When C.C. Waggoner showed up for marching band practice last week at Legacy High School, he was a week late and the envy of his band mates.
The night before he had jetted home from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with a world championship medal from Drum Corps International, as part of a team assembled from the top auditioning performers in the country.
Back on the field with his Legacy band, it was business as usual.
“They’ve been learning the drill,” Waggoner said. “I hopped in and learned my spot. It was fairly easy for me to get in and figure out the time structure.”
The senior got a full pass from Glenn Fugett, the Legacy band director since the school opened in 2007. Fugett said he encourages some of his most talented and enthusiastic students to try out for the Drum Corps International competitions and spend several months traveling and performing to hone their skills.
“I think they have a love for and passion for the marching arts and for the activities, the pageantry,” said Fugett, who competed in DCI events as a student and now serves as a DCI judge.
DCI, a nonprofit founded in 1972 to organize marching contests, calls itself Marching Music’s Major League. Each of this year’s 22 teams across the country fielded 150 members who make up drum and brass sections and color guard.
Waggoner competed last year as a member of the Bluecoats drum corps. In November, he auditioned for the more celebrated Blue Devils, who had already won a DCI record 15 world championships. Waggoner, 17, is the only Legacy band student to earn a spot with the Blue Devils. He was 16 at the time, making him the youngest team member this year, Fugett said.
In January, each of the 22 teams, which are based throughout the country, selected their 150 final members and began weekend camps once a month in the spring. Waggoner had to fly to Concord, Calif., where the Blue Devils are based, for those rehearsals.
In late May, he spent about a month with the team as they perfected their 12-minute show. That required permission from Legacy officials to complete his course work and take his final exams early.
He’s not sure how much the administration knew about DCI.
“It’s hard to fully understand, unless you’re in it,” he said. “Most people probably aren’t even aware of Drum Corps. But I think they knew it was a big deal.”
After the rehearsal camp, the Blue Devils hit the road to 29 cities, coast to coast, for small shows and regional championship matches with other teams.
“Driving on the bus for six hours, the summer tour takes a toll on you,” Waggoner said.
But it proved their show was ready for the finals. Although the tour results don’t factor into the world championships, the Blue Devils won all 29 contests, also a DCI record.
The DCI drum corps actually is a drum and bugle corps. Waggoner’s “bugle” is the French horn, which he started learning when he joined band in sixth grade.
“I thought it made really cool sounds,” he said. In marching activities, though, the French horn takes second chair to a similar-sounding instrument, the mellophone. “They’re pitched in same key, so you can think of a mellophone as a marching French horn.”
He plans to continue in the DCI circuit as long as he is eligible, which is through 21 years of age.
His mother, Ana Waggoner, said he needed no nudging to join DCI.
“It’s just something he was very excited about,” she said. “He basically took it upon himself to find out where the auditions were and to go audition. So we’re pretty proud of him for that.”