Southern California corps gear up for busy 2009

by Jim Claytor, DCW staff

This article was originally published in the March 2009 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 37, Number 12).

In the land of Hollywood, movie stars, Beverly Hills and beautiful beaches, Southern California roars into 2009 with a vengeance, as one of the country’s emerging regions for drum and bugle corps. With 10 drum corps within a 40-mile radius of Los Angeles, the greater LA/Orange County vicinity alone hosts six shows and countless parades and exhibitions.

One of the most recent additions to the Southern California roster is City Sound, centrally located in South Los Angeles. Under the direction of Nathanial Lewis, and in a partnership with the LA Unified School District, City Sound has jumped head-first into the inner city of LA and has created a soon-to-be powerhouse corps on the circuit.

Lewis, a drum corps veteran and an alumni snare drummer for the Anaheim Kingsmen, has put together a phenomenally experienced staff and advisory board that has previously marched with the likes of the Santa Clara Vanguard, The Cavaliers and Anaheim Kingsmen, just to name a few.

Lewis states that his completely unconventional approach is not just a January through August activity like a lot of corps, but a year-round student program creating a future highly competitive corps from the heart of the West Coast’s largest city. City Sound includes a program to involve kids who would not normally have the opportunity to participate in an actual competitive drum and bugle corps, because, according to Lewis, “The way the fees have been structured lately, it has become an activity that middle or low income kids in some neighborhoods can’t afford, so we’re building drum corps in the inner city, one kid at a time.”

Dues are low, dedication and involvement from the kids and the community is extremely high. Most of their members have only had the opportunity to see a drum corps from whatever is shown on television or the Internet, so this undertaking will be a fantastic example and learning program for other low income communities around the country to incorporate the arts back into the community and schools.

Starting 12 years ago as a drum line, City Sound emerges this spring in their first performance as a open class drum and bugle corps with over 70 members and music from the 1970s Grammy-winning group, The 5th Dimension. For information, visit:

Ever wonder about the supernatural? Well, the theme for this year’s SoCal Dream all-age corps show will take you on that paranormal journey — “A Supernatural Dream,” the music of Carlos Santana. The show opens with Da Le Yaleo, which Corps President Michael Nash says, “A song that seems as if Santana wrote it for drum corps.” Next up is She’s Not There, a song full of passion and soul, followed by the Santana ballad Europa and closing with the wild, up-tempo Everybody’s Everything.

This year the corps is in a “restructuring mode” in order to grow and become a more progressive and competitive DCA open class finalist. SoCal Dream has a completely new staff that plans to make the corps bigger, better, more powerful and extremely exciting, especially with this year’s Latin Rock theme. In the years to come, Dream is planning to become a major DCA contender for the championship trophy. With the new focus on age-outs from the eight surrounding Southern California junior corps, Nathaniel Lewis, who is also director of SoCal Dream, plans on implementing elements and styles seen mostly in junior corps — fast, hard and in your face.

Doing what most of us would call insane, Lewis is in the process of building two corps at once. One of the goals this year for Dream is to “get the fans up on their feet and clapping in the stands.” Last year, when Lewis had just taken over as director, over half the staff was already gone, but with his persistence and believing in the inevitable, he pulled off something most would think is close to impossible . . . he took the corps all the way to the DCA Finals!

It’s a late Saturday afternoon in Diamond Bar, CA. Early February, thunderclouds overhead, but we’re still in shorts and t-shirts, and Pacific Crest is hitting me in the face with 75 incredible horns and I do mean incredible. I arrived at Diamond Bar High School and was waiting to conduct my interview with Corps Director Stuart Pompel when I witnessed a totally reinvented drum corps.

By the looks and sounds of things, Pacific Crest has just rejuvenated themselves in the World Class market of drum corps. Brand-new, streamlined uniforms by designer Brent Becker, an incredibly powerful and articulate horn line that sounds as if it’s July already and a fantastically athletic color guard and massive drum line. The 2009 program consists of music featuring 20th century Latin American composers Julian Orban, Carlos Chavez and Alberto Ginastera in a program called “El Corazon de la gente: Alegria, Amor, y Fuerza.”

With 20 shows and countless parades to prepare for in 2009, Pompel is very excited about this year’s corps and looks forward to a “fan-centric”show that is to be musically, visually and “fan-centrically” exciting! Pacific Crest is known for its audience-engaging shows and this year is no different. With extremely difficult scores to locate because of their rarity, beautiful melodic passages and a hot percussion score that makes you want to get out of your seat and dance, the horns, new look and a goal for that DCI top spot, Pacific Crest seems in it to move up the ladder!