Drum Corps Associates’ highly-anticipated championship weekend kicked off on an exciting note Friday night in Rochester, New York, getting underway with always-popular “I & E” and Mini Corps events at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
The five-hour, festival-style event featured dozens of solo, small ensemble and large ensemble performances under an array of categories, a memorable tribute for accomplished jazz musician Chuck Mangione, and a full set of Mini Corps competitive performances.
More than anything, though, one of the most special things about the energetic event was its atmosphere. Plenty of food and drink, good weather, and music all around made for an uplifting Friday night environment.
“It was really fun,” Purple Lancers drum line member Tori Vega said. “It was my first time really being here and doing this, and it was a really great experience.”
“It’s a great venue,” added Freelancers drum major Paul Zimny. “The indoor stadium (for Mini Corps), having the stage, it all makes it work out really well.”
Further, according to Vega, the community of people participating in and attending the event go a long way toward making it such an enjoyable experience.
“The amount of different people that we have here, coming from who knows where,” Vega said. “They’re all coming together to make this really amazing thing at the end of the day. It’s just really cool.”
Purple Lancers took part in the night’s Individual and Ensemble competition, and won their category with a standout score of 99.000. According to Vega, though, the competitive aspects of Friday’s event were secondary to community-building and camaraderie.
“Everybody is so supportive and amazed by what everyone is doing,” Vega added. “Although we’re competing, it’s really not that competitive; we’re not going after each other, we’re really cool with each other. It’s really great.”
Purple Lancers were just one of several victors throughout the night, as impressive performances across a list of more than a dozen categories earned their own top marks.
Arguably the victory that earned the most rousing reaction, though, was that of Freelancers. The Sacramento-based mini corps took home first prize, edging out 2022 winner Star United for the title.
According to conductor Paul Zimny, the payoff of traveling all the way to Rochester from California, performing alongside fellow Freelancers, receiving an energized crowd response to an entertaining production, and taking first prize, was one of immense joy.
“We feel great, we put in a lot of work,” Zimny said. “It’s the best. We work so hard, we work all year to get it to happen, and all of a sudden it pays off, and it’s just the best feeling.”
A special feature of 2023’s Mini Corps and Individual & Ensemble festival event, Drum Corps Associates carved out an hour of Friday night to honor Chuck Mangione, whose music has covered decades of memorable drum corps performances.
With Mangione and his family in attendance, following a video presentation and remarks from drum corps broadcast personality Steve Rondinaro, a large ensemble of DCA corps performers and alumni performed a full set of arrangements of his works, including “Echano,” “Bellavia,” “Land of Make Believe,” and “Hill Where the Lord Hides.”
According to Daniel Kauzya, who performed with the tribute ensemble on tuba, it was an honor to take part in honoring someone so iconic to the drum corps activity.
“It was definitely something I couldn’t miss,” Kauzya said. “We had a lot of people from all these groups like Caballeros Alumni, Govenaires, some people from Freelancers, Bridgemen, people from all around just to honor his great career.”
With Friday night’s event in the books, the excitement at DCA World Championships now shifts to on-field competitive action, with 12 corps set to take the stage for Prelims Saturday at the Rochester Community Sports Complex. Saturday’s event is set to begin at 4 p.m. ET.