One of my favorite times of the year is right before the start of the drum corps season when corps start to release details about their shows. Why? Because I am just a geek like that. It is like a game for me. What the hell are they going to do with this?
There are corps out there that make it really difficult to decipher exactly what they may have planned once they announce their show title or musical selections. Some release a full storyboard. Then there are corps who, because of their history, follow a typical pattern with their program year after year.
Before 2016, one of those corps that are typically obvious in one way or another is the Madison Scouts. Fair or unfair, they have been pretty consistent with regards to what judges and fans can expect to see and hear on the field. They were going to play jazz, and they were going to be kind of vanilla visually. It was a rare occasion to see them take the fork in the road to try new things and diverge from their formula.
Madison has had decent results when they tried to be different in the past. The best example of this was in 1997 and the highest ranking they would achieve since then. They were fifth that year at World Championships. Their show that year was “The Pirates of Lake Mendota.” It also happens to be my favorite Madison Scout show of all time. It was one of the rare shows by the Scouts where I felt like they put a conscious effort into the design instead of “hey we’re just gonna go out here, play a little music and make some pretty pictures on the field.” Translation: vanilla.
I saw that show live in Nashville, Tn. that year and remember hearing rumbles from the Scout “faithful” about the show. I didn’t understand the reaction then, and I certainly don’t understand why there was such a hyper-overreaction by the same dinosaurs reportedly had towards “Heart and Soul.”
While I have pointed out time and time again that there was without a doubt some major design flaws with “Heart and Soul,” it wasn’t THAT BAD. Hopefully, at some point, I will detail what changes I would have made to the show. I have not, however, explained why I have been so defensive of Madison this past season.
I will start this defense by asking a straightforward question to help make my point. When Madison announced that “Heart and Soul” was their 2018 program, what was the first thing you likely thought the show was going to be about? If you are like me, you likely said something along the lines of “ok looks like they are doing something about love and romance.” The news of having a female guest member kind of solidified that theory. Essentially, I was expecting the unsurprising and vanilla approach we have come to expect.
I was legitimately surprised – in a good way – the first time I saw the show. It was such a total departure from the obvious Scouts programs of the past. It was a necessary departure if the corps had any intentions of joining modern day drum corps, and, if the reports are true, one that the judges actually said needed to take place.
The Scouts ended up not having the season they had hoped for and anytime a corps with their history is knocked out of the final round is always heartbreaking. When any organization doesn’t live up to expectations changes and other corrective actions are likely to follow.
The corps announced that a new design staff is in process of being formed beginning with the hire of James Elvord as the corps new Artistic Director.
“This is a milestone event for the Madison Scouts, and a significant step toward a new direction for our program,” said Gregg Auby, Board Chair of Forward Performing Arts in the corps release. “We are pleased that Jim has come back home and we anticipate great things from his leadership as we begin a new journey in Madison Scouts history.”
Elvord is a former member of the Scouts and also played a role as the head brass instructor and program coordinator for the corps 1975 World Championship.
Elvord, now that he has his hands on the wheel, rightfully deserves every opportunity to see what he can do with the Scouts program in 2019. I cannot help but ask that with all the high profile designers, and even those up and coming, this was the best THE Madison Scouts could find?
There is only one way I can interpret this move by the Scouts powers that be.
This response likely means that the powers that be caved to the pressure of their dinosaur alumni instead of doing what was ultimately best for the corps. These are the same dinosaurs that unleashed all hell on the staff and members all summer long to such a degree that the corps had to delete their alumni page from Facebook. The turmoil unleashed by Madison’s alumni ultimately took a toll on the members and their performance. This move also means that the corps is taking the approach of out with the new and likely in with the old heading the corps right back down the same shit different day fork in the road.
Here is my response to you dinosaurs. It’s not about you. The days of “your drum corps” is extinct. Hold on to your memories. Cherish them even, but leave them in the past. Let the Scouts evolve. “Heart and soul” wasn’t the issue in 2018. It was your hearts and souls.