The culmination of the entirety of the drum corps competitive season takes place at the Drum Corps International World Championship, which is held in Indianapolis, Indiana, usually during the second weekend in August. So as one may imagine, for a drum corps to be working and perfecting their show from mid-May to mid-August, there is a lot of room for changes to be made to each individual show. Shows are changed and tweaked nearly on a daily basis, and that’s no exception during Championships, commonly referred to as “finals week.”
Finals week consists of a few different events. Firstly, there is the DCI “Performer’s Showcase,” which lets members of each corps compete on an individual and ensemble level among their peers. For instance, the Madison Scouts generally will enter a vocal group into ensemble competition, and the Blue Devils will frequently allow its members to compete on the solo or individual level. This event usually will happen on the Wednesday of Finals week. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are devoted to having all of the drum corps competing in the US “circuit” (yes, there are European groups too!) perform in a Preliminary (“Prelims”), Semifinal (“Semis”), and Final night of competition. This is only on the World Class level, as well! The Open Class groups will have their own event, which is set up in the same fashion, earlier in the week. The top groups in the Open Class category will then go to World Class Championships later in the group.
Prelims consist of all World Class groups and the top smattering of Open Class groups. This event takes most of Thursday, with the first group usually performing in the late morning or early afternoon. Semis then consists of the groups with the 25 highest scores in the activity (this includes Open Class groups, who will frequently place high enough to be in World Class Semifinals!). This event starts later in the day on Friday. And Finals consists of the groups with the 12 highest scores in the activity. This event will start late in the afternoon on Saturday, with the awards ceremony, also called “retreat”, often not finishing until 11 PM. All in all, DCI Finals Week is one of the largest gatherings of marching music performers in one place at a single time. Except maybe for WGI Championships. We can talk about that later.