Drum Corps Fantasy Draft – Final pick

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With the final pick of the Drum Corps Fantasy Draft, General F. Fect Drum Corps selects…

Sean Vega – Percussion Caption Head

Confused? Surprised? I can hear it now.

“He’s not currently a caption head for any drum corps.”

You are absolutely correct. I only said I could not pull from a drum corps I have already drafted a staff member from. I never said I wouldn’t venture outside of drum corps.

During the 2018 WGI Finals, Michael Gaines tweeted out that we should be paying more attention to the innovations happening within WGI Percussion. There should be no doubt of the impact WGI is having on drum corps. Michael Gaines would likely relish the idea of having someone on staff with that sort of background and that is exactly why I went this direction.

Vega is the Program Coordinator and Battery Arranger for RCC Percussion. RCC is the reigning WGI Percussion World Champion with 5 other gold medals and who has never placed any lower than fourth in the activity. This isn’t to say he lacks any drum corps experience. Vega marched with the Blue Devils tenor line from 1994 till 1997 and joined their staff the following year through 2010. During his time with the Blue Devils, they won six world championships and four DCI High Percussion Awards.

I spent a few hours watching several indoor percussion groups to find a guy that I thought would be the best fit and bring another dimension to the design team. I wanted someone who could bring that element from the indoor activity, but someone who can be counted on to develop a technical clinic with the percussion section and has also had a taste of the overall design process.

Sean Vega fills both needs. Look at the shows RCC has produced while Vega has been on staff. He brings that unique element I want to see how he influences the design process and rounds out this rock star staff.

Drum Corps Fantasy Draft
First pick – Michael Gaines – Artistic Director/Program Coordinator
Second pick – Matt Harloff – Brass Caption Head
Third pick – Lindsey Vento – Visual Caption Head
Fourth pick – Michael Townsend

Drum Corps Fantasy Draft – Fourth Pick

With the fourth pick in the drum corps fantasy draft, General F. Fect Drum Corps selects…

Michael Townsend – Color Guard Caption Head

For those who know me personally, they would have probably thought that this was the most difficult decision. There are so many incredibly talented people who are worthy of this selection, however, to me this was a no-brainer.

As color guard caption head, Townsend has led two separate color guards to capture the George Zingali award for best color guard, including Boston Crusaders first ever caption award. BAC’s guard was transformed overnight in Wicked games under his tutelage. They performed more confidently and with a lot more authority and that trend continued the following year in S.O.S.

Remember when The Academy made finals for the first time with Drum Corpse Bride? Townsend was their program coordinator and is also the program coordinator for 2018 Bands of America Grand National Champion Carmel High School. Oh and he is doing all of this while working with the color guards for Avon High School, Center Grove High School and Northview High School. All of which have had a strong showing at both Bands of America Grand Nationals and in Winter Guard International. Those programs combine over 16 WGI Scholastic World Class medals while Townsend was also on staff for two Independent World Class championships with Pride of Cincinnati and now six BOA Grand National Championships including the aforementioned 2018 Grand Champions Carmel High School.

Excellence follows Townsend whose pedigree is impeccable which should be no surprise as he has performed for and worked with some of the best designers in the activity including Michael Gaines, Keith Potter, Andy Toth and Adam Sage. His color guards are notoriously professional, technically sound and his innovative and fresh approach to color guard is second to few. Just watch a few of Carmel’s guards. They perform way above the average high school guard.

That makes him the perfect choice to lead the color guard on this staff.

The final pick for caption head comes your way on Monday. I think may be a bit of a surprise.

Drum Corps Fantasy Draft
First pick – Michael Gaines – Artistic Director/Program Coordinator
Second pick – Matt Harloff – Brass Caption Head
Third pick – Lindsey Vento – Visual Caption Head

Drum Corps Fantasy Draft – Third pick

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With the third pick in the draft… General F. Fect Drum Corps selects…

Lindsey Vento – Visual Caption Head

This selection was, perhaps, the most difficult decision of all because there is a vast amount people who easily qualify for this role.

Lindsey Vento serves as the Artistic Director and Program Coordinator for The Academy. She has been involved with music education and the pageantry arts for almost 20 years as an instructor, designer and artistic director in WGI, BOA, including 2018 Grand National Finalist Blue Springs High School, and, of course, DCI with The Academy. If you missed their show, Blue Springs High School was quite something to behold. Vento helped create an creating, yet daring and energetic

One of the reasons I chose Vento was because she also has a theater background with the Lyric Opera of Kansas. Why is that important? One of the little-known facts about Michael Gaines is that he also has experience working in theater. There are some similarities between what Gaines helped design for Babylon and what Vento did with Academic. Both provided unique staging in their shows but also found an effective way to incorporate the use of props to enhance the design.

Vento is someone who I think design junkies like myself should keep an eye on and I would be very curious to see what sort of design elements she, Gaines and my next pick could dream up…

Speaking of… the next pick is coming your way Friday!

Drum Corps Fantasy Draft
First pick Michael Gaines – Artistic Director/Program Coordinator

Second pick – Matt Harloff – Brass Caption Head

Drum Corps Fantasy Draft – Second Pick

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With the second pick in the Drum Corps Fantasy Draft General F. Fect Drum Corps selects…

Matt Harloff
Brass Caption Head

Harloff, a Yamaha Performing Artist and member of the DCI Hall of Fame, has been the brass caption head for Carolina Crown since 2003 and an Assistant Band Director for Avon High School, a perennial contender in Bands of America and Grand National Champions in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

During his time as caption head, Crown’s brass received the Jim Ott Memorial Award or Excellence in Brass five times between 2009 and 2016. Harloff was a member of the Star of Indiana from 1989 through 1995 including as drum major in 1993, the corps final year of competition with Drum Corps International.

I am no brass expert (though I did play percussion, tuba and baritone), but it doesn’t take much to tell that the Crown brass has been a well oiled machine under Harloff’s leadership. Jim Ott award(s) aside, all you have to do is listen to the Crown brass to know how dominant that section has become. My feelings for Beast are well known, but even I have to tip my cap to the quality, balance, boldness, and power of their sound no doubt has had the same impact at Avon High School.

While I do feel he is a fantastic choice to lead the brass section, I would not want the brass arranger to follow. Yes, the arranger has certainly helped in building one of the best brass sections in the entire activity, but… well… there are better and I would want Harloff to seek them out as he builds his brass staff.

There are plenty of fantastic candidates that could have been drafted for this position, but Harloff has been a major contributor to Crown becoming a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with. Their rise to prominence is a direct reflection of his work. Those qualities alone give me enough reason to want him taking the reigns of my brass section.

Pick number three coming your way on Wednesday… who will it be?

Drum Corps Fantasy Draft
First pick Michael Gaines – Artistic Director/Program Coordinator

Things we don’t want to see in 2019… or ever

As innovative as some drum corps can be, there are some in the activity who are also guilty of poor design and use along with recycling and over using. Unless a group has found a unique or innovative use, there are things we just cannot endure for yet another season. In some cases, there are some things we need to hit the pause button on and others we need to just delete for all eternity.

No more terrible or dysfunctional props

Santa Clara Vanguard for a long time have been one of the most innovative in drum corps. The last few years in particular Vanguard, along with the Bluecoats, taught us the importance of proper design, function and the integration of props in a program. It wasn’t just merely that their props were constructed well, they found ways to integrate props into their show and use them to serve a function in the overall design.

Then you have some that, let’s face it, took a sloppy even lazy approach. On the DrumCorpsAF podcast, I pointed out that Carolina Crown, a former world champion and a corps we have come to have very high expectations for, took a less than stellar approach with their props this past season.

The props, a series of bones shaped structures and a see-saw, were meant to represent the “beast” their show centered around. The bones in particular were obviously cheaply constructed and did nothing to help add clarity to their the approach they wanted to take with their concept and served absolutely no function. Instead, I found that the props further confused their design.

The future of drum corps is clear. Props must now meet three criteria: a professional appearance, functionality and add an element to the overall design. The days of we are just going to set these right here and do our thing are now in the past. It is essential that props are as much of a performer as the corps members are. They must add dimension and, especially, clarity to the design. Crown’s props last season were more of a distraction than served any meaningful purpose.

Sure there are lots of corps who could have also done better with props. Do we even want to start with Phantom Regiments modified monkey bar props? Yes finances are always an issue. But here is a lesson my mom taught me a long long ago… if you can’t do it right… don’t do it at all.

No more false advertising

How many corps last season did you watch a show and end up asking yourself “What was that?” We definitely had plenty of head scratchers, including Phantom Regiment, the Crossmen and Crown. Quit trying so hard. It is ok to be abstract in the activity, but not so much to the point where if you have to take to social media, YouTube or the DCI broadcast to explain what your show is about or trying to accomplish for anyone to understand… then your design is a failure.

Also, not everyone can pull off the role of being a storyteller. Sometimes it is best to just have an basic idea or concept and run with it. Some corps just need to quit trying to hard.

Other things I don’t want to see…

  • No more hideous uniforms. I am all for bold and daring, but no one wants to be inflicted with 12 minutes of eyesores.
  • No more round stages… unless you found a way to really innovate how they are used, I think we have seen enough round stages for a while.
  • No more fire. I love you Boston Crusaders, but I think we have officially reached overkill status on that for a while.
  • Stop overusing trombones. They are among the bottom feeders of my favorite instruments as it is and at times their use is just downright annoying.
  • Pump the brakes on New World Symphony. I was never the biggest fan of the piece and I’ve heard about all I can take for at least a decade. If I’m being honest, I would be happy to never hear it again.
  • No more choirs. I think it is time the Cadets choir took a little summer vacation. Yes, they are quite good, but now your using them because you can, not because it adds anything to the show.
  • No more over relying on your color guard to handle the bulk load of performing while the corps proper has a 2 minute park and blow session – every 2 minutes.

Drum Corps Fantasy Draft – First pick

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With the first pick in the Drum Corps Fantasy Draft General F. Fect Drum Corps selects…

Michael Gaines
Artistic Director/Program Coordinator

The first pick of any draft is meant to set the cornerstone of your program. This person leads the entire staff in the construction and design of the show. The artistic director/program coordinator is ultimately responsible for the final product and there are few that I would trust more with that responsibility than Michael Gaines, an inductee into both the WGI and DCI Hall of Fames.

I know a lot of you who follow me are not one bit surprised by this pick. Nor should it be. I first fell in love with Gaines approach and style back in the early 90’s when he started an independent winter guard named Escapade, a group I continue to admire to this very day.

Need more convincing? Success has followed him where ever you look. DCI. WGI. BOA. You name it. Here is just a sample of his resume:

  • We just witnessed the greatest show that has ever stepped foot on a DCI field with Babylon. I still defy anyone to prove otherwise. It is no accident that it was Gaines first year as Artistic Director and what SCV accomplished in 2018.
  • He was a member of the design staff for all 7 of The Cavaliers World Championship titles. In over a decade writing drill for The Cavaliers, the corps won 5 World Championships and had an average placement of… 2nd.
  • He was also involved with Carmel High School Marching Band who, oh by the way, just won Bands of America – again.
  • He has worked with numerous programs in WGI, particularly with Pride of Cincinnati who has won multiple championships in WGI. If you want a real treat of his work indoor check out Escapade’s The Doors; Hydrogen Jukebox (both some of my all time favorites). Pride of Cincinnati’s Alcatraz, and it would be a total failure not to mention one of the greatest shows to ever grace a WGI floor Everybody Hurts
  • .

  • He has helped create some of the most iconic, innovative and thrilling shows in DCI including shows like Niagara Falls (2000); Four Corners (2001); Frameworks (2002); Machine (2006) and, naturally, Babylon (2018).

Gaines designs are always exploring. They are always pushing the boundaries for what is possible in pageantry. However, they are always balanced and well thought out. He is arguably the best designer in the activity and that is the kinda guy you want leading your program.

The second pick in the draft coming Monday!

Drum Corps Fantasy Draft

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By now, most corps likely have their staffs solidified for the 2019 season and hard at work building a program for the 2019 season.

There is no shortage of talent at the top of each caption in the activity. Many of those leading their respective captions are not only developing young talent but also innovating the pageantry arts to new heights.

Whenever a new pro sports team is entering its league, often they have a supplemental draft where they pull existing talent into the fold from other teams. Let’s say I were to start the General F. Fect Drum Corps as a new World Class Corps for the 2019 season. Since the corps would be a new member, a draft of sorts would take place to fill their staffing needs. What would that staff look like?

I decided to have a little fun in the offseason and draft my own rock star staff. However, as with anything, there are rules. So I am setting a few rules for myself to follow:

  • I cannot draft more than one caption head from the same corps. This does not include technicians and other assistants as each caption head would likely want to bring his or her own people into work on their team.
  • This is a staff that has to have a stylistic synergy. For instance, while they probably could adapt, how well would a Brass caption head of a corps known for using an abundance of classical music work with a percussion caption head who has mostly worked from a jazz medium? Could work, but in all likelihood, a match in medium would probably be the better fit.

So the question is, what do I want from my staff?

First and foremost, I want a staff that has proven it can construct a solid program while pushing innovation in the pageantry arts. I want my staff to have a solid instructional background that can identify and develop talent, brings out the most in their performance and create an environment the members feel welcome in and enjoy the total experience.

And with the first pick in the Drum Corps Fantasy Draft, General F. Fect Drum Corps selects… well you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out.