(Edison, New Jersey)
First, dispel the notion you have of the color guard you remember accompanying the local high school band at halftime of the football game. These are fully choreographed arena presentations. A fusion of art, dance, theater and music; modern day color guard performances are complete theatrical presentations. Fully choreographed and costumed with rifles, flags, batons and sabres flying in the air.
More than 1000 Guard from around the world converged on Ohio in mid-April for the 2018 WGI (Winter Guard International)World Championships. Each is given 17 minutes to stage and complete a 10-minute performance.
One corps, the Bluecoats Indoor, brought a new sonic dimension this year to color guard presentations with the integration audio into their performance set design. First, the evolution of the Bluecoats audio for the drum corps.
In 2016, the Bluecoats ushered in an era of change to drum corps activity, a sister activity to WGI, shedding the militaristic sense of style and audio. The corps hit the field in an all-white with a more theatrical look integrating movable slides while they performed. Then they added multiple stacks of sound to help integrate the visual with the audio. These innovative additions led them to the Gold Medal at the DCI (Drum Corps International) World Championships in 2016. The very next year the activity followed suit in both audio and the theatrical design.
Now in 2018, the Bluecoats are once again bringing change to the format of color guard with the dynamic they have added to the color guard performance with incorporating audio into the performance program bringing a new concept to the competition.
“This is an incredibly inspiring and exciting time for the Bluecoats,” says Bluecoats Tour Administrator Chris Drake. “Renowned for their outdoor corps, this is the debut for the Bluecoats Indoor color guard.” It was Artistic Director Jon Vanderkolff who brought the new image to the drum and bugle corps while now extending his creativity to the WGI activity. As Vanderkolff holds an Emmy Award and a Tony Award for his visual design of the Broadway show Blast!, he sought to bring a theatrical presence to the Bluecoats performances. His involvement with the Bluecoats dates back to 2013. While the drum line was one of the premiere corps musically, Vanderkolff brought a new level of creativity the group had never seen. And he’s now done that with the Bluecoats Indoor.
“We wanted to do something where the sound, staging and choreography are all in sync,” says Vanderkolff. “As our performances are generally in arenas, we took the theater-in-the-round concept and looked for a way to integrate the system allowing for the ability to pan, zone and direct sound toward the audience.” The concept stems from creative ideas injected by former drum corps member Aaron Beck. Beck, currently Head of Audio for Michael Jackson One at Mandalay Bay and Audio Designer for Bluecoats and others, has been integral in the evolution of the Bluecoats which dates back to 2015. He watched as drum corps were adding electronics to their performances, but felt those systems were very lacking from a quality standpoint. Beck led the Bluecoats to become the first corps to actually bring the professional audio sound system to the marching arts. An evolutionary step in the creation of a concept used in all of DCI today.
We wanted to do something where the sound, staging and choreography are all in sync