In a year following the absence of in-person marching music activities, strong leadership will be needed more than ever as drum corps work to bring performers back together.

To help facilitate the development of corps member leaders during an unprecedented time, DCI Hall of Fame member Gene Monterastelli has worked to continue Drum Corps International’s Leaders Serving Leaders program in a new virtual format.

The program, which got its start in 2010, typically takes place as part of DCI’s annual winter business meetings, where corps members have the opportunity to get together outside of the hectic schedule of the DCI Summer Tour for a jam-packed weekend of educational sessions, discussions and team-building activities.

Monterastelli says that a group of approximately 130 corps drum majors were invited to take part in this year’s virtual sessions which have been conducted via Zoom video conference on a monthly basis since December.

“The whole format of this is very similar to what we’ve done in person at the annual seminar where the drum majors have a 15-20 min presentation on different topics before they break into small groups and talk for about 45 minutes,” Monterastelli said. “They also have access to a daily email that might include an inspirational quote, or a letter from someone in the drum corps community, or relevant articles on leadership.”

In the program’s new virtual format, much of the direction has been dictated by the drum majors themselves. Planning began last spring and summer as student leaders weighed in on what kinds of sessions and resources would best help them related to their different responsibilities within their own corps.

“When the pandemic began, we got right to work planning collaborative seminars, community discussions, and other virtual opportunities,” Music City drum major Joshua Hecht said. “(DCI CEO) Dan Acheson helped kick everything off with a virtual roundtable in May. From there, the drum majors began brainstorming and sharing useful resources to help make the virtual season as successful as possible.”

“Though we may have been apart physically, we were closer than ever socially, finding new and creative ways to persevere through this pandemic ntogether,” Hecht added. “From organizing virtual performances to ensuring the mental wellbeing of our members, the drum major community worked together to brainstorm ideas and share experiences to ensure our corps traditions and culture were able to continue.”

After a more than year-long shutdown when drum corps are just now starting to dust off instrument cases with the aim of resuming activities in some fashion this summer, the ongoing leadership seminars have provided a sense of normalcy and something for students to look forward to during an unpredictable time.

“The pandemic has made it easy to feel very disconnected and discouraged when it comes to drum corps,” Spirit of Atlanta drum major Gretchen Casel said. “Seeing and sharing with other drum majors has been an uplifting experience every month and our ability to learn and work toward a common goal is a great bonus.”

“Through challenge, leaders find opportunity,” Hecht said. “This has been one of the most transformational and impactful seasons to date and we have grown immensely because of it.

“I am excited to see the new opportunities, continued collaboration, and elevated focus on member experience brought to life from this pandemic. When the pandemic ends, we do not have to stop doing the things that helped get us through it.”

Like everyone in the marching music community, DCI’s legion of drum majors is greatly looking forward to being back on the field when it is unquestionably safe to do so.

“I’m genuinely excited to see what the creative minds of the activity paired with excited students will produce for an audience that’s gone too long without experiencing live drum corps,” Casel said.

Jim Jones Leadership Award

Named in memory of the former director of the Troopers and founding member of Drum Corps International who passed away in 1994, this scholarship award is given annually to World and Open Class drum majors who exhibit unparalleled leadership qualities.

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