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Home » Jul/Aug 08 » Behind the Baton » Crowned!

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How does it feel to lead a World Class drum corps? Find out from Carolina Crown’s drum major, recipient of last year’s Jim Jones Leadership Award, as he shares his passion, his experiences and his legacy.

By Evan VanDoren

For the past eight summers, I’ve been sleeping on gym floors, showering in middle school locker rooms and spending most days in the blistering heat of the summer, all while being pushed to my limits by some of the best music educators in the country.

For some people, the choice to spend my summers enduring these hardships can be somewhat baffling, especially when I tell them that, no, I’m not being paid to do this; in fact, I pay about $3,000 each year for this experience.

So what would drive a sane individual to consciously put himself in this situation? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been faced with this question. However, I can pose a similar question to any high school marching band member. Why, in the hustle and bustle of high school, when you’re busy balancing classes, a social life and usually several other extracurricular activities, do you join the marching band, where you pay money to join and where you are worked extremely hard by your teachers?

These are difficult questions to answer. All I can tell you is that the individuals who make those sacrifices do so because they love the activity.

Family Lineage

I fell in love with drum corps at the ripe old age of 3 while watching my father, DCI Hall of Fame member Donnie VanDoren, teach the Star of Indiana. There, I witnessed the passion and drive of the members to achieve excellence at the highest level and the intensity and power of the musical and visual product.

For these reasons and more, I wake up every day energized and proud to be the drum major of the Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps from Fort Mill, S.C. I’ve been around music in both marching and concert forms for most of my life. Beginning in elementary school, I performed in choral, instrumental and theatrical ensembles. I am currently entering my senior year at Butler University in Indianapolis, where I will be graduating in the spring of 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education. I hope to begin working as a middle or secondary school band director the following fall.

Without a doubt, my family has been a major influence on my interest in music. Nearly every family member, including my mother, father, uncles and sister, has marched in drum corps. My father went on after the conclusion of his marching career to teach some of the most legendary brass lines in drum corps history.

My personal experience in corps began in 2001 with the Lehigh Valley Knights Drum and Bugle Corps from Allentown, Pa. Then in 2004, I became a member of the Carolina Crown. I came to Crown primarily because of the outstanding reputation of the brass faculty, many of whom spent their marching careers in my father’s brass sections.

While at Crown, I played trumpet for three years, becoming the drum major in 2007. This year I am proud to have the opportunity to march alongside my sister during her rookie year in Crown’s color guard. I am privileged to be spending my final year as a DCI marching member with such an outstanding organization and with such close friends.

Taking the “Throne”

Like other leadership positions, being a drum major can be an extremely rewarding experience. The rush felt at the conclusion of a show when thousands of audience members applaud for the ensemble you are leading is, no doubt, exhilarating. Feelings like this are only magnified at events like the DCI World Championships, where we perform in front of crowds of 30,000+.

In all honesty, no words could describe the way it felt to conclude a successful show at DCI finals. Even more than in the audience reaction, I found my reward in the passion and precision of the performance itself. It was an honor for me to receive the Jim Jones Leadership Award at the 2007 DCI World Championships.

It certainly made me happy to represent my organization and Jim Jones himself in such a positive way.

However, the position does not come without difficulty and stress. As drum major, I facilitate communication between the membership, administration, faculty and volunteers. The most challenging aspect of the job is dealing with the unexpected. Plans can change in a split second, and I must coordinate my organization’s personnel, so that we can continue down the road and onto the next housing site or show.

Being on tour can be ... well ... challenging, to say the least! As the drum major, I also coordinate many of the details surrounding the day-to-day lives of the membership.

A typical day begins with an early wakeup, full corps stretch and conditioning, and breakfast. Next, we begin rehearsals, usually starting with a visual focus.

After lunch, music sectionals commence, followed by a full corps rehearsal ending with a full run of the show.

Then, we “eat, pack and load,” during which the corps prepares to travel to the show. Our tour duty crew completes a variety of tasks, and each corps member is responsible for a specific assignment during this time. Upon arrival at the show site, the corps warms up before heading to the stadium for the performance.

Following the conclusion of the night’s events, the corps loads the buses, and we depart for our next housing site, typically arriving early in the morning to get a few hours of sleep, only to wake up and repeat the entire process.

I feel strongly, and can say without reservation, that drum corps is hard. As the drum major of the Carolina Crown, I’ve been pushed to my mental limits and have come out on the other side a stronger, more level-headed individual with the confidence to attack any task. If someone asked me if it was worth it—worth it to give up eight full summers, to give up earning money for tuition payments, to leave friends and family behind—I would undoubtedly say yes!

About the Author

Evan VanDoren has been drum major of the Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps for two seasons. At the 2007 Drum Corps International World Championships, he received the Jim Jones Leadership Award, given each season to a Division I (now called World Class) drum major. He will be a senior at Butler University where he is majoring in instrumental music education. This is his age-out year.

Photo by Jolesch Photography, www.jolesch.com. All rights reserved.


  1. john zicha says:
    July 26th, 2008 at 08:03
    Evan should be proud of what he's accomplished and what this corps has done. They are the crowd favorite every time I see them. The power and emotion they convey on the field is unlike any other corps. I never marched in a corps since I was too lazy when I was younger to practice. All of the members in this corps and all of the corps should be proud of what they've accomplished. Always remember...Its nice to be able to say that you were the Champs or attained this or that number. The truth is that when you perform you get your audience into it so much that you've already won at that point! Congratulations so far and keep up the amazing work!
  2. gene monterastelli says:
    July 27th, 2008 at 16:21
    Evan's article did a great job of summarizing what a DCI drum major
    is faced with each day.
    It is too bad that "About the Author" does not capture the impact
    and quality of Evan's leadership skills & abilities as a conductor.
    And in a short paragraph that is not possible.
    In the fall of 2009 there will be a very lucky principal who has
    Evan as a member of his faculty.
  3. Mary Chaisson says:
    July 29th, 2008 at 04:20
    What a GREAT article! Our son has been a contra player with Crown even longer than Evan has been with them.. going back to 2003 as his first season. Next year is his age out, but he's fortunate enough to march an extra year since his birthday falls in the summer.
    As a parent, I can only imagine what these young people go through all summer long. The pride, and passion, is SO evident in their faces in each and every performance! Our family has moved from the Carolina area, but our son's dedication to Crown will not waiver. There is a family bond within the corps that can't be broken.. so amazing!
    Great job on the article, and gene said it right... whatever school Evan ends up teaching at, will be the better for it! Way to go, Carolina Crown!
  4. C. Ray McCrary, Jr. says:
    July 31st, 2008 at 19:45
    As an 18 year volunteer with Carolina Crown Drum & Bugle Corps, I have always been amazed at how hard the corps members work every year, and how extremely talented they all are.
    Evan has been a true pleasure to watch as he has become one of the most outstanding drum majors of our group. Each year, we have been extremely lucky to have great young performers and very talented drum Majors.
    As was said earlier by Gene, the school where Evan becomes Band Master will be very lucky indeed!
  5. Josh Sutcliff a.k.a. Sherbert says:
    September 5th, 2008 at 21:55
    I am glad that I had the opportunity to march trumpet with Carolina Crown in Evan's Age-Out year. I can say without a doubt in my mind, that Evan VanDoren is the most honorable, most respected guy I know, and may ever meet. I know that his accomplishments and skills from Carolina Crown, as well as Drum Corps itself, set him apart from most music educators, and I can say that I wish I could study music under Evan someday
  6. Hayden Jenkins says:
    November 18th, 2011 at 18:01
    After reading this article it inspires me to acheive in drum corp. I am trying out for the drum major position in Crown. I am so excited about it even though it is tons of work. I am ready to face every bit of it. There is no limit to how much you inspire me!!

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Halftime Magazine®, a bimonthly print publication and online community, presents the sights, sounds and spirit of the marching arts, providing education, entertainment and inspiration for students, directors, alumni and fans of high school marching band, college marching band, drum corps, color guard and winter guard, indoor drum line or percussion, and all-age ensembles.