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It is delightful that Carolina Crown’s winter and spring camps are open to those of us who grow restless for the real deal through the long off-season. While the corps might only be at the forming stage of the triumvirate forming-storming-norming, it is impressive to witness exactly how a group of brass players from disparate schools, backgrounds, and experiences ultimately become the inimitable CrownBRASS.

From the dedicated alumni who are now on staff—Corey Futrell, Katie VanDoren, Kevin Leboeuf, Gilbert Villagrana, Dylan Toombs, to name a few—to  larger-than-life legends Matt Harloff, Michael Klesch, Ben Harloff, and a host of others, it is amazing to watch such disciplined, expert, and nurturing instruction, which ultimately culminates in a Jim Ott Award-winning brass line. Focus here is on the brass, as February and March camps are brass only, while guard, battery, and percussion personnel are steeped in the winter guard competitive season. While observers do not necessarily hear enough of the impending show to discern the theme or understand how it enhances the visual design, there are hints of superhuman passages characteristic of CrownBRASS. Many observers exclaim, “If this is what they’re like in March, imagine how amazing they will be in July and August!” During the March camp there were several passages where it was difficult to imagine the brass becoming much cleaner or more interesting. But as we all know, Crown will ratchet up the quality and uniqueness as time progresses. 

One of the most important transitions for a drum corps as one season concludes and rebuilding begins for the next is filling the drum major positions. There are at least three major aspects to the role: Musical conductor, people manager, and organizational leader. While one might possess the technical acumen for each, there is much more to consider. First, the drum major is a peer of corps members who must simultaneously command respect and display camaraderie. After all, the drum major competes in the same shows, rehearses the same grueling hours, sleeps on the same gym floors, rides thousands of miles on the same buses, and eats the same food truck cuisine as the rest of the members. Conducting on a football field under a variety of weather conditions, with so many spread across an area 100 by 53 yards and in constant motion—and keeping the program together—is a daunting task. Because corps have more than one drum major, peer cohesion is particularly important. While the official duties are shared equally among drum majors, deference is shown to the most senior, who typically occupies the center platform, signals that the corps is ready to compete, and salutes the adjudicators. 

Carolina Crown is fortunate to have two remarkable drum majors for 2017 in Elayna “Lane” Youngson and Ross Werner. Ross is a two-year veteran, having served as drum major with Hunter Bown and Emily Salgado in 2015, and again with Emily in 2016. This will be Lane’s first year with Crown, but already she and Ross are working together as if they were veterans of several years together. During winter camps a key activity of drum majors is to stay two steps ahead of the caption techs as the newly forming corps is learning music and each others’ names. When not working independently with different sections, the drum majors act as a tag-team, where one is conducting and the other is operating the metronome—the latter, arguably, the more difficult task. Both drum majors must know the score intimately, must be able to anticipate what the techs want next, and must exhibit synergy in their respective actions from moment to moment.

Ross and Lane seem to be telepathic with respect to what the techs want and how they deliver. What else might explain perfect coordination between techs, score, met, conductor, and musicians? It is remarkable to watch. Perhaps Ross and Lane’s frequent collaboration between camps explains the synergy. Clearly their respective experiences with high school and college music programs are huge contributors, along with participation in DCI drum major summits, as well as connecting with past Crown drum majors and section leaders.

Lane has extensive marching band experience, but has never marched a DCI season. She is a sophomore music major at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where her core instrument is French horn (and mellophone on the field). As a noteworthy talent among many DCI world class corps members at Tallahassee, she was previously courted for a Crown brass line position. As auditions approached for 2017, she wondered if it would be possible to try for drum major. At first doubtful, she was encouraged to pursue the position by Emily Salgado and other seasoned corps veterans. Lane’s ambition is to become a college marching band director, so what could be more rewarding and focused than becoming drum major for world champion Carolina Crown? In conversation with Lane, her tenacity is evident with each goal she expresses. Her focus during camp is remarkable, earning the respect that is integral to the drum major role.

Ross is a junior at Butler University in Indianapolis, where he is focusing on Arts Administration and Marketing. He also completed an internship with DCI, where he sharpened his marketing and management skills around the 2016 SoundSport International Music and Food Festival. Ross brings this experience to Crown, where he applies a unique management approach that fosters special peer cohesion and organizational culture that defines Carolina Crown. As the senior drum major for 2017, the approach shows great promise toward producing another remarkable edition of Carolina Crown. He describes his relationship with Lane as “great dynamics,” as he reflects on their frequent collaboration between camps.

It was impressive to observe Lane’s and Ross’s response to receiving the latest updates to the 2017 show score, just hours before the March camp. They became totally focused on understanding flow, dynamics, articulation, and segmentation. They were determined to be totally prepared for whatever the techs and caption supervisors needed to accomplish, from the first sectional to the final ensemble. While camp is a total team effort, the contributions of these remarkably talented and dedicated drum majors to what is promising to foster another great year for Crown are clearly evident. There are segments of the 2017 show that the brass handles so well that it is hard to believe it is only March. The drum major team of Ross and Lane provides consummate conductors, managers, and leaders, as the position demands. We are looking forward to seeing them on the field in a few short months, leading Crown through another remarkable season.

What can the observer glean from these brass camps regarding the 2017 show? Majesty, variety, impossibilities, heart-wrenching emotion, and something exceptionally frenetic near what appears to be an emerging finale. To be sure, the camp observer is not privy to those long hours of design deliberations and decisions from which emerges the 2017 show. But rest assured, the concepts and themes that shape the brass and percussion scores, suggest the shape-shifting that comprises the field show, and even the uniform look and associated props are already quite mature and expertly thought out. Who would have thought that “Einstein on the Beach” could win a World Championship? It takes a fall, a winter, a spring, and a long, hard competitive summer to see such excellence emerge as perfection on that most special night. From all that we observed during these camps, 2017 is shaping up to be another jewel in the Crown. Stay tuned!

Article by DCW Writer Gary J. Dickelman. 

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Carolina Crown, Inc. is a 501(c)3 approved charity by the Internal Revenue Service. Our mission is "Developing Lifelong Excellence in young people". We achieve this through performance opportunities and a commitment to education in the performing arts with core values of Integrity, Commitment, Respect and Excellence.

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