Every year, in designing their on-field productions, drum corps find unique ways to sneak little details into their programs. Whether a musical quote that pays homage to the corps’ past, a subtle — or not-so-subtle — image designed into drill, “Easter Eggs” are a brush with which designers all across the activity paint.

Here’s a look back at five “hidden” gems from the past seven years of drum corps:

2023 – Colts — "Where the Heart Is"

2023 Colts

2023 marked Colts’ second year in a row earning DCI World Championship Finalist status, after 2022’s appearance snapped a streak of 14 years outside the Top 12. 

The Dubuque, Iowa, corps chose to pay homage to its 60th anniversary with 2023’s “Where the Heart Is,” making many references to the journey home with symbols one might find along a road trip. 

Prominently included as visual cues were road signs, which included addresses and cities from across Colts’ 2023 DCI Tour schedule. For example, one clearly-displayed prop piece featured the address 500 S Capitol Ave., which correlates to Lucas Oil Stadium, the iconic site of the DCI World Championships.

2300 Twin Valley Dr., the site of the corps’ Dubuque, Iowa, headquarters, was mentioned multiple times, both by way of set pieces and voiceover narrations. 

2022 – Santa Clara Vanguard — "Finding Nirvana"

2022 Santa Clara Vanguard

In Santa Clara Vanguard’s 2022 production, the corps explored the concept of inner peace, or “Nirvana,” through the use of middle-eastern imagery and the music of the rock band of the same name.

Late in the 2022 season, the corps extended its final movement to include quick-moving choreography, expansive fabrics, and complex front ensemble music. 

The final movements of the corps’ 2022 program all led to a distinct formation, pictured above, which symblolized the “third eye,” a common symbol of true Nirvana within Hindu culture.

 2021 – Blue Stars — "At the Top of the World"

Blue Stars were big fans of letters in 2021.

In the corps’ production “At the Top of the World” — centered around the music and story of Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, “In the Heights” — found a few ways to spell out some of its story for the audience. At one point early in the production, the corps’ drill design featured the letters “N,” “Y” and “C,” to represent the story’s setting.

But the corps went one step further. In its final impact, Blue Stars transformed a reprisal of “NYC” into the letters “FCO,” referencing the corps’ mantra, “Finis Coronat Opus,” which is Latin for “the end crowns the work.”

For how important those letters are to the La Crosse, Wisconsin corps, they’re not utilized all too often in the corps’ drill. But of course, 2021 was a special year, as it marked drum corps’ return to the field following the COVID-19 shutdown.

 2019 — Bluecoats — "The BLUECOATS"

There likely aren’t many shows in drum corps history that listed as many unique pieces of music in their repertoires as Bluecoats’ 2019 program, “The BLUECOATS.” The show, which paid homage to the music of The Beatles, had 19 different songs by the Fab Four on its official lineup of selections.

They all weren’t quite that easy to find, but they were there.

Video Download: Watch "The BLUECOATS"

Foundationally, the program — in most general, clear, and fully fleshed-out terms — featured “Eleanor Rigby,” “Within You Without You,” “Blackbird,” “Come Together,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Hey Jude.” There were other clear, yet brief, references to songs — “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “A Day in the Life,” “Penny Lane” and others all found their way into the show’s hectic opening sequence.

But if you listen close throughout the production, you’ll find others. For one, during the second movement, while trumpet players play a looping round of “Eleanor Rigby,” the corps’ mellophones feature an off-beat countermelody of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Later in the program, the same mellophones, snuck a quick reference to “Here Comes the Sun,” into one of the final chords of the show’s third movement.

There are others, and they’re worth taking a very close listen in order to find.

 2018 — Blue Devils — "Dreams and Nighthawks"

Blue Devils’ biggest “Easter Eggs” in 2018 weren’t really “Easter Eggs” at all, they were quite obvious. In terms of prop design, the corps’ spent the entirety of “Dreams and Nighthawks” piecing together a three-dimensional version of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting.

Instead, the Concord corps was able to have its subtle fun with the music.

Video Download: Watch "Dreams and Nighthawks"

There are more than a few references and payments of homage in most Blue Devils productions, but one in 2018 came quite late in the season; in late July, the corps added a closing rendition of “Playing Love” by Ennio Morricone. To the newer drum corps fan, the change may not have meant much, but it was a reuse of a piece utilized nine years prior by the same cops.

“Playing Love” was featured in the Blue Devils’ opener from the corps’ 2009 production, “1930,” which marked the corps’ first of two times breaking 99 points. Seeing as “Nighthawks”, completed in 1942, depicts an approximately-1930s scene, the piece tied in swimmingly.

 2017 — Santa Clara Vanguard — "Ouroboros"

There’s no better time to sneak details into a production than in an anniversary year, and Vanguard put that concept to full use in 2017, the corps’ 50th season.

Santa Clara Vanguard’s 2017 production, “Ouroboros,” was centered around the ancient image of a snake shedding its skin and swallowing itself in an endless circle. The analogy beneath the surface, it seemed, was to portray the corps’ constant forward movement and reinvention, while infinitely sticking

Two details within the program hammered home that metaphor.

Video Download: Watch "Ouroboros"

The first was visual, and it wasn’t added until the final days of the season. All year, Vanguard had featured circular red props with Ouroboros symbols displayed on them; they could sit flat, prop up, stand on their side, or rotate. At the tail end of the production, though, those props — having been faced backwards entering the show’s last chord — were turned around to reveal new gold coloring, an homage to the corps’ golden anniversary.

It was in that same moment, just as the golden props were revealed that a small featured ensemble of brass soloists played four iconic notes in Vanguard lore — a small, rising quotation of the melody of the corps’ song, Frank Sinatra’s “Send in the Clowns.”

 2016 — The Cavaliers — "Propaganda"

It wasn’t hard to hide things within The Cavaliers’ 2016 production — both musically and visually, the show was a whirlwind of hectic and exciting energy.

As such, the corps’ visual design — namely, its prop design — was littered with “Easter Eggs” of all kinds. The show, titled “Propaganda,” played heavily into the concepts of protest, advertising and campaigning, and featured a litany of different signs and posters as a result.

Video Download: Watch "Propaganda"

There were obvious ones, like references to that year’s presidential election candidates, but some were far more subtle.

For one, The Cavaliers made countless references to real-life brands, with fake names and logos, including “Popsi” and “Meow Max.” But further, the corps offered a campaign for people to purchase ad space on their signs, and one fellow drum corps followed suit — if you looked closely at one of the corps’ posters from “Propaganda,” it featured audition advertisements for Blue Stars.