Immersing himself in music

Photo courtesy of Tony McCrackin | Sean Pronay Photography"Everyone who does DCI pretty much gets addicted to it," reports Coleman Jennewein. Drum Corps International was recommended to him by two past participants, a Purdue University All-American Marching Band section leader and a trombonist in the university's jazz band.

Drum roll, please:

2018 Batesville High School graduate Coleman Jennewein has made it into Marching Music’s Major League™ – Drum Corps International.

The Purdue University student will be performing this summer on a DCI team called the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps.

To prepare, he worked out second semester to make his body stronger and practiced five show tunes that will be part of the program. "In DCI, you don't hear very many pop tunes. DCI has a very characteristic sound." Some may recognize “715-Creeks” by Bon Iver, “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears or “One Voice” by Barry Manilow.

Since May 19, Jennewein is spending six weeks in Trafalgar, where "we eat, sleep and breathe drum corps." He's heard about the rigorous schedule: "wake up, eat breakfast, practice, lunch, practice, dinner, practice until midnight."

The Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps tour kicks off June 22 in Madison, Wisconsin. It will be one of about 50 DCI groups, each with a maximum of 154 members, entertaining across the U.S. this summer.

Madison Scouts, one of two all-male corps, places a big emphasis on brotherhood, according to Jennewein.

Local residents will have three chances to watch Jennewein and the corps in action. Tickets may be purchased at for June 23, 7:30 p.m., Zionsville Community High School Football Stadium; and June 28, 8 p.m., Scheumann Stadium, Muncie. They may be ordered at for June 25, 7 p.m., Hamilton High School Virgil Schwarm Stadium, Hamilton, Ohio. General admission tickets also will be sold at each show.

Then the Scouts will perform shows in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

When performances start, the drill is a bit different: "practice all day, perform in the evening, drive all night to the next location."

The 18-year-old explains, "We create our own show, do our own uniforms and props. ... We compete and get scores from judges and try to improve as much as possible until finals."

He predicts the experience for musicians will be "bonding through suffering. Marching band, in my opinion, is basically suffering the entire summer, but loving every second of it." Members will be performing on football fields – definitely sweating in Texas in late July – and dozing in sleeping bags on gym floors.

To cover expenses – uniform, sheet music, food and lodging – the Jenneweins pay tuition to the Scouts, plus take part in fundraising efforts and a letter writing campaign for donations.

Jennewein's summer will culminate at the World Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium Aug. 8-10. He reports, "It's like any kind of competition. Every corps in the country will go to Indianapolis. There will be preliminaries," then the top 25 bands will compete at semifinals and the top 12 at finals.

The musician likes the odds of his group advancing. Over the last 45 years, the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps made it to finals 40 times and won the championship twice.

Even if the student wants to be part of the band in summer 2020, it's not a done deal. "Every member has to re-audition every single year. They want the corps to be the best possible." There are two alternates for each instrument section, so if a musician is sick or not performing well, "they reserve the right to swap you out with an alternate."

Drum Corps International has long been on Jennewein's radar. "DCI is a thing you know about if you do marching band. It's like the big leagues, marching band at the professional level." After the Jackson, Tennessee, native moved to Batesville in summer 2012, former Batesville Middle School band director Eric Stauffer would play DCI videos in class.

The son of Brad and Tricia Jennewein, Batesville, wanted to be a part of DCI "because I personally have a love of performing" and at finals "there are thousands of screaming fans. I had this talent for music and looking at college and down the road a career ... I really wanted a chance to be excellent at what I do and do something really great with music before I become an adult and all those opportunities sort of evaporate."

He has been practicing for two to three years toward this goal.

To become a member of the elite corps, Jennewein had to audition. Although his main brass instrument is trombone, that instrument isn't always used in DCI shows, so the teen is playing a baritone, "like a minituba," which he also used during his BHS senior year.

The musician decided to audition for two corps, hoping to be accepted by one, so he studied booklets about techniques, lip slurs and technical exercises. Because he couldn't go to both auditions in person, he spent 14 hours making an audition video for the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps.

During Purdue's fall semester finals week, Jennewein opened up a fateful email. CONTRACT was written in big bold letters. "I was ecstatic!" because he considers the Madison group to be "a very good corps. They have a lot of name recognition. It was just the coolest thing."

Next he attended winter camp over four weekends near Chicago and Indianapolis to learn "how to breathe, how to stand, how to play. In drum corps it's very much important for everybody down to the line to ... have the exact same sound."

Jennewein comes from a musical family, so DCI is a natural path. He recalls, "My dad was the one who originally got me to play music, seeing him play piano and drums."

"I've been playing trombone since fifth grade, piano since preschool. I picked up bari in my sophomore or junior year."

After the boy took music lessons, "I just kept going because I love it so much." Last summer the family ("everybody but mom") joined him in the Eureka Band. His dad and Blake, now 20, played drums; Aiden, 16, was on French horn; and Chloe, 14, on flute.

At BHS, the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award winner played in the Ball State All-State Honor Band for two years; BHS band plus the Sport Coat Jazz Band and Steel Drum Band; and Batesville Christian Church Worship Band.

He is in four Purdue University groups: All-American Marching Band and the volleyball pep band first semester and the jazz band and Boiler Brass, the men's varsity basketball pep band, second semester. "It's very fun. We don't have a music school, but in my opinion, Purdue has the best music program of any school that's not a music college. What we like to say is not having a music college actually enhances the atmosphere. Everyone in marching band is in another degree, but they love band so much they're willing to devote time to it."

Jennewein admits, "Marching band is honestly a pretty huge time commitment ... We practice two hours a day. If there's a game on Saturday, that's pretty much an all-day thing." The students are surrounded by band directors, conductors and arrangers. "They all drive us to be as excellent as we can be."

After DCI, there might be time for other favorite activities – hanging out with friends and siblings and playing video games – before getting back into studying mode at Purdue, where he's going after a chemical engineering degree with a concentration in energy and the environment.

After graduation, Jennewein imagines a renewable energy career. What about still being in a band? "Marching? Probably not, but music definitely" will be part of his future.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

Two organizations' histories

The year was 1937. A group of businessmen gathered at the University of Wisconsin Stock Pavilion to view a performance by the Racine Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps. Impressed and entertained, the men brought back to Madison what they saw and heard. Months later, on Feb. 8, 1938, The Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps was born, according to

The Madison Scouts has established itself as a premier youth performing arts organization. “Proud, Loud and Pleasing the Crowd” – an unofficial mantra of the corps – the Scouts are known for their entertainment-focused programs that consistently bring audiences to their feet.

Thirteen original founding member organizations formed the Drum Corps International collective in 1971 to organize and unify leadership for youth-focused competitive drum corps events throughout North America, states

A nonprofit entity was officially established in 1972, and today DCI supports numerous programs around the globe while sanctioning participating recognized drum corps, SoundSport® performance ensembles and DrumLine Battle™ teams performing in more than 100 competitive events that make up the annual Drum Corps International Tour.

With a vast reach online at, through corporate sponsorship, annual broadcast initiatives and outreach to high school music programs, Drum Corps International delivers the message of “excellence in performance and in life” to more than 7.2 million young people ages 13-22 involved in the performing arts across the United States.