Member Handbook

Welcome to the 2021 Mandarins

Membership in the Mandarins is a profound personal growth experience. We require your best effort, a great attitude, a total commitment, and both personal and financial responsibility. You will receive the same in return from the Mandarins.

Our MISSION is simple, yet powerful…
Transforming Lives Through Performing Arts

Our History, Our Philosophy

We celebrate our 58th anniversary in 2021.  The Ye Wah Drums & Lyras Corps’ first rehearsal was on March 23, 1963 and in 1967 our name was changed to the Mandarins Drum & Bugle Corps. The Mandarins are a Drum Corps International (DCI) World Class two-time finalist (2018 & 2019) drum corps and participate in DCI’s “Marching Music’s Major League” summer tour.  The Mandarins have taught thousands of young men and women the values of Respect, Excellence, Personal Responsibility and Service to Others — values which are carried through school, careers, and back to the community — with a true sense of purpose.

Competition is intense in drum corps, and it will be an exciting part of your experi­ence, but it is not our primary mission. We look at competition as a way to pace each other to new levels of excellence. You will learn that to be truly successful, you must first meet your own standards, and that the most demanding judge you will ever encounter should be yourself. We, as the Mandarins, are successful when we give you an environment in which it is safe to take risks, try new things, and experience amazing breakthroughs. You will find you are capable of much more than you ever realized.

We will help you set and achieve goals, and we will help you set new standards and expectations for yourself that will last a lifetime. You will find here a safe place to discover who you really are. You will come away from a summer with us more mature, motivated and self-confident, and with new, lifelong friends.

A key facet of our success is our consistent and committed teaching, design and support staff. Combined with tremendous support from our community and many volunteers, the Mandarins continue to grow and succeed.

We build the Mandarins one member at a time. We are committed to providing a positive, healthy and supportive atmosphere for you and your entire family.

Dear Future Member of the Mandarins,

Congratulations! You have taken a big step toward an incredible experience as a member of the Mandarins!  Enclosed is information about our program – what it offers and what it requires. The next step is to attend one of our Experience Camps:

No in-person Experience Camps will be held in 2021.

Our audition process evaluates your talent and experience, but also takes into consideration your commitment, attitude, financial and personal responsibility, attendance, and parental support and participation.

THERE IS NO OBLIGATION IN ATTENDING AN EXPERIENCE CAMP. Find out what we are all about. Even if you don’t become a Mandarin, you will learn a great deal at the Experience Camp. For the Northern California and Southern California Experience Camps, you will participate all weekend and perform on Sunday as a Mandarin. In the process, we will assess your skills, answer your questions and make you comfortable with our program and the Mandarins family.

Our preseason schedule is limited, so attendance is important. Attending part of a weekend is better than not at all. If you have conflicts, communicate with us. We will work with you, but communication is critical. You do not have to choose between school obligations and the Mandarins during the school year, but you must communicate.

The cost for your weekend Experience Camp is $150.00  (returning members $100.00). NOTEMandarins Academy members receive a $25.00 discount for their first Experience Camp). This fee covers the cost of meals, lodging, rehearsal facilities, and instructors; however, once you are offered a position and become a corps member, you no longer need to pay monthly camp fees.

Following your Experience Camp you will be emailed by the corps director that you will receive either:

  1. an offer of membership
  2. a callback for a second audition, typically at the January 17 – 19, 2020 camp in the Sacramento, CA area for brass and percussion and April 24 – 26 in the Sacramento, CA area for color guard
  3. a suggestion that you try again next year

Membership in the Mandarins is an amazing experience for you and your entire family, but it takes tremendous dedication, hard work, commitment and personal responsibility.Experience at least one weekend before deciding anything about membership in the Mandarins. A life-changing summer of travel, achievement and success awaits you, but it can’t happen if you don’t try a weekend first!

Finally, ALWAYS double-check the Mandarins website and Facebook page  for regular updates and or schedule changes.


JW Koester

Corps Director

Dr. Dan Fong

President and CEO

You Can Be A Mandarin!

Young people ages 16 through 21 are eligible. (If you turn 22 after June 1, 2020, you are eligible for this season). Our average age is about 19 years old.

The majority of our members are from California, but many more come from other states, and other countries as well.

You are encouraged to bring friends; just make sure that we know they are coming. Pre-register at

Our member return rate is typically 50% or more. This is an important endorsement of the Mandarins experience. All positions are open, and will be awarded to the people who demonstrate their strong desire to be successful.

Still don’t know how to be here? Join our Mandarins 2020 Interest Group on Facebook. There is a way!

You will typically not be asked to attend more than two weekend camps before you are given a decision about your membership.

 Some of your best friends are here; you just haven’t met them yet. You won’t regret being here! You won’t know what you’ve missed if you don’t attend. If you come to rehearsal nervous and unsure – GOOD! This means you’re normal. Everyone has had similar feelings at his or her first rehearsal and it can feel intimidating.

Mandarins Audition Process

We are looking for talent, growth, experience and commitment from our potential members.

No matter what your schedule, membership status, where you live, or participation in winter guard or winter drum line, you must attend one of the December Experience Camps or submit an online video to be considered. If you are offered a callback position, you MUST attend the January camp (January 17 – 19, 2020). Please contact us early if this is a problem.

We offer prospective members the option to submit a video audition via YouTube, Facebook or other online video site. However, priority will be given to those attending camps. For detailed information as to what needs to be submitted on the video, please contact the appropriate caption manager.

Everyone will rehearse and perform as a part of the Mandarins for the entire weekend. Members will also be evaluated for visual and movement skills.

Shortly after you complete your Experience Weekend, you will receive an email that states your standing with the drum corps. You will receive a contract offer, a call back offer, or a decline letter.

Your talent and skills are given primary consideration in the selection process. However, we also consider your commitment level, communication, personal and financial responsibility, your parental support, your attitude and your growth and improvement.

Audition and Section Information

Audition and section information is summarized below.  For specific section audition information, please check our audition information page.

Brass Members

Be prepared to perform the posted exercises available on the various brass audition web pages as well as the instructions listed in the 2021 brass handbook. We will listen to you individually and place you in an appropriate section of the corps for the weekend.

Please bring your own brass instrument (if possible) and mouthpiece. If you do not have an instrument, absolutely come to auditions as we do have a limited number of Mandarins instruments available for weekend use. We play on the following marching brass instruments: Bb Trumpets, F Mellophones, Bb Baritones and Euphoniums, and Bb Marching Tubas. And yes, depending on the requirements of each year’s show we may use other types of brass instruments.

Percussion Members

Be prepared to perform the exercises available in the various percussion web pages as well as the instructions listed in the 2021 percussion handbook. We will evaluate you individually, and as a part of the line. We want to see how well you adapt to new techniques, information, and materials. Individuals in the front ensemble should also be prepared to play all major scales. Battery players, please bring your practice pad and sticks.

Color Guard Members

Please bring the following: Black pants and black shirt, dance shoes and/or tennis shoes, your own rifle and sabre (if possible), and comfortable rehearsal clothes. (No jeans for rehearsals!)

The Mandarins color guard is comprised of both young men and women. We incorporate flags, rifles, sabers, dance, and other unique elements to visually interpret and enhance our show. New flags and new uniforms are provided each year to fit the style, selections of music, and the theme.

Parents Invited... Needed

Members! Please share this information with your parents.

We expect parents to have lots of questions and the best way to get the information you need is to attend with your student. Parental attendance is strongly encouraged in our activity.

The Mandarins program cannot survive without parent volunteers!!! We need parents to volunteer in a number of areas. Your help is appreciated during any and all weekend rehearsals, for any number of important tasks!

In any given season, many hours of invaluable volunteer time is contributed. Volunteerism is cherished in the Mandarins and is critical to our continued success.

Weekend camps are a parent’s opportunity to see our program close-up and get to know the people who make it work. Also, your help is needed in the kitchen with meals for the weekend, work sessions in the Mandarins Center, uniform fitting, mailings, clerical help, sewing, vehicle work and other special projects.

In several instances, we also award tour credit for volunteers to help offset the cost of membership.

Host Families

We often have members who come from a distance — last year we had members from 25+ states as well as multiple foreign countries. These members need a place to stay when they come for weekend camps. Especially the day before or the day after each camp as their travel arrangements don’t always align with the start and end of each camp.

Cost of Membership

Fees cover less than 50% of the over  $6,500. it costs to place one member on the field. You will find Mandarins fees compare favorably to quality summer music and other camps and to other top DCI corps.

We work very hard to keep fees as low as we can and at the same time are careful and efficient in our operations. We are committed to keeping your membership affordable.

A sponsorship program and several other fundraising opportunities are available to you to help you earn your fees.

The corps’ costs include show design, music arrangement, instruction, equipment, uniforms, props, other performance costs, equipment repair, facility rental, camps, food, travel and transportation, and other administrative and support costs needed to field a corps at the International Championship level.

The $6,500.00 figure does not count the many hours of voluntary work and donations provided by parents, boosters, instructors and members. To pay for this, the Corps runs six weekly bingo sessions, our major fundraiser, and various other fundraising activities.

As successful as our fundraising is, it is not enough. Of the estimated cost per member, you are required to pay the following items.

Potential Members

Overnight Experience Camp Fee (NON-refundable):

  • $150.00 ($100.00 for returning members).
  • $75.00 to attend each follow-up Mandarins Camp. After you join the Corps, you no longer pay the $75.00 follow-up camp fee. Mandarins Academy members receive a $25.00 discount.

One Day Audition Camp Fee (NON-refundable):

  • $100.00 for all auditionees (no discounts provided).

Member Fees

Tour Fee: $4,000.00

Returning members also receive a $100.00 Discount for each year that they have marched in the Mandarins. We also offer a $100.00 early payment discount if your Tour Fees are paid in full by March 28, 2021)

FYI: Included in your fees are two under-the-uniform shirts, marching shoes, gloves, and member / tour shirts.  

Additional costs include an optional Corps Jacket ($75.00), occasional meals during laundry, free time, etc., laundry (each member does their own several times throughout the summer), and personal spending money (souvenirs, toiletries, free time activities – movies, subway, etc.)


Once you have received your offer to become a member of the Mandarins you must submit your completed CorpsData form, proof of date of birth, and medical release / background information. And, you must pay your initial $500.00 Tour Fee within 10 days of receiving your contract offer. NOTE: The initial $500 Tour Fee payment is non-refundable. Only then will we secure your spot in the Mandarins Drum and Bugle Corps.

All members will be asked to participate in a physical screening where corps medical personnel will review your medical history, review any medications that you may be taking, and conduct some basic flexibility tests to assess your physical health status relative to being able to participate in the summer activities.

Members may check out equipment and instruments after the first $500.00 Tour Fee payment and CorpsData information has been submitted.

Payment may be made on-line at or can be made by cash, check (payable to Sacramento Mandarins), or credit card (Visa, Discover, MasterCard, or American Express) in person at camps. Please make sure you get a receipt.

Your Tour Fees must be paid in full by May 20, 2021 before the competitive season begins. The monthly payment schedule is below. You must pay at least one fifth of your Tour by the following dates:

We will also be looking at several other factors, including:

Monthly payment due dates:

1st payment: $700 by January 28, 2021
2nd payment: $700 by February 28, 2021
3rd payment: $700 by March 28, 2021
4th payment: $700 by April 28 2021
Final payment: $700 by May 20, 2021

Reduce your fee by $100! Pay in full by March 28, 2021 and earn the Early Payment Discount.

NOTE: Returning members receive a $100.00 discount for each year that they have already marched with the Mandarins: 1 year = $100.00, two years = 200.00, three years = $300.00, four years = 400.00.

For members who receive their membership contract offer at the January camp (or later) you are still expected to make your tour payments in a timely manner and have all fees paid by May 20, 2020, prior to Spring Training Move-in!

If you have questions regarding your payment account status, please contact our Personnel Manager.

Although color guard and percussion members may not attend all camps, you must still pay your Tour Fee payments on the dates indicated. You may pay online at the Mandarins website or mail your payment to the Mandarins, P.O. Box 22297, Sacramento, CA  95822. Write the member’s name in the memo section of the check.

No Tour Fee refunds are made after May 1, 2021.

In order to provide the best experience for members who seriously commit to the Mandarins, we regret that, if you do not meet your responsibility and pay your fees by the posted deadlines, you may be dropped from the Corps.

Returned checks will be subject to processing fees. If you have more than one check returned, you will be required to pay the rest of your fees by cash or credit card.

If you foresee any difficulty in paying your Tour Fees, please speak to JW Koester, Corps Director, as soon as you can. Do not wait until the last minute!

Help In Paying Fees

The Corps has set up some ways to help you pay your Tour Fees. Please take advantage of them and make them work for you.

Early Payment Discount:
Members who pay their entire Tour Fee by March 28, 2021, will receive a $100 discount.

The Corps provides each member with sponsorship forms to help you solicit donations from family, friends, neighbors, social groups and businesses. They can also sponsor you by submitting donations using the Sponsor a Mandarin online form.  These non-refundable donations go directly towards your Tour Fees. Some members have used the sponsorship program to cover all of their Tour Fees. All Sponsorships must be turned in by May 20, 2021.

Mandarins Scholarships:
The Corps provides a limited number of partial scholarships to deserving members with financial need. Applications will be available in April (typically at the April camp.)

Returning Member Discount:
Returning members will receive a $ 100.00 discount for each year that they have marched with the drum corps. This discount recognizes both the contribution you have made in your Mandarins career, and the contribution we expect from you in terms of leadership and setting a good model of what a Mandarins member should be.

Kitchen Crew Credit:
Parents, guardians and other adult supporters who help as kitchen crew at camps and on tour, can earn up to $30.00 of credit per full day. This credit can only be used to defray the cost of the Tour Fee. Kitchen crew is both hard work and a wonderful and rewarding experience. You will plan, shop for, and prepare meals. You help members with minor medical issues. You become an integral part of the behind the scenes preparations, and see how the members put together their fabulous shows. If you are interested, talk to the Kitchen Manager, Cathy Sackett, as soon as possible (Contact information available at the back of this handbook).

Truck-driving Credit:
Parents and other adult supporters who help by driving Mandarins trucks, can earn up to $30.00 of credit per driving day. This credit can be used towards Tour Fees.

All credits for the 2020 season must be earned by August 9, 2021. Credits earned after that date will be carried over to the next season.

NOTE: Members who expect to have their parents / family members volunteer during the summer months must still manage their monthly Tour Fee payments in order to stay current with their membership requirements. Members can work directly with the Corps Director and the Personnel Manager regarding management of those credits.

Support vehicle driving (pick up truck, RV, or van) is a critical part of supporting the Mandarins. The trucks and trailers carry all of the members’ performance equipment as well as food supplies and cooking equipment. You will typically be driving with another volunteer driver, and you usually will be in a convoy of trucks and buses. Your ordinary valid driver’s license is all that is required. Contact JW Koester, Corps Director as soon as possible.

2021 Season Camp Schedule

Dates subject to change. Please keep checking our calendar on the corps’ web site, as it is updated as more information becomes available.

2021 Camp Schedule will be coming soon.

The Summer Season

We will be in Spring Training for approximately 4 weeks and on the road for approximately 7 weeks, traveling thousands of miles to over 25 states and performing for hundreds or thousands of people.

First Season West Coast Shows: During mid June through early July, we will be appearing in shows throughout the West Coast, including Northern and Southern California.

DCI National Tour: Early July through mid-August. Our DCI tour includes competitions at DCI Regional shows in Denver, CO; Corpus Christi, TX; Atlanta, GA; and Allentown, PA.  The season concludes August 6 – 8, 2021 with the DCI World Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.

NOTEin 2021 the corps will NOT provide bus transportation back to Sacramento, CA for members / staff. All members are responsible to schedule / pay for their own transportation back to their hometown or school. The Mandarins will provide bus transportation to the local airport in Indianapolis (IND).

Mandarins Marching Member Code of Conduct

Mandarins Values

Respect, Excellence, Personal Responsibility, Service to Others

  1. Be on time to all rehearsals. If you are going to miss a rehearsal, inform your instructor well in advance. It is yourresponsibility to know when and where rehearsals are. Check the e-calendar on the web site
  2. Arrive at rehearsals prepared and ready to rehearse. Start and end on time. Know and understand the objectives/goals for each rehearsal. If you don’t know, ask!
  3. Swearing and abusive language will not be tolerated. Rehearse and perform professionally. You have the right to expect the same professionalism from the instructional staff.
  4. You are a role modelfor other corps members. Remember that fact at all times. Other corps members will act and behave as they see you act and behave. This role model responsibility applies at all times — on the rehearsal/performance field and off.
  5. Set high standardsfor yourself. Ensure that you know and understand the Corps director’s and instructional staff’s expectations for the year. If you don’t know their expectations, you will not meet or exceed them.
  6. Smoking and / or vaping in front of other corps/staff members is not acceptable. This includes rehearsals, performances, bus rides, and any other functions associated with the corps. Most of the schools and facilities at which we stay/perform are tobacco-free campuses. Please respect their regulations.
  7. Alcohol use is not allowed at any time. This includes at rehearsals, performances, bus rides and any other functions associated with the corps. Most of the schools and facilities at which we stay/perform are alcohol-free campuses. Please respect their regulations. A violation will result in dismissal from the corps.
  8. Illegal drug use is not allowed at any time. This includes at rehearsals, performances, bus rides, and any other functions associated with the corps. All of the schools and facilities at which we stay/perform are drug-free campuses. A violation will result in dismissal from the corps.
  9. Take care and respect your uniform, your equipment and your rehearsal/housing facilities. If something needs repair, please advise an instructor, a support staff member, or the director. No climbing fences. Leave the premises cleanerthan when we arrived.
  10. Treat other corps members as you would like to be treated. Respect their personal needs and requests. This awareness applies to rehearsals, sleeping areas, and the bus. Tolerance is paramount. Ensure that your relationships with others include no inappropriate behavior. If you have a concern with someone, please advise the corps director for further support or action. Hazing and bullying will NOT be tolerated in the Mandarins
  11. Stealing is not tolerated in the Mandarins. Taking property belonging to other people, the Corps, or to our practice/housing sites, etc. will be dealt with severely.
  12. Treat your Drum Major, sectional heads, instructional staff, support staff, drivers, boosters, othercorps, parents and fans with respect. Support staff, drivers, chaperones, etc., volunteer their time for your benefit; most of them work full time and often use vacation time for the benefit of the Corps. Treat them with appreciation and respect for the dedicated work they perform. When you need their help, be courteous and ask politely.
  13. Remember that any unhappiness or anger with other corps’ behavior is dealt with at the Director level. Corps members and parents may be tempted to log on to newsgroups and forums to complain about others, but this is NOT the way the Mandarins do business. Don’t dishonor the Mandarins’ good name by posting negative comments that can be interpreted as representing the Mandarins organization’s opinion. Don’t start flame wars, even if you think you’re right. If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say it. Staff is serious about protecting the Mandarins’ reputation.
  14. Leave nothing to the last minute. Plan ahead of time to get things done.
  15. You represent the Mandarins at all times. It doesn’t matter where you are — rehearsals, performances or other non-corps related functions. If someone knows you are a member of the corps, then you represent the entire organization. Make that action happen with pride and class!
  16. Failure to adhere to the Mandarins Code of Conduct could lead to your dismissal from the corps and a forfeiture of your Tour Fees.

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Other Important Information

Social Media responsibilities:

The Mandarins expect all members of the organization: instructional staff, members, volunteers and drivers to be responsible and respectful regarding all postings made on any / all social media platforms, ie; facebook, Instagram, twitter, blogs, forums, etc. Failure to maintain respect within those postings for the Mandarins organization and its members can result in disciplinary actions up to and including dismissal from the corps.

Whistleblower Actions:

The Mandarins have an active Whistleblower feature located on the main Mandarins web site where corps members, instructional staff, volunteers, parents, and drivers can go to anonymously submit a report or complaint regarding a concern or other issue relative to: harassment, bullying, hazing, embezzlement, safety related issues or inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature from one person to another regardless of age, sexual orientation or status within the organization. The Mandarins take this responsibility very seriously and we investigate every whistleblower submittal quickly in order to maintain the highest safely standards possible.

After completion of all whistleblower investigations a determination is made:

  • was there credible evidence of an incident?
  • was there no credible evidence of an incident?
  • was a crime committed?
  • was the Mandarins code of conduct violated ?

Based on the specific determination multiple actions may be implemented, up to and including dismissal from the corps and possible criminal reporting to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Yes, submittal of a criminal report may be required because the Mandarins are a Mandatory reporting organization. Yes, we are bound by California law to report any incident that breaks California or Federal law. And, it doesn’t matter where the incident took place, e.g.; in another state that doesn’t have the same laws as California. It doesn’t matter, as we are required to follow California law at all times, in all places.

All members of the organization are responsible to do the right thing at all times – if you know something, if you see something, if you hear something, you Must report it to a higher authority within the organization so that it can be investigated. Perhaps nothing comes of the investigation. And yes, that happens. And yes, if there is something going on it has to be stopped for the good of the individual and the organization.

The Mandarins Family

Thank you for expressing interest in the Mandarins. You will find a family atmosphere committed to excellence, success, achievement and support for you and your entire family. Contact us for anything you need to make your membership a reality.

Sacramento Mandarins Drum and Bugle Corps
9792 Business Park Drive,  Sacramento, CA 95827

President and CEO – Dr. Dan Fong 
916-956-0948 •

Corps Director – JW Koester
408-921-6231 •

Assistant Corps Director – Santiago Sabado
530-545-9140 •

Kitchen Manager – Tyler Allin

Tour Director – Keith Sanpei
209-518-7615 •

Personnel Manager – Samantha Oddo
916-879-5434 •

Transportation Manager –to be announced

Volunteer Manager – to be announced

Program Director – 

Visual Caption Manager – Joseph Hayes

Percussion Caption Manager – Ben Pyles

Brass Caption Manager – Patrick Keeley

Color Guard Caption Manager – Rocco Duranti

Please also see our entire instructional staff listing, along with email links here.

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