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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Cream Rises to the Top

Last weekend, in Orlando, FL, Carolina Crown accomplished something they had never done before: They defeated the 9-time World Champion Cadets in head-to-head competition, resulting in a gold medal. Later in the week, in Mississippi, they did it once more to prove it wasn't a fluke. The victory in Orlando, combined with a stellar summer record and a little luck of the draw, made them the headliners of tonight's DCI San Antonio, where they will face off against all of the activity's finest. This summer--and particularly this past week--has shown that judges are starting to catch onto what fans have seemingly known for years: Carolina Crown is legit and here to stay.

Crown has long been a fan favorite--formalized last year with the Spirit of Disney Fan Favorite award--and a favorite of mine. I remember falling in love with them and their 2005 show at DCI Orlando, and I don't remember if it was directly related to me being a shameless homer (I knew by that point that I was moving to NC) or because they are that damn good. Chances are it was a combination of both. They've been one of my favorite corps (along with Santa Clara Vanguard) ever since. The last two off-seasons have included moves that I believe are strong steps in the right direction: Already a hornline powerhouse, Crown brought in Lee Beddis as percussion caption head prior to the 2007 season to beef up the drumline. Beddis joined a team that ultimately put forth Triple Crown, the Fan Favorite, Classic Countdown, and ultimately 6th place--Crown's highest ever placement in Finals--show. This past off-season, when DCI rules expanded corps sizes from 135 to 150, Crown used the opportunity to add power to their already stellar hornline, including the much lauded and unprecedented 16 tubas. Part of the result is that this year's show "Finis", at least so far, has been kicking ass, taking names, and perhaps more importantly, pleasing fans all summer long. Because I'm a fan of DCI and Carolina Crown, I'm going to STRONGLY recommend that you check out your local live show or join the DCI Fan Network to get a full glimpse of the show, but for those that care to get their faces rocked off on the cheap, rumor has it that the show is available on a popular video sharing site whose name rhymes with Moo Boob.

This summer I intended to get my drum corps fix early and, at the urging (and they REALLY had to twist my arm) of some fellow drum corps fans and friends of mine, headed down to Columbia for FirstBEAT. Because I was traveling with band directors and other staff members, I actually got the pleasure of attending a clinic series that Crown put on prior to the event. If I didn't love them already, this certainly would have turned me. All of the clinics were led by Crown staff and moderated by their director, Kevin Smith (with whom I had the pleasure of having dinner while trying not to be Stan). The part that really got me is that the corps is focused, starting from the very top, on providing an unmatched experience for their students and for the fans of the activity. Their COO even so much as said that winning the fan favorite award meant more to them than a gold medal. And with that attitude, I see both in their future. Give 'em hell, Crown!
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