I have been an avid drum corps fan since the first time I happened upon one of those memorable PBS broadcasts back in the mid-70s. For the next two decades, my family and I attended nearly every DCI finals from Kansas City to Atlanta, from Buffalo to Madison. Imagine my delight when I went to graduate school in California and our 15-year-old daughter heard about Blue Devils B and wanted to give it a try. I knew about the fabled Blue Devils, but I was also cautious about the extensive commitment and travel schedule, so I joined her on most road trips and had many conversations with her about personal responsibility and staying safe.
In fact, it felt like my three years in seminary preparing to become an Episcopal priest were almost evenly split between studying theology and trekking all over the country following the Blue Devils. I saw up close and personal how intense but rewarding the summer rehearsals were, how the students were cared for, and how they learned to deal with the challenges of maturing into young adults. It was exciting for my daughter to become immersed in a healthy, physical, social activity that taught her the deep discipline, dedication and teamwork.
When Dave Gibbs invited me to join the revamped professional board of the Blue Devils in 1999, it became clear that the organization was heading in an exciting new direction. The board was proud to support Dave as he set out to establish a new high bar in health and safety standards, a comprehensive HR Manual, age appropriate programs, travel restrictions for younger groups, drug and alcohol policies, standards on representing the organization and respecting each person involved in BDPA. Over the years, we’ve responded to concerns and we’re proud of our approach and the due diligence performed to address the issues. Early on, Dave made a conscious decision to put a major emphasis on health and wellness practices, balanced meals, accommodating vegetarian and vegan diets, increasing sleep time, personalized exercise plans — these all became the norm in making sure our kids stayed healthy at a time when it wasn’t common. And eventually we began traveling with a specialized health and wellness team staffed by professionals.
Long before they were commonplace in drum corps, The Blue Devils instituted background checks and developed a comprehensive Youth Protection Policy for adults who had interactions with members. We try to do what is best for the safety of each and every person associated with the corps.
I’ve spoken with many survivors of sexual abuse over the years. So many times these heartbreaking stories feature one commonality: the victim expressing shame and fear in thinking that coming forward would hurt their community or family.
I’m proudly serving my sixth year as president of the organization and have no reservations in saying that we are doing everything possible to make the 2018 season safe for everyone associated with each of our programs. Everyone deserves a safe environment to learn the amazing life lessons taught through the marching arts. Last year, we created a Youth Protection Task Force, headed by Board Member Kendall Tieck. This task force is charged with performing a full audit of our existing policies and to implement any new initiatives that they feel will enable us to immediately and efficiently address any accusation — or even rumor — related to the students in our care. As a result, we now have a special “Safe Place” program and phone hotline to provide more avenues for reports of abuse to be shared anonymously and without fear.
The recent revelations in the national drum corps community are a reminder to everyone at the Blue Devils and across the nation that we want and need to be informed.
If you’ve been a victim or know of something affecting the safety of your fellow corps members, please come forward.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our Ethics Hotline at 925-359-9479, or email us at email@example.com. Anonymity is respected.
We appreciate your continued support, especially during this time. And more importantly, thank you for continuing to be responsible members of our community.
Rosa Lee Harden
Board President, BD Performing Arts