a Way forward

On March 25th the Board of Directors for the Arizona Academy of the Performing Arts (AAPA) approved a plan that will enable its largest program, The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps to participate in the Drum Corps International Celebration Events this Summer.  The decision follows more than a year of planning, waiting, adjusting, and hoping that the circumstances would allow for a confident, safe return to in-person activity this summer. 

In the Fall of 2020, the organization set in motion a new educational platform called the Audition Academy, engaging hundreds of participants in a curriculum designed to prepare the students for their next audition. 

While we did not know at the time if the world would allow for a drum corps season in 2021, we knew that we could not just sit and wait.

While we did not know at the time if the world would allow for a drum corps season in 2021, we knew that we could not just sit and wait” said Executive Director, Mark Richardson.   “Through the Audition Academy, we were able to keep our mission going, while enabling us to prepare prospective members for a hopeful return to the field in 2021.” 

In December, the organization continued taking the steps towards seeking performance opportunities for the corps, and began selecting members who were interested in continuing while those opportunities were yet to take shape.   “We have continued to challenge ourselves to navigate the ever-changing dynamics of the world in order to (a) develop a meaningful experience, serving the mission of the organization, (b) that is financially viable for both the organization and our participants, and (c) that can be done in a responsible way, with health and safety at the forefront.” Richardson said. 

guided by the experts

Through the leadership of several committees within Drum Corps International, much work has been done to assist all of its participating organizations with finding their way back to the field. Thoughtfully crafted guidelines and recommendations have served as a lens through which corps can see themselves achieving their performance goals within their specific set of circumstances.  Richardson explains,

“After learning from the experts on how a drum corps experience might be delivered in this not-so-traditional kind of year, it was clear that for The Academy, developing a not-so-traditional experience to fit the circumstance was the way to go.  Early on we formed a framework for which we needed to build an experience for our members.”

That framework included the need to:

  • Set a controlled environment during in-person training periods to best protect the participants from the continued concerns of Coronavirus,
  • Account for shorter than normal travel segments to reduce opportunity for outside exposure in spaces within which we have little control,
  • Build backwards from the Indianapolis experience as it was our strong desire to join our fellow drum corps on the grand stage when we retake the field,
  • Leverage virtual/video opportunities to offset inevitable reduction of in-person education and training,
  • Allow for the flexibility for things to develop, as we need to be able to react to ever-changing dynamics, and to
  • Press forward responsibly, careful to not overreach.

“We understand that there will never be a scenario that eliminates all risks, and have to determine what the acceptable level of risk is” continued Richardson.  “Neither The Academy, nor any corps I don’t believe, will put on a drum corps program that exceeds a reasonable amount of risk, keeping the participants’ health and safety as a priority.  What has been important for our own team to understand is that through the stable financial position we find ourselves in, The Academy will survive in whatever scenario takes place and that our financial survival will not be a factor that steers our decision making.  We also have held the position that if there was a way to make a 2021 experience happen for our corps, it is worth working towards and waiting for, delaying our final decisions as long as reasonably responsible.” 

For The Academy, the final decision point to move on this has always been targeted for the end of March.  Thus, the organization is excited to announce its plans for The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps in 2021.

…if there was a way to make a 2021 experience happen for our corps, it is worth working towards and waiting for…

The academy presents…

An announcement will be made soon, for The Academy’s primary production that is set to be presented on Friday and Saturday of the Lucas Oil events.  “Because we built this program for the members of the 2020 corps, we thought it was important to fulfill this design for those members that have hung in there all along, allowing us to close the chapter of this challenging year in a memorable way” said Artistic Director and Program Coordinator, Lindsey Vento about the primary 2021 production.  Originally crafted for the 2020 season, the design is being reimagined to allow for flexibility within the design.  This flexibility includes the ability to assemble the production on a shorter timeline, with many of the elements being pre-programmed through remote learning.  The new approach also allows the corps to extend the recruitment process into the early summer, giving prospective members more time to evaluate before deciding to jump on board.


…we thought it was important to fulfill this design for those members that have hung in there all along…

20th Anniversary Celebration Performance

Important to the corps this season is the desire to commemorate 2021 as the 20th anniversary season of the Arizona Academy of the Performing Arts.  The shift of the Indianapolis events to a non-competitive format, and Thursday’s thematic focus on remembering the activity’s storied past offers The Academy a unique opportunity to bring to Indianapolis an additional presentation suited for the opportunity to mark the occasion.  “With this new ability to stretch our creative legs, the corps will be bringing to the field a musical tribute to the past two decades of performances from The Academy” says Vento.   “The narrative will tell the unique story of The Academy, from the modest roots of the Summer Brass & Percussion Ensemble, to the early days in Division II, to the promotion to Division I, the growth as an organization in World Class, and finishing with some of the corps more recent memorable highlights.” 

This 20th anniversary celebration performance will offer the opportunity to include an AAPA Alumni Reunion Project, which will offer the chance for past performers of all the programs of The Academy to reconnect and celebrate together prior to the current membership’s departure to Indianapolis. 

…the corps will be bringing to the field a musical tribute to the past two decades of performances from The Academy…

the work begins

The corps will be assembling these productions during two extended training periods.  On June 18, the corps will move into the greater Phoenix for 10 days of training and production.  A prior 7-day self-sequester period is planned as defined under guidelines set forth by the Tour Reopening Task Force of Drum Corps International, setting up an environment that allows the group to safely reside together in the same location. 

Following this first overnight training period, the members will transition back into their homes for the month of July, where day rehearsals will take place for those residing locally.  Designated safety protocols will shift for these commuter rehearsals.  Some out-of-state members will look to house locally with Arizona families during this time, rather than returning home.  Richardson explains,

“Breaking up the spring training into multiple small segments helps to avoid issues such as providing time-off to the members, the need for doing laundry, regularly on-boarding of staff and volunteers, et al. where exposure to environments we don’t have control over is most precarious”.

After another 7-day stretch of sequestering within their family cohorts, the corps will re-convene at the end of July where they will make the move to cooler climate at Camp Tontozona in Payson, AZ, the home of Arizona State University’s fabled summer football training grounds.  After completing their preparations, The Academy will return to the Phoenix area briefly for a send-off event before flying to Indianapolis for another week of final touches and performances at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Richardson said about their final plan,

“even with the pandemic not yet defeated, we are able to move forward with great confidence in our ability to fully see this program through.   We have grown tired of the word ‘uncertainty’. 

The confidence in this plan grows with every uncertainty that we remove from the equation.  With this plan we are certain:

  • that the risk for contamination due to dynamics of travel is low.
  • that if someone does become infected with Coronavirus, the impact on our ability to perform and to continue on will be low.
  • that we can execute this with a reduced requirement of volunteers for this plan.
  • that membership recruitment will not be an issue, with the ability to extend auditions into the summer without sacrificing our standards of excellence.

  • that the plan is affordable, with a reduction in total cost from our original plans.
  • that, within reason, housing will be available to accommodate our needs.
  • that the plan is within a reasonable amount of risk, with health and safety at the forefront.
  • that the experience will be meaningful for all who are involved.


Auditions continue for the last remaining open positions in the performer roster.  Contact us with any questions at audition@arizonaacademy.org, or register to send in your video audition here.