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A special-needs drum corps is set to make history by competing at an international music competition

Image source: WLNY-TV screenshot

This Labor Day weekend, a special-needs drum corps from New York state will become the first of its kind to march at the Drum Corps Associates World Championships in Pennsylvania.

Local CBS affiliate WLNY-TV reported in April that the 70-member FREE Players Drum & Bugle Corps at the nonprofit Family Residences and Essential Enterprises on Long Island had been invited to compete and perform at the prestigious annual event, and that some would even perform solos there.

"It's an incredible opportunity," FREE Players director Brian Calhoun said in an interview with the local television station. "DCA is one of the top organizations in the entire world for the marching arts."

A drum and bugle corps is similar to a typical marching band, which often perform halftime shows at high school and college football games. However, the former differs from the latter in that it has no woodwinds and is composed of only brass and percussion instruments. Furthermore, drum and bugle corps are typically independent organizations and are not affiliated with a scholastic or other institutions, as are most marching bands.

The WLNY story explains that the FREE Players got on DCA's radar last year with a performance at a different international drum corps competition, thus earning an invite to this year's championship. The group rehearses together once a week, but many of the members say they practice at home every day.

"I'm so proud of my friends," said 29-year-old percussionist Leah Saitta. "We are going to work hard and we're going to win this competition."

Drum Corps Associates is a governing body for all age and senior drum corps in the United States and Canada. Its counterpart, Drum Corps International, has an age limit of 22 for performers. The 2019 DCA championships will be held over the course of three days — Friday, Aug. 30 to Sunday, Sept. 1 — in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

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