The Mid-South last weekend played host to some of the most talented marching musical groups in the country when Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis was the site of the summer tour called Drum Corps International.
Several of the top groups from across the nation converged Saturday night to perform and be judged as they move toward the World Championship event.
Two young men who are or have been part of the Pride of DeSoto Central Marching Band were performing on the Liberty Bowl turf as members of Music City, a group based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Patrick Nelsen was one of Music City’s two drum majors and Nykalus Moore performed with the mellophone. Nelsen is set to attend Mississippi State and Moore is entering his senior year at DeSoto Central.
For Nelsen, Moore and all of the performers in the various groups that comprise Drum Corps International, this summer has involved rehearsal, performing and traveling, followed by more rehearsal, performing and traveling, and so on.
Their time has included hours of travel and sleeping on tour buses, then time on a field marching, rehearsing and learning steps and choreography. Then it’s “showtime” and their 10-15 minute show is judged in real time to earn scores that lead their group toward the World Championship, which this year is Saturday, Aug. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on the same field the NFL Colts play on.
Called “Marching Music’s Major League,” Drum Corps International has been in existence since 1971. There are more than 100 musical events that comprise the DCI schedule. Music City performed against six other groups. They were the Boston Crusaders, Carolina Crown, Jersey Surf, Santa Clara Vanguard and Spirit of Atlanta in the World Class division. Another group, called the Guardians, performed separately in the Open Class division.
Saturday night, Santa Clara Vanguard won the Memphis event with Carolina Crown were second and the Boston Crusaders finished third. Music City was fifth among the groups in the World Class division. Each performance is judged on general effect, visual and music.
For Moore and Nelsen, the process toward becoming members of Music City began late last year, before they even set foot inside a bus for their initial trip on the tour.
“We go through an audition process throughout the winter season, which basically determines who makes it into the full corps that’ll be marching during the summer,” said Moore. “Throughout the spring months, we train and get prepared for the summer. We have monthly camps and then we put it all together.”
“We do the same thing, always rehearse to make the show better and then we go off and perform,” Nelsen added. “It’s great for me having a chance of pace with different stadiums and rehearsal sites,” adding he enjoys getting to travel and not know the next town he will be in.
That is the life of a DCI member; travel, performing and turning elite musicians from various areas into the synchronized musical organization with one goal in mind.
“The DCI experience is all about getting 154 high school and college-age students to achieve a common goal,” Nelsen said. “Our common goal is to make a show that the audience loves.”
Those who make up Music City come from different areas, Nelsen pointed out.
“We attract members from the Southeast, especially Tennessee,” Nelsen said. “But we have members from Ohio, Florida and we also have one member from Puerto Rico.”
And, the show they perform during the summer has a purpose beyond being eye-catching and musically sound, Moore said.
“Our show is entitled, ‘Of Mice and Music,’” said Moore. “It goes over how at the end of the day we are humans and regardless of our differences we’re all basically the same. We all share obstacles and at the end of the day we should all choose to accept people as they are and love one another.”
The pair and the rest of Music City stayed overnight before leaving Sunday for their next show in Little Rock, Arkansas, as they continued their DCI summer tour. Regardless of how they place at the end, which for them is important, they will have developed new friendships they likely will hold onto past their DCI time on the road.
“For me, it’s been about traveling, making new friends throughout the summer and working with people who have the same loves and passions for music and marching as I do, making a great show together,” Moore added. “Being on the road this summer has been simply amazing. I love traveling and I also love doing band, so it’s been a dream come true.”
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.