Drum Corps Teamwork Essay

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October 6, 2009, Interactive Arts & Technology: TechOne Writing (TECH 106)

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Drum Corps Teamwork Essay

  1. 1. Drum Corps Teamwork Christine Newman ‘Tink’ Section D-100 301116260 James Phillips October 6, 2009 Drum Corps Teamwork Reflective Essay Christine Newman „Tink‟ Simon Fraser University 1 of 6
  2. 2. Drum Corps Teamwork Christine Newman ‘Tink’ Section D-100 301116260 James Phillips October 6, 2009 Drum Corps Teamwork A Drum Corps International (DCI) member stood in the bright light after a show, sweat beads sparkling on his face as he told ESPN newscasters, “When you get off the field and you guys had a good show, you don‟t even need to say anything. Everybody knows and feels it… everybody moving together and the crowd is going crazy. It‟s awesome. You can‟t bottle that. You can‟t reproduce that any way. That is drum corps and that‟s why I‟m here.” (DCI Member, http://www.dci.org/about/) The corps member, a participant and performer in a drum corps organization, revealed a common thought that is shared by many people that engage in the physically demanding, intense, musical activity. My experiences as Drum Major with the Dutch Boy Drum & Bugle Corps (Kitchener, ON) gave me an opportunity to practice exposed two areas that I would like to improve upon for future team experiences, my listening skills and the ability to take criticism. Drum corps was an important period in my life because I became part of a team. My role of Drum Major on this team was an integral part of the team‟s functionality. My journey to join this team started when I decided to follow a dream that spurred from a magazine cover photograph. I wanted to join the ranks of the excited young adults holding medals that took sweat and tears to earn. That image of the winning corps, The Cadets, communicated something more than a marching band on steroids to me, it represented an iron bond between teammates. They were an example of a team that worked to become successful and reach their group goal. After joining a corps, I noticed that the group climate of a drum corps was similar to a military force and also like a family. Akin to the military, a drum corps held tryouts to recruit only the most talented individuals or those with the highest aptitude for learning. During the initial stages of membership, the members were put into sections and then ranked, based on ability and seniority. As cited by Tech101W: Communication, Teamwork & Collaborative 2 of 6
  3. 3. Drum Corps Teamwork Christine Newman ‘Tink’ Section D-100 301116260 James Phillips October 6, 2009 Process textbook, this is called the norming stage. It is consists of forming, norming, storming, performing and adjourning. After the groups were organized, the orders and schedules were delegated to the commanders, or drum majors, who carried out the instructions to organize, mobilize or keep the group in tempo. The dynamics of the group started to change when conflicts arose due to responsibilities and chores. I observed a mental storm cloud hover over the group. Tempers rose and lashed out due to tensions built up from missing home while on tour, relationship issues among corps members, problems with staff members, or frustration with practicing marching drill or music. Drum Majors dealt with unique situations that sometimes made exerting effective leadership difficult. This created problems of communication during the storming stage and throughout the tour. The storming stage of the group calmed down when the group norms, or member responsibilities, were set by the director, drum major and members. This norming stage helped define the roles each member played in the corps functioning. Some snare drum players kept the atmosphere light with jokes, while others provided caring, listening and mature roles. All of the roles played a part of the group structure, like a family. It was my role as a Drum Major to help transition the corps from the storming to norming stages. The performing stage was the main function of our team. Our job is to provide the pinnacle of visual and musical marching performance. My primary role was to keep the corps in tempo from back field to the front and all the way to the audience behind me. Sound delay was the result of poor effort on my part, or members not watching my hands. Before and after the performance I encouraged the group to give it their best shot and have fun while doing it. Then, after the performance I would tell each member what he or she did well; express my enthusiasm and positive attitude no matter what score we received out of ten. The charter bus rides back were a time for the whole corps to reflect on the performance and 3 of 6
  4. 4. Drum Corps Teamwork Christine Newman ‘Tink’ Section D-100 301116260 James Phillips October 6, 2009 usually the moral was high. I remember that the director would come onto the bus after we celebrated to critique a show, which was effective because the corps had already enjoyed the fruit of their labour. The corps was open to ideas of improvement, so they could have a repeat celebration after the next performance. My strength on the team was applying maintenance-oriented roles such as encouragement and harmonizing. I developed these skills from attending three George N. Parks Drum Major Academies and two years of drum major experience in my American high school. In these week-long drum major workshops, I learned how to critique and earn the respect of a fellow band or corps member. We called the method, “praise-suggestion-praise (PSP).” (George N. Parks, 2005) For example, I said to a corps member, “Your arm position holding your trumpet looks great, but I would like it if you could pull your toes together. Your posture looks great!” I used encouragement to keep the team motivated and used the technique of harmonizing between members, including problem solving when the need arose. In observing the way I interacted with my team, I can infer that my style of communication resembled a task-oriented, information-giving approach. This enabled me to use the praise-suggestion-praise method of delivering important information. At the end of the season, I looked back on my drum corps achievements such as being a finalist in the Drum Corps International World Championships in Pasadena, CA, for two years consecutively, winning the Bronze medal for Open Class and the Spirit of Disney Award for the most innovative visual performance. This accomplishment however, did not come to a close without tribulations and mistakes I made along my journey. One of my areas of weakness was the self-serving role of dominating which corresponded to my listening skills. I fell into a habit of trying to impose my ideas on others instead of fully listening to what they had to say. For example, learning how to listen and improve conversation with 4 of 6
  5. 5. Drum Corps Teamwork Christine Newman ‘Tink’ Section D-100 301116260 James Phillips October 6, 2009 older members of the corps would have been beneficial to gain a healthy level of respect. I believe this influenced some of the relationships I had with the corps and staff members. I have tried to improve my listening skills by not predicting the outcome of the speaker‟s sentence and listening actively so that I might be able to repeat it back. My ability to take criticism in front of that peer group weakened due to a specific event. One day while I was conducting on the podium, a specific instructor told me to, “keep the corps members quiet on the field.” I stopped the practice and explained informatively to the members that, “we will not produce change in the show if we don‟t stop talking.” Unfortunately, they didn‟t stop talking. The same instructor proceeded to stop practice and yell at me in front of the 60 member corps, ages 14-21. He screamed that I wasn’t doing my job, and I should do 50 pushups right then (on my 5‟x 2.5‟ wooden plank suspended on a lightweight, wobbly, aluminum podium) in front of everyone. The corps watched me finish. This act publicly humiliated me in front of my peers and made me feel inadequate and worthless. I felt like I was doing my job well up until that point. If I didn‟t have respect, what did I have? I only had influence over a group of people willing to trust me. One way I have been constantly working on this weakness is by putting myself in the position to be critiqued and developing an open mind. My experience with drum corps has been the most valuable team experience. I fulfilled my drum major responsibilities by using encouragement and harmonizing techniques to achieve group goals. I improved my listening skills and the ability to accept criticism. I believe the role I played in my drum corps was critical to the team. The directors and instructors performed most of the task-oriented work, while I addressed a need for maintenance-oriented encouragement for the team. After writing this reflection paper, this process has given me insight of how I might interact and perform better within teams. 5 of 6
  6. 6. Drum Corps Teamwork Christine Newman ‘Tink’ Section D-100 301116260 James Phillips October 6, 2009 References Drum Corps International. (Producer). (2009). This is Drum Corps International. Drum Corps International: Marching Music’s Major League. Video retrieved from http://www.dci.org/about/ Gamble, Michael, & Gamble, Teri Kwal. (2007). Chapter 11- Groups and Teams: Strategies for Decision Making and Problem Solving. Custom publication for Simon Fraser University, TECH101W: Communication, Teamwork & Collaborative Process (179-210). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited. **My 2006 drum corps performance video is available to watch at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trF1N1c7QGg> ** 6 of 6

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