For Music City and program coordinator, Shane Gwaltney, the arduous, meticulous and ever-evolving process of designing an on-field production tends to start in the same place.
First and foremost, it’s about the title.
“I want somebody to feel something immediately,” he said. “They may not know what the show is, but I want them to feel something. And if we can start with that with just a title, then I think we're heading in the right direction.”
The title for the Nashville, Tennessee corps’ 2023 production most prominently features two sharply and remarkably different words, each expressing an extreme in two opposite directions — certainly has the potential for that kind of response and memorability.
According to Gwaltney and his fellow Music City designers “Violent Delights: A Rose and its Thorns” goes a long way toward meeting all of the corps’ design goals.
“It’s really about the dichotomy of the violent part of a rose, the softness of a rose, and the life and death of it,” he said. “We wanted to keep the idea fairly simple, but something that we can kind of dig deep into with the emotions of the rose and really depict how a rose goes from beginning to end.”
Presenting our 2023 production, Violent Delights: A Rose and Its Thorns Read more at | bit.ly/MCviolentdelightsPosted by Music City Drum and Bugle Corps on Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Ultimately, Music City’s objective in developing a creative package for their summer tour of performances goes far beyond the propensity for competitive successes.
It’s about branding. It’s about creating an opportunity for performers — and audience members, too — to not only connect with and enjoy their production, but to do so more and more as the summer season progresses.
“When I'm initiating the design of a show, I'm thinking about what title would fit really well with the membership, what we have to accomplish,” he said. “Something that we can all design around and hit all the checkmarks.”
“We want it to be cool,” he said. “We want it to be something that's catchy, that the membership can gravitate toward; something that looks great on a T-shirt or on a poster is always good. Something that invigorates a response.”
When Music City members were first introduced to the production, the first thing they heard was its title.
In a way, their reaction was just what Gwaltney had wanted.
Members weren’t quite sure what they were looking at. But they wanted to know more.
“It was visceral, there was applause,” he said. “And then it was like, ‘Well, what is it?’ And that's when you know you’ve got something. They're going to react first, and then we can dig in and give them the nuts and bolts of what things are. They love it.”
In line with Music City’s goals of designing a program with which members can relate, the further hope is for members’ connection with the concept to only deepen with time.
That’s another box that’s been checked off, in Gwaltney’s eyes.
“I think they immediately recognized the ability to connect with somebody,” he said. “And now, they're put in a position to be successful.”
As far as the show itself is concerned, Music City plans to unwrap the image of a rose — a flower commonly synonymous with love and romance, whose stem is covered with sharp thorns — and its juxtaposition of beauty and anguish.
To date Music City has not publicized the complete repertoire of music for 2023, but noted a handful of recognizable selections, including Igor Stravisnky’s “Rite of Spring,” Thomas Newman’s “Any Other Name,” and The Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black.
Complementing the music will be an enticing visual package, Gwaltney had major praise for the corps’ uniform, as executed by costume designer Tommy Keenum.
“We've embodied the character of the thorn with the brass and percussion, and the color guard is clearly the rose,” he said. “(Keenum) did a bang up job, and it's really something that's going to allow the performer to embody the character.”
In his first year as Music City ensemble coordinator, longtime drum corps educator Tom Aungst concurred, and spoke highly of his early experiences with the corps’ design process.
“It’s my first time being with Music City, and I really like the way they're putting stuff together here,” Aungst said. “The conversations we've had on the design team, to me, are like calls you would have with designers at a top-five drum corps. I think the people who we’ve assembled to design, again, top-five drum corps.”
Of course, preparations for a DCI Summer Tour reach far beyond creative work. In Aungst’s role especially, but across the corps as well, it’s equally important to build a unified and understood approach that directly influences a positive member experience.
Early auditionee and membership numbers for Music City have been promising, and according to corps staff members, excitement is building for a near-full ensemble.
There are still some openings in a couple sections of the corps. Take the first step and Be Bold with Music City this...Posted by Music City Drum and Bugle Corps on Monday, March 13, 2023
“We're trying to develop a culture,” Aungst said. “We're trying to make sure that the members understand what it means to come here. What's important for me is that the corps is really good, and the members have a great experience, and they're excited about doing this and performing.”
A phrase often used by drum corps designers in discussing their productions is whether or not “a show has legs.”
Can it withstand the test of several viewings by a passionate drum corps fan? Can corps members love it each time they perform it? Can it continue to evolve throughout a long summer?
Like any other drum corps, Music City’s 2023 production is just beginning to stretch its legs. But the resounding answer, the corps hopes, is yes.
“You can only stand as tall as the roof is in your house,” Gwaltney said. “If (members) are out there, kicking and digging and doing all the stuff, and we don't have a show concept they can grow into, it's going to be a tough summer. I think, having something that they’re excited about, so that we can grow into it and have a high enough ceiling to do our thing, I think is really special.”