Drum Corps International. (2018). Auditions. Web. 21 July, 2018.



Boo, Michael. (2018). Two to be inducted to DCI Hall of Fame, Class of 2018. Drum Corps

          International. Web. 21 July, 2018. <



Potter, Dan. (2018). Two of 2018’s dynamic soloists. DCI’s Field Pass Podcast. Drum Corps

          International. Web. 21 July, 2018. <