How DCI and BOA fit with Steven Hasan’s B.I.T.E model

The reason why groups like DCI and BOA are toxic and dangerous is that parents, teachers, and students don’t know the harm or damage being done physiologically, mentally, and psychologically until much later on in life.

How DCI and BOA fit with Steven Hasan’s B.I.T.E model

We republish this important piece by Christina Bishop, which reveals the cultish practices of marching band "non-profits" that help reproduce the logic of capitalist domination within education.

Pageantry competitions are built upon Erhard Seminar Training, a 1970’s sales tool by former Scientologist Warner Erhard. Instead of psychiatry, those seeking help for the self-invested up to $300 for Erhard’s lectures in the mid-1970s and 80’s. Known as EST, the technique involves psychological analysis, new hopes and dreams, a regained sense of control over life, release from past mistakes, and the search for a “new self” using religious-like connotations and false discipline. — The Marching Industry Cult by Keven Mazar

So what is the B.I.T.E model?

The B.I.T.E model was developed by sociologist and psychologist Steven Hasan for people to use and determine whether a business, charity, religion, or organization is in fact a cult. Not all cults have to involve a religion some involve manipulative business practices like the pyramid scheme or advertising as an educational opportunity for young people when they are anything but educational or enriching to a group of people whose minds are developing. The reason why groups like DCI and BOA are toxic and dangerous is that parents, teachers, and students don’t know the harm or damage being done physiologically, mentally, and psychologically until much later on in life. I hope this guide will help parents, teachers, educators, and students know what they are up against and encourage others to boycott, cut off funding, and not participate in DCI or BOA affiliated charities (Music for All, United Sound, Free Players, and Sound Sport) and events.

B is for Behavior Control

  1. Regulate Individuals Reality: When people tell other drum corps or band members that what happened to them does not matter and should ignore what happened to them; this is an example of regulation of reality. In reality, the victim was assaulted or hazed by a student group or director but to the group, they do not matter if because Mr.Hopinpop is a great director and should never be harassed like that. This encourages victims to blame themselves for what happened instead of healthy accountability and comfortable with telling their story.
  2. Dictate where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates: By having students live in militaristic and barbaric conditions while staff and directors live in a bus or hotel is doing this action without saying it. Some victims like in the case of the Troopers were when they did not want to be with an abusive person was made to work with that person anyway because it forces people to get-a-long even when the victim is being violated.
  3. Control Clothing and Hair Styles: Instead of wearing healthy and appropriate clothing for men and women so that they are safe from being violated and express cultural, racial, and ethnic identity; men and women march in either a bra, short garments, small shirts, and are made to cut their hair short despite religious, cultural, or ethic codes. Some are made to wear undergarments during practice on the field which involves the next warning sign.
  4. Regulate food, diet, and drink: According to a study by Kansas University out of all the physical sports and performing arts Marching Bands and Corps suffer the most from dehydration, dieting, and eating disorders. Some victims report fat-shaming and over-dieting in these groups which can result in injury and even death.
  5. Manipulation and Deprivation of Sleep: Marching Band and Corp members have suffered from sleep deprivation and sleep on the floors of gyms or outside on a field. Young teen and even young adult students should have a circadian rhythm of about 8–9 hours of sleep with proper conditions like a soft pillow, structured mattress, and a bed. Depriving a person of a propper circadian rhythm results in health and psychological problems. No one can properly sleep on a floor of a gym or outside a stadium.
  6. Financial Manipulation and Dependence: When marketed to young students and teachers in low-income areas; DCI and BOA implore themselves as an educational charity helping students and teachers. However when a student auditions it cost them hundreds of dollars plus a tour and a uniform fee added on. Instead of learning music in a creative, engaging, and cooperative way the emphasis is on perfection and competition. Students and teachers must devote their money to the band or corps sometimes to the point they cannot afford a college education.
  7. Restrict Leasure and Free Time: A student’s relationship in the Marching Band or Corp must be constant for them even if a group wants to do something as a group of good friends. This is why they must always be on the field practicing without break or do trips as a group except as a publicity tour for the group to promote the image of the Band or Corp. This means if a group of friends wants to take a break and be on their own terms and boundaries; they cannot do so because they represent a certain image for the corp or band.
  8. Major Time Spend in Indoctrination or Indoctrinating Others: In the case of Allentown, Cadets in Pennlyvainia; much of the indoctrination was done through Hop Talks which were Erhard Seminars run by Gorge Hopkins who is still not in jail for assaulting now thirteen women in the group. Some corps and bands come to visit public schools as a way to make new members, encourage participation in DCI and BOA competitions, and encourage students to become group members themselves.

I is for Information Control

  1. Deception: Examples in sites r/dci and r/drumcorps include trolling victims for telling the truth and the fallacy of the One Bad Apple also common in r/MusicEd. A better way of seeing the danger of the fallacy is the cycle of Replace, Abuse, Repeat. Once they fire a director they replace him or her with another director who abuses more victims and then repeats the cycle of abusive management. Therefore they lie to their victims until they too believe the lie is true.
  2. Discourage Other Information and Logical Thinking: Part of the reason why so many whistleblowers need protection from r/dci, r/BOA, and r/drumcorps and come to activist groups like MASSIN and r/FlyingCircusOrchestra is because revealing what truly happens in these groups is a risk for them as performing artist. One of our moderators was kicked out of r/drumcorps for revealing that Scott Acheson a staff member of The Cadets took pictures of women in their showers and locker rooms. When members rely on sponsored studies by these groups in music education, how can they think critically and logically about what is being taught?
  3. Outsider vs. Insider Doctrine: Even music teachers who confront these groups and their competitions with a critical mind are seen as wimpy and soft, and not hard on their students even though their practices are more harmful than helpful. Some have to avoid criticism of charities like Music for All, United Sound, Free Players, and Sound Sport all of them owned by either DCI or BOA. Some participate in music festivals that are competitions in disguise to recruit public school children and teachers into the circle of abuse.
  4. Extensive Use of Media and Influence: If groups like DCI and BOA get a hold of sites like Twitch and YouTube as tools of recruitment the environment for future performing artists especially young teens and adults can be even more harmful. Most of their power comes from tours and TED Talks with Dan Acherson geared towards music educators and music academics. Even former shows can be used as powerful tools of propaganda and recruitment of young teens and adults who are already in a public school band or marching program.

T is for Thought Control

  1. Require Members to Accept Group Doctrine as True: The core of Warner Erhard’s training is teaching members to be self-centered and not think with a critical mind about how wrong or unethical a situation is. Black and White thinking are instilled in members from the very beginning by calling public school bands and college bands bandos as a way to say that DCI and BOA bands are better than a program run by an unaffiliated school. Being ethical and standing up for victims is seen as soft and defaming the band or corp.
  2. Memories are Diluted to Replace Bad Experiences: The reason many bands and corp members fear telling the truth about horrible events and trauma experienced in DCI and BOA groups is based on the fear of telling the truth. That’s what it is is an argument that comes from the philosophy of Warner Erhard that your experience does not matter as long as it profits and benefits the group. Able helping the able is also the main slogan of Scientology which is why individuality, disabilities, and body diversity is discouraged along with both groups underlying ableist practices like using token special needs groups as an illusion of inclusivity, or rhetoric like, “We don’t want retards messing up our show” “Helping and accommodation is cheating” and “Who wants retards to march?”.
  3. Rejection of Rationality, Critical Thinking, and Problem Solving: Even directors from DCI and BOA programs enter public schools as directors of the band programs that are of low income or rural. These schools are ideal targets for them and their monopoly to instill themselves into the community and manipulate teachers and students. This in turn creates a worship culture around the band or corp and their directors with no proper accountability but with mob mentality and public shaming of victims. Even when that director is replaced by another instead of losing their job or going to jail; they are transferred to another low-income and rural public school with no knowledge of their record.

E is for Emotional Contorol

  1. Emotions or Needs Deemed Wrong of Selfish: Instead of following Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, these groups ignore complaints and issues with conditions and staff members feeling that addressing these needs does not make people strong but weak. Most of the money that goes into the groups goes for staff and directors in the band or corps and not to the needs and accommodations of members who could use temporary housing and a bed to sleep on. Wanting to further education by leaving the band or corp is also seen as a weakness since all money must be for the band or corp and not towards higher learning.
  2. Teach Emotion Blocking of Empathy and Homesickness: This issue has been expressed by former booster parents and significant others of members; that the band or corp means more to them than members of their own family. Corp or Band is your family is a common catchphrase because it blocks homesickness from real family members who are your true safety net at a time of crisis. Tour season is the most expensive and hardest time for parents and significant others of corp and band members because being away is the greatest conflict in these families.
  3. Make Victims Feel Guilty Instead of Accountability: Much of the conflict in these groups comes from staff, students, and some booster parents blaming the victims of hazing, discrimination, abuse, and assault on themselves instead of holding themselves accountable or the director accountable for their actions. Remember, most of their philosophy is to make victims weak so that only the strong people in the band or corp get rewarded and respected.
  4. Promote Feelings of Unworthiness and Fear of Failure: Many members are pushed to their limits; some in an environment where they have to keep playing and doing the same show routine without a beak on concrete or a field even at times when their bodies cannot handle it. Imagine every mistake was seen as unworthy of a failure instead of a chance to learn or have a lasting learning experience. Some directors have been known to throw tantrums if the group does not know what to do which creates more anxiety over failure and feelings of unworth who are trying their best to work hard. Having or getting help from others is also seen as unworthy.
  5. Love Bombing to Harassment and Hazing: DCI and BOA and the way they run events such as festivals which are actually competitions in disguise as music education festivals; are filled with examples of love bombing for directors and CEOs of these groups who give out awards to educators who have most benefited from them. Most Drum Corps and Marching Band Hall of Famers, later on, had been discovered to be abusers, pedophiles, and bullies of young people in their owned corp or band. Morgan Larson and Gorge Hopkins are still not in jail even though they were members of the DCI Hall of Fame who preyed on young women and young teens. Love bombing can be problematic when it’s done from a person of authority with a duality of harassment, abuse, and assault behaviors.
  6. Fear of Leaving the Group: Some music educators and parent boosters instill fear in their students and children about leaving a DCI or BOA program because they believe there are no opportunities in a public school program. The fear of having their music program cut is also a way of instilling fears of what happens when a school does not join a DCI or BOA program of charity. In reality, people who are in DCI and BOA have few opportunities for a college or university because they and their parents are broke and left in debt because of auditions and tour fees with increasing profits. When they come back into the public school system they have been reported to have erratic behavior towards members who were once their friends, verbally and physically assault and harass others, and start thinking in a black vs. white perspective.

Remember that you are not alone as a victim of DCI and BOA

Originally published at:

Christina Bishop – Medium
Read writing from Christina Bishop on Medium. Tuba player, creator of Struwwelkinder and The Flying Circus Orchestra. Every day, Christina Bishop and thousands of other voices read, write, and share important stories on Medium.