SIUE band director Bell rings in evaluation as a finalist judge at DCI World Championships

SIUE Music Prof. John Bell judged the 2013 DCI World Championships

SIUE Band Director John Bell


The Blue Knights. The Boston Crusaders. The Colts—just a few of the many drum corps groups that rehearsed countless days and evenings for a year, traveled thousands of miles across the country competing until they reached the highly anticipated event: the Drum Corps International (DCI) World Championships. SIUE band director John Bell served among the final judges of their efforts at the August 2013 event held in Indianapolis.

Bell said it was an incredible honor.

“I have so much great respect for these kids because there’s not many activities that students will work so hard and for so long for a single purpose,” he said.

DCI is a coalition of drum corps groups, also a non-profit youth organization, that travels nation-wide each summer and competes in approximately 30 shows leading up to the three-day world championships. Drum corps consist of percussion, brass and color guards marching to music with pageantry and choreography.

According to Bell, their skill and endurance makes them like musicians from the waist up and athletes from the waist down. For instance, brass and percussion may play sixteenth notes while marching and transitioning into shapes and figures. In addition, color guard members trained in theatrical dance multi-task as they artistically execute the complex choreography while concentrating to catch props thrown swiftly into the air.

Bell judged three quarterfinals and two semifinals in past competitions. For the first time this year, he was among the 10 finalist judges. His particular category was evaluating teams’ visual and musical effect during the final day of competition. In the end, the Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps from Fort Mill, S.C., reigned as champions.

Bell said he was not allowed to judge two weeks prior to the finals so he could have “a fresh mindset for judging,” which included a “high level of listening…watching for unified efforts.”

Bell may have observed a beautiful phrase or thrust of energy among drum corps members when they competed. Then he would ask himself, “Was it emotional? How was the pacing? Were the movement elements logical?”

Overall, Bell said he scored how well each of the bands communicated the “essence of the music to the audience and… if it was in a creative and unique way.”

Bell knows the kind of effort it takes to organize such performances. Originally a clarinetist, and former teacher of high school bands in the Chicago suburbs, he coached the drum and bugle corps of the Cavaliers for four years. He also directed the Blue Knights in Denver.

Every year Bell said he learns from judging these competitions, which is a direct application to his teaching and conducting at SIUE.

“It helps with my perceptiveness to what I’m hearing,” he said.

Matt Goodspeed, an SIUE junior studying music education, participated on The Colts who are based in Dubuque, Iowa, this past year. He said competing as a trumpeter with the group was “a lot of fun.”

“They all are a really good family…it’s a really great experience.” The Colts placed 15th in the competition.

Bell said he found the amount of pride and accomplishment involved in DCI “so amazing.”

“They basically give up [their lives] for the summer,” he said.

This is a montage video of the 2013 Drum Corps International World Championships.



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