Quality leadership is a crucial component of the drum corps activity.

For any drum corps, success musically, visually, organizationally and competitively stems from strong leadership — and often, this leadership comes from students, and more specifically, from the position of drum major.

To that end, more than 40 drum majors from across the drum corps community converged on Indianapolis in January for the annual Drum Major Leadership Summit. The educational workshop, which took place over the course of three days, is hosted as part of the DCI Annual Meeting, and is geared toward developing drum majors’ leadership qualities and strengthening their network of connections.

“You see all of these drum majors from around the activity (on the field during the summer),” Gold drum major Charlie Ly said. “But to be in the same room with them and get to meet them and learn about them as people is amazing.”

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Drum majors took part in interactive activities that emphasized key leadership characteristics.


Attendees arrived in Indianapolis on Friday, January 5, and started their weekend with introductory conversations before engaging in an ice cream social and meet-and-greet reception.

Drum majors continued their meetings Saturday and Sunday, taking part in a variety of activities and sessions related to team-building, effective communication, media training and more.

Under the organization of DCI Hall of Fame member Gene Monterastelli, motivational speaker Fran Kick and a team of former DCI drum majors, students took part in multiple hands-on activities that fostered characteristics of effective teamwork and leadership.

As part of “breakout” sessions, drum majors were able to participate in small-group discussions on a variety of topics, which were facilitated by the former drum majors.

“We do a lot of breakout rooms,” Pacific Crest drum major Bridget Barragy said. “It’s really cool, because it gives you a chance to get those one-on-one conversations going with other drum majors and see how everyone does things differently.”

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Phantom Regiment drum major Kerri McCourt (L) facilities a discussion as part of the “DCI Family Luncheon.” 


Participants also had the opportunity to grow their network within the drum corps community, not only by working together with other drum majors, but also as participants in the annual “DCI Family Luncheon.”

Randomly assigned to banquet tables of meeting attendees that ran the gamut of roles and affiliations, drum majors were tasked with hosting their respective tables and leading discussions about the present and future of the drum corps activity.

“I got to ask a bunch of questions to various people within DCI,” Barragy said. “Some were directors, judges, and people in the DCI office. And it was interesting to see their perspectives on the activity, as I've only been in it for three years.”

According to Barragy, the opportunity to connect with other drum majors was especially beneficial for the sake of fostering friendships and creating familiar faces that they’ll see this summer as part of the DCI Tour.

“We're all part of a larger DCI family,” Barragy said. “And I feel super comfortable reaching out to anyone that I met here for help. I know it'll be a resource over the summer.”

Ultimately, drum majors in attendance were in agreement; they left the Drum Major Leadership Summit with a wealth of new information and excitement for the summer ahead.

“The drum major is a super crucial role that's paramount to the success of a corps throughout the season,” Ly added. “So, the ability for us to all get together and mingle and really share ideas to implement in our corps, that gives us the ability to move forward as an activity and ensure the success of our corps.”

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Blue Knights drum major Ryan Halbert is interviewed as part of the 2024 DCI Annual Meeting in Indianapolis.


What did I learn at the Drum Major Leadership Summit?

Here’s a sample of the various key takeaways from drum majors in attendance at the 2024 Drum Major Leadership Summit:

“I'm learning a lot about the experiences at other drum corps, how other teams work, and what I can learn from them to bring things back to my own team.”

“One thing that I learned here that I will definitely take back to my corps is how to make members feel valued.”

“One thing I learned here is how to build good trust between members as well as good trust between members and member leadership.”

“Something I've learned this weekend that really stuck with me is the ability to relegate responsibilities to other people, so that way, they can learn what it's like to be a leader, and it’s not just me doing everything. That way, they can also have a feeling of importance as well.”

“I learned a lot about servant leadership this weekend, and I think it'll be very good to bring back, especially to our younger corps.”

“One thing I learned is how to grow with your team and depend on them to delegate tasks, so you're not building up so much stress and bottling that up.”