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Facilities: Why is this so hard?

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For as long as I’ve been corps director, finding and maintaining a summer rehearsal facility has been one of the most challenging and frustrating parts of our administrative and member experiences.  For those who scratch their heads and think, “What’s the deal? Why is this difficult?” I thought I’d share a little behind-the-scenes explanation as to our challenges and constraints, hopefully without sounding too defensive.


football-fieldAsk anyone who’s been in the corps a while, and they can tell you about spaces we have been in for both long and short terms.  When I joined the corps in 2003, we were in the midst of a relatively stable set of seasons where we were able to rehearse at the old Dayton’s Distribution Center and Sear’s lots in the Broadway and Industrial Avenue zones.   This was a pretty good set up for us and worked well for many years.  Soon, however, Dayton’sMarshalFieldsMacys sold their distribution facility to Taylor Liquor Distribution and we lost that facility.  Then the folks working at the (mostly empty) Sears building got annoyed with us so we lost that facility.  Since then we’ve been traveling around, like a circus, trying to find  a place that would welcome us with open arms.  Few have.

The Need

Part of why it’s hard for us to secure space is because our needs are pretty demanding.  Here’s what we look for:

  • In an ideal rehearsal facility, we will have at least two, if not three, football field size zones.  We’ve found parking lots to work well for us because we don’t have to worry about repainting every week and worry about mowing.  Parking lots, however, usually need to be associated with a large empty building otherwise we’re likely to have two or three random cars parked in the middle of our field.  Ask Scott Palmer how much fun that is to deal with!
  • In addition to space, we need to make sure at least one of these football ‘fields’ is lit.  Often times the demand for lighting and the demand for space are incompatible–there are lots of large parking lots out there in the world, but modern design calls for lights, green space and islands to break up the sea of concrete making many lots unsuitable for our needs.  Last year, we had to rent lights and none of us were very happy with the results.
  • Next we have to understand the neighborhood.  We have lost many spaces because the neighbors don’t enjoy hearing Dr. Beat at 9:30 at night while they’re trying to get their kids to sleep.  This another reason we’ve found industrial, remote areas to be a good fit for us.
  • We also need a place where we can park our trailers.  The reason for this is two-fold:  First, if we have to move our trailers every week that means we need two volunteer truck drivers to make sure they can get out of work, get to wherever the trailers are parked and drive them to our rehearsal facility–all during rush hour.  Then they need to hang out until 11 p.m. at night (after everything is loaded), drive the trailers back to storage and get themselves back home.  We have amazing volunteer truck drivers, but that’s a lot to ask even of Al and Jodi and Tuna for every single Wednesday of the summer.  We also like to leave the trailers on site because it allows for percussion sectionals at other times.  Without this the front line would essentially have no access to their instruments during the week.
  • Finally, we need permission.  I can’t tell you how many places we’ve called that look absolutely perfect for our needs and our request is met with a polite, simple, “No, we’re not interested.”  Sometimes this has to do with corporate policies or worry about liability but for whatever reason, some places just don’t want their empty spaces to be put to good use.

Why not schools?

The challenges with using football stadiums or schools are mostly related to the issues above–specifically around the neighbors and noise.  If you think of most high schools in the 494/694 loop, they are often located in residential neighborhoods.  Schools also charge for facilities, lights and staffing which would be several thousand dollars for a regular Wednesday site.  Many are not interested in having our trailers parked on site.  During the past few seasons, we’ve tried to add a few school rehearsals to gain stadium time toward the end of the season, but have not found one school that would work for us as a ‘permanent’ home.  Brooklyn Center, where we’ve had great success this winter, has homes less than 250′ feet from the stadium’s back sideline.  I don’t want to risk our long-term partnership with Brooklyn Center by pissing off all the neighbors.


Finally, the last challenge we have is volunteer capacity.  It takes time to locate potential fields, figure out who the owner is and connect with the right individual to get permission.  There’s a fantastic spot along the river in Minneapolis I’ve always wanted us to use, but after weeks of calls we finally got an answer from the home office in London–cause that’s where the facility is owned.  “No thanks!  Cheerio.” They said.  And so many hours of work and calls came to a halt.  Of course, it’s our responsibility on the admin team to solve problems like this.  That’s what I’m supposed to do.  Just know that it takes time and is not always a simple process.

So there you have it.  Certainly we strive to get better and constantly talk about long-term solutions to this problem.  But for now, we continue to seek out good opportunities wherever they may exist and strive to find a safe, consistent rehearsal facility.

First Show Camp Weekend!

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StressSo this is a pre-emptive post about the weekend ahead.  As I mentioned last night I am really excited to spend this time together for us to launch the outdoor portion of our season!  The music sounds terrific, the drill is looking great and I know you are excited to get out on the field.  We’re going to have fun this weekend!

Having said that, I also want to make sure everyone remains flexible.  I encourage you to come with a positive attitude and help each other to stay positive.  I don’t anticipate any huge challenges, but I do know we will need to brush the cobwebs off as we transition to being outside.

The weather looks icky on Saturday.  Not terrible, not miserable, just kinda cold and damp.  Plan ahead by bringing lots of layers.  Bring your rain gear.  Bring extra dry clothes including socks.  Be ready to get wet and be prepared for a chilly day.  Sunday looks better so hopefully we’ll be rewarded with sunshine and perfect drill-learnin’ weather.

Also, many of you non-percussion-types may not be aware that there’s been a ton of activity going on with our trailers.  We have a BRAND SPANKING NEW trailer to haul around all of our percussion equipment.  (It’s so big Jodi has named it “Beast!”)  We’re in the process of ‘building out’ the trailer which means putting all the shelves and compartments that we need to safely secure our equipment for long trips.  In the mean time, things are in a bit of flux.  Please know that Jodi and her crew are working their butts off to get the trailer ready.  This is all being done as volunteer time–after work, on weekends, etc.  Our load times and our ability to immediately put our hands on the exact piece of equipment you need may be a little delayed in the next few weeks as we get everything finalized for the new trailer.  Know that by June we’ll be running at full efficiency and we’ll have an awesome new trailer to show for it!

Take care of one another.  Look out for the rookies.  And let’s make this a fantastic show camp!

April’s gonna be a lil different . . .

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Man Plans and God Laughs
-Yiddish proverb

So Spring has sprung and with it we face the exciting conclusion to our winter  seasons and the acceleration of work to get the summer corps outside.  April will look and a feel a little different than previous seasons and even a little different than I had planned months ago.  Here’s the scoop (always and as usual, subject to change!):

Wednesday April 1:  No rehearsal tonight.  No foolin’.  Our big trailer finally gave up the ghost this  weekend which weJodi New Trailer had always expected to happen, although we were hoping it would hold on until after the drumline’s trip to Ohio for their world championships.  Alas, we came up about two weeks short.  This means there will not be any percussion equipment at Brooklyn Center tonight as we are in the process of getting the NEW big trailer ready for its maiden voyage.  Meanwhile, Brooklyn Center is on break and did not schedule coverage for us tonight and just let me know they did not have anyone to open the school.  So . . . enjoy the week off!

Saturday April 4:  Unfortunately, we were unable to secure permission to have everyone in the same place at the same time this weekend.  <sad face>  Each of our ensembles will rehearse separately according to their posted schedules:
Summer hornline:  1-5 p.m. at Brooklyn Center HS
Winter drumline:  10 a.m. – 9 p.m. at Totino Grace
Winter guard:  whatever Wil tells you at White Bear Lake Armory
Summer drumline:  no rehearsal

Wednesday, April 8:  NO rehearsal for anyone

Wednesday, April 15:  Horns and Drums rehearsal for summer corps (this was originally announced as horns only but it has been adjusted) at Brooklyn Center HS.

Wednesday, April 22:  Horns and Drums rehearsal for the summer corps; color guard auditions begin!  Make sure to spread the word among your guard friends that auditions for the full corps begin on the 22nd at Brooklyn Center HS.

Friday, April 24:  Evening rehearsal for EVERYONE; 6-10 p.m.  Tentative location is Brooklyn Center HS.

Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, April 26:  First outdoor camp at Northdale MS!  We start at 9 a.m. on Saturday and run til 6 p.m.; Sunday’s schedule is 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.  Lots of fun details to come on this.

Wednesday, April 29:  Horns and Drums rehearsal for the summer corps; color guard auditions continue at Brooklyn Center HS.  We will also have our indoor ‘blow down’ and share a preview of the summer music at the end of rehearsal.  Guests are welcome and details to come.

Whew!  We’re off and running.  Hope this is helpful to you.

Awesomesauce DCI MN Tickets

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DCI Minnesota Tickets have gone on sale.  Minnesota Brass is the local tour event partner for this fantastic event and it’s important to us as both performers and show organizers to have a huge crowd in attendance.  The Corps has access to some primo seats if you would like to get some for you and your guests.  These tickets have no service charges either!  (We will once again perform last at the show in exhibition, so you will not be able tow watch the show yourself since we will be performing.)  Here’s the scoop on tickets:Minneapolis13

We have both lower and upper sections tickets, both are middle section seats. Lower level are about 2/3 up and upper level are in the first 10 rows. Lower lever are $50/tickets, upper level $60/ticket.  Again, there is no service charge or handling fee if get your tickets through the corps.  Payment MUST be included with your order and we ask you include a self-addressed envelope, with postage on it back to you when you send your check. Check should be written to DCI.  For questions/clarifications please email Gavin Burnham (our corporate CEO) and when you’re ready to place your order, mail to it Gavin at:

Gavin Burnham
4177 Kaitlin Dr
Vadnais Hts, MN 55127

If you know of others that want tickets, please pass this info on.

April 4: The Plan

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Thanks for your patience as we finalize plans for our April 4 activities.  We’ve had a few unanticipated challenges to the weekend, so I wanted to update you on where things stand and what will happen.

HORNS:  Will have a horn camp that runs from 1-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 4.  If we’re at the same facility (keep your fingers crossed!) then our goal would be to break around 5 p.m. and you’ll have an opportunity to watch the Minnesota Brass Indoor Drumline do a run through of their 2015 production as they prepare to depart for the WGI World Championships in Dayton the following weekend.

WINTER DRUMLINE:  Your rehearsal moves forward as scheduled–10 a.m. – 9 p.m.  Follow Joe’s instructions for details of the day.

SUMMER DRUMLINE: You are not required for any events on this day (unless you are a member of the winter drumline) but are welcome to stop by at 5 or so to watch the drumline run through.

We will do an “Preview” of the summer show at one of our last indoor Wednesday rehearsals which you can invite friends and family to watch.  We’ll do this in the Brooklyn Center HS Auditorium at the end of rehearsal.

Location for Saturday, April 4 is confirmed for the drumline at Totino-Grace.  Right now the hornline will be at Brooklyn Center and the Winter Guard will be at White Bear Lake Armory.  We are seeking permission to have EVERYONE at Totino-Grace and I will let you know if we are able to make that happen.

Thanks for your flexibility!