David Glasgow was in high school when he first saw a performance by the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps. The minute he heard them, he was hooked.
The band director had taken Glasgow and his band mates to Ypsilanti, Mich., in 1993 to attend a competition of 25 drum and bugle corps.
“The Bluecoats were the first corps to perform that made me say ‘Wow!’” he says. “I knew from then on that I needed to be in the Bluecoats, and I ended up marching in the corps from 1998 to 2001.”
Since 2004, Glasgow has served as the group’s executive director. He was also assistant director in 2003, tour coordinator in 2002, and served his last two years in the corps as drum major.
Founded as an outreach program of the Canton, Ohio Police Boys’ Club and with a name that honors Canton’s retired police officers, the Bluecoats organization began in 1972. Since 2001, the corps has finished in eighth place or better, winning its first medal in 2010 with a third-place finish at the Drum Corps International (DCI) World Championship Finals.
The Bluecoats are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit made up of 150 young men and women between the ages of 15 and 22. The corps travels more than 10,000 miles each season and competes in about 30 performances as part of DCI’s annual tour. The members rehearse up to 14 hours each day to perfect their 11-minute competitive program.
Glasgow says the Bluecoats’ typical season last about three months. They spend a month in spring training at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, learning the show and preparing to perform. Then, they hit the road for two months. The season ends at the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis in early August.
On a typical competition day, the Bluecoats will have traveled from another state the night before, so after they arrive at their housing site — usually a high school — the members will typically sleep four to five hours on the gym floor.
“They wake up, eat breakfast, unload the equipment truck and then go rehearse for two to three hours. They then eat lunch, rehearse for another three to four hours, eat dinner, clean up the school, pack-up and drive to the show,” Glasgow says. “After a 30- to 90-minute bus trip, the band members will arrive at the show site, warm-up for two hours, do the show, have a snack, load the equipment truck and get on the bus for another trip.”
Being a member of the corps changed Glasgow’s life in many ways.
“It taught me how to live and work with others as a team in the challenging circumstances of traveling around the country sleeping on buses and gym floors. It taught the meaning of hard work,” he says.
“My experience as drum major taught me important leadership and managerial skills as I was the student leader in charge of the 135 students in the corps, at that time. Most important, it taught me how to pursue success with bulldog-like tenacity. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again and again.”
What makes the Bluecoats different from the average high school or college marching band? While most bands can use any instrument they choose, drum corps only use brass and percussion instruments. Glasgow describes drum corps shows as “more visceral and physically demanding than most as we have the luxury of many more hours of rehearsal to perfect our program.”
The Bluecoats also have the opportunity to select from a large pool of members from not only Northeast Ohio, but the entire world. Every year, around 700 people audition to fill 150 positions in the corps.
“In the marching arts, we consider ourselves the best of the best,” he says.
Now in an administrative and managerial role with the corps, Glasgow’s challenge is to produce a top-notch educational program for young people and constantly improve on that experience, while making sure the Bluecoats have the necessary resources.
“With the costs of travel, four meals a day, facilities and more, we’re an expensive activity,” he says. “Attending our show on June 21 in Akron is a great way to not only enjoy an amazing show, but also help support the Bluecoats.”
Glasgow says attendees who have never been to a Bluecoats show can expect to be blown away by this performance.
“The pure volume of sound and excitement of each corps is unmatched by any marching band you’ve ever seen. The color and the precision will also really impress you,” he says. “Seven of the very best marching ensembles in the world will be there on display to create an evening of entertainment you’ll never forget. Give it a shot. You’ll be glad you did.”