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Columbus Saints Join Class A in 2018

It is with great pleasure that Drum Corps Associates welcome the Columbus Saints from Columbus, Ohio to the Class ranks in 2018. The Saints passed their evaluation and are preparing for the upcoming DCA competition season.

The Columbus Saints are celebrating their fifteenth anniversary this year. The corps was founded in 2003 as the Saints Drumline Inc, by Mr. Marshall Cheatham, a social worker and juvenile corrections officer is an alumnus of the St. Andrews Hornets Drum and Bugle Corps. Styled as an Historical Black College & University drum line, the program grew to serve youth all around Columbus responding to the popularity of the film Drumline (2002). The Saints travel around the United States and perform at events with their high energy brand of entertainment. In 2013, a horn line was added under the guidance of Mr. Martin Williams, Cincinnati Tradition alum, leading to the corps to end its HBCU drum line and switch to a drum and bugle corps, competing in DCI Sound Sport All-Age and more.

The bulk of the corps membership is recruited through social media, word of mouth, and drum corps shows. Their recruiting plan was originally outlined by Chris Groves, an alumnus of Dutch Boy and Bluecoats. Chris utilized his professional experience as Director of Communication for the United Way to market their corps. This plan helped the Saints successfully target their message, design campaigns, and measure return on investment of promotions. Recruiting was also done by word of mouth spread from members, or from people that had seen the corps in competition previously, all of which helped drive interest in membership. Some of their members join because they want to learn from a quality staff, and simply can’t afford some of the more expensive options. Others join as a way to be in an education focused environment prior to auditioning and marching World and Open Class DCI or WGI ensembles. Others join because they just want to continue playing and see the Saints as a fun, yet challenging way to perform post high school.

Columbus Saints

Their show for 2018 is titled ” American Struggle ” and is meant to be an apolitical show that simply highlights the challenges that we as a nation have faced throughout the course of our history. The show is presented in four acts highlighting distinct periods in our history. What’s unique about their show is everything from the title, separate acts, and song selections has multiple layers. If you just want to experience the show for the entertainment factor alone you’ll enjoy the show. If you’re a history buff, you’ll appreciate peeling back those layers and examining their production to connect with the performers emotions. The Saints create shows that are designed around an easily accessible idea, type of music, or historical idea which not only educates members, but also the fans.

I asked corps director Le Ron Carlton what his short and long-term goals were for his corps. He stated ” For 2018, we are focusing towards growth in DCA, and sustainability of not just the drum and bugle corps but also our winter guard and community outreach programs. We are planning an upcoming clinic in Chicago as part of our urban outreach program, and just recently completed a partnership with a local charter school providing in house music programs at no cost to students. We’re planning on purchasing our first trailer in a few weeks, along with planning for our first tour of the season. Our long-term goals over the next five years are to grow our community programs, continued sustainability, and to grow the marching arts in the community by providing affordable education focused programming. With DCA we have the chance to compete with many other corps and strengthening our bonds with our regional partners the Erie Thunderbirds and Cincinnati Tradition.” When asked if he felt any pressure or had any concerns on being a first- year member to DCA, Le Ron stated “Surprisingly no pressure or major concerns. We’re just excited about the challenge of competing at a higher level and looking forward to enjoying the crowd’s response. “

The Saints founder and CEO, Mr. Marshall Cheatham has built this program around community first. If they aren’t engaging young people, or supporting events in their community, they are not fulfilling the original purpose of the activity. Partnering with the Columbus City Community Centers, local churches, the Boys and Girls Club, or local charter schools, allows the corps to often find in-kind or low-cost rehearsal and office space. their winter guard program is the next step in providing a community focused competitive program by pairing young people with quality instructors for an affordable price.  They put G bugles, flags, and drums into the hands of kids and see how they respond. Some love it and have worked hard enough to make it into the corps. Others are just happy to have access to quality music and arts education, and to feel part of something even if it’s just for a short while. As Mr. Cheatham always says ” You take care of the kids and the community will take care of you “

Corps Director Le Ron Carlton’s message to the fans is ” First and foremost thank you for your support and coming to enjoy our program. The second thing I’d say is we want to see you clapping, singing along, tapping your foot, or if so inclined dancing during the parts you like as we absolutely love to have that effect on the crowd! ” He also wanted to add is that the ” Saints founder and CEO is looking for a kidney donation. He’s close to our heart and he’s been waiting for five years. We want to continue growing but are also proud of the impact we’ve been able to have on so many young people. There are so many stories of members coming to the corps with socialization issues, who now have completely different personalities and credit Mr. Cheatham and the Saints with that success. We had a few members with slow firing autism who struggled in their high school marching bands and joined the Saints and were successful members for many years. Young people who were dealing with family issues or were in the social services system but come to our program and are paired with college band members, or DCI age outs, and who see the possibilities that music can provide, and build off that. It’s part of the social work aspect of what Mr. Cheatham created that allows us to come together truly as a family, where the door is always open, in the same way Mr. Cheatham’s corps director Major Adams of Chicago did for him and so many others in the 1960’s.” That message and closing remarks drum corps fans, is what it’s all about.

The Saints will be hosting their home show on July 21st in Columbus, Ohio which will be the first time they will be competing in DCA Class A.

Bill Flaker

Staff Writer