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Drum Corps International takes over IWU

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BEAT: Heat Wave’s percussion section keeps the beat during the corps’ performance at Wildcat Stadium Tuesday night.
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PLAY: Members of the Heat Wave corps of Cape Coral, Florida brass section groove during their performance at the DCI Open Class World Championships Tuesday at Indiana Wesleyan University’s Wildcat Stadium.

by Tim Tedeschi - ttedeschi@chronicle-tribune.com

The sound of horns, drums, xylophones and other instruments echoed from Indiana Wesleyan University’s (IWU) Wildcat Stadium Tuesday night as musicians from across the country performed at the Drum Corps International (DCI) Open Class World Championships final.

After three corps performed in an exhibition, the top 12 teams competed while presenting music and marching from a variety of musical genres and styles. The top-ranked team following Monday’s prelims, Spartans of Nashua, New Hampshire, took home the Open Class title with their performance titled “Experiment X,” which took audiences on a journey through the past, present and future of drum corps with songs such as “Egyptic” by Beats Antique and “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper from the movie “A Star is Born.”

DCI CEO Dan Acheson said the organization chose to move its Open Class championships to Marion and IWU this year after seeing the university’s relationship with the World Class Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps of Canton, Ohio, who use IWU’s campus and Wildcat Stadium as their summer practice facility. IWU Director of Events and Conference Services Keith Brakel suggested bringing the championships to the university when DCI officials were visiting the Bluecoats on campus, Acheson said.

“We were in Michigan City, Indiana for several years, and they were treating us very well, but we were looking for a little bit different situation here with logistics and all that type of thing, and this just became a perfect fit for us,” Acheson said.

Scott Brown, brass caption head for the Raiders corps of Burlington, New Jersey, said Marion and IWU were excellent hosts for the championships.

“The kids have had just a wonderful time,” he said. “It’s just been so cool. It’s a beautiful campus, and they’re enjoying it a lot.”

Acheson estimated that around 1,000 spectators attended the championship finals, with more than 1,500 performers on the field from all over the country including California, Iowa, Minnesota and Texas. Corps members and their fans stayed in Grant County and elsewhere in Central Indiana from Sunday through Tuesday nights, he said.

IWU Division of Music Chair Michael Flanagin was busy manning a booth and handing out T-shirts to high school band members at the finals, promoting IWU’s marching band that is set to take the field beginning in 2021. He said on top of being an entertaining and exciting show, the finals are a recruiting opportunity as IWU gets its marching band off the ground.

“For us, it’s just another chance for us to get to know students that we don’t typically see,” Flanagin said. “It’s also a time that -- because we’re starting marching band -- that we can connect people who are into marching.”

While the Open Class typically includes younger musicians and a lighter touring schedule than their World Class counterparts, Acheson said they are just as talented and provide an electric atmosphere for audiences.

“The best part of it is to watch the performers because they’re so very excited to put on their absolute best performance because they’re at their championships and the energy that comes off the field from them is so spectacular,” Acheson said.

The drum corps performances were capped off Wednesday night with a free and open Bluecoats rehearsal at Wildcat Stadium. The Bluecoats and other World Class corps will be competing today (Thursday) through Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the championship prelims, semifinals and finals.