A Brief History: Carolina Crown Through The Years

A Brief History: Carolina Crown Through The Years

Carolina Crown is a statistical anomaly in DCI—skyrocketing through the lower divisions of the activity to becoming a perennial medalist within 30 years.

Jun 1, 2021 by Jeff Griffith
On The Road Again: Carolina Crown (Trailer)

Jeff Griffith is a writer and columnist for FloMarching, and any perspective presented in this article represents his own only.

Carolina Crown is pretty incredible. Okay, that’s not exactly a groundbreaking opinion. 

The Fort Mill, South Carolina corps is about as popular a performing group as there is in marching music; just ask its social media following.

But the fact of the matter — one that sometimes flies under the radar — is that Carolina Crown, in terms of its history to date, is a statistical anomaly.

And no, that’s not referring to its current status. The Carolina Crown of today is a mainstay among the DCI World Class competitive ranks. The last ten years are about as consistent as it gets — One gold, two silvers, two bronzes, four fourth-place finishes, and zero years outside the top five. 

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Breaking Down The Numbers

The stats about Crown that are simply bonkers, though, in perspective, take us back over a decade. If you’re new to the drum corps activity in the last 10-15 years, you might not even know these stats to be the case.

Carolina Crown was founded, as an organization, in 1988. Its first performance was in 1990, and its first World Class (or Division I) appearance came in 1994. That’s four years later. And there was a 1993 Division II world championship title mixed in there. Carolina Crown didn’t even go 1,500 days between its first performance and its first divisional gold medal.

From there, as things often go, it was a slow burn, right? Wrong. Carolina Crown didn’t even have time to spark a small fire first before it simply exploded. 

Carolina Crown spent one season as a Division I member prior to its first Top 12 finalist appearance. One. 1994. By 1995, Crown was a finalist. Zoom out for a second. By this point, it’s only been five years since the corps’ very first performance. That, in and of itself, is remarkable. And, barring one season outside the Top 12, things stayed that way for the time being. Aside from that one year (2002), 1996-2003 saw hover between 10th and 12th place. 

But once Crown turned on the jets again in 2004, there was once again no looking back. To put it in short, Carolina Crown did the thing that is hardest to do in competitive marching arts. It got good, it stayed good, and then it got better. 

And they did it — Three. Different. Times — in the span of two decades. 

Think about it; rising by five, six, or more slots in the rankings in the span of two or three years is already an impressive feat. We’ve seen a handful of corps make that kind of jump in the last few years, and each has been one of the most noteworthy competitive storylines of its given summer.

Carolina Crown did it three times between 1990 and 2008. And 2008 is the year that Carolina Crown introduced you to the Crown you know and love today. 2004-2007 had some fantastic shows that yielded great finishes — including the corps’ first top-six result in 2007 with “Triple Crown.”

Here’s a list of things Carolina Crown hasn’t done since its average-aged current member was in kindergarten:

  • Fall out of the Top 5

  • Finish a season scoring below a 95.000

  • Spend more than two years in a row outside of the Top 3

Over the past 10 years, Carolina Crown has statistically been the most consistent corps in DCI’s World Class division that is not from Concord, California. In the last five seasons, no corps other than Blue Devils and Carolina Crown have finished among the top four every year.  And the craziest part, to bring it all full circle again? Carolina Crown, as an organization, is still the single youngest of any corps that’s made Finals in the last 10 years, aside from The Academy, which made it once in 2016. 

Among 2019’s finalists: Blue Devils (founded 1957), Bluecoats (1972), Santa Clara Vanguard (1967), Carolina Crown (1988), The Cavaliers (1948), Boston Crusaders (1940), Blue Knights (1958), Blue Stars (1964), The Cadets (1934), Crossmen (1974), Mandarins (1963), Phantom Regiment (1956)

In a historical context, though, Carolina Crown has done more for the drum corps activity than simply being a competitive giant. Crown’s formula is nothing if not engaging for a wide-ranging scope of drum corps fans; the Fort Mill corps’ shows are accessible without being shallow, and they know how to maximize audience energy, both via design and the impact of a hornline that perennially contends for Jim Ott High Brass Awards. 

When you boil it down outside of the numbers and accolades, Carolina Crown has always had an identity, and it’s always had talented instructors to implement that identity. And it’s stuck, artistically and competitively. When you talk about the history and evolution of drum corps in its full scope — which we, as fans of the activity, will undoubtedly do plenty often as DCI’s 50th anniversary nears in 2022 — it’s easy to talk about the corps that have been around since the beginning, and very rightfully so. 

The founding members and 50-plus-year DCI mainstays deserve all of the credit in the world for not only surviving and thriving through every change the activity has seen, but for driving those changes. 

But, one could argue — as an organization that has impacted the last 20-plus years of drum corps just as much if not more than any other, despite being founded as a Division III corps 16 years after Drum Corps International itself…

That’s what makes Crown’s story so incredible.