Last week I saw a pie chart on Twitter that was getting shared quite a bit from @DCIJunkie.  I’ve followed DCI for more than a decade now, but I had never really spent much time thinking about which groups had won DCI Finals the most.  I was blown away by the fact that the Blue Devils have 17 championships, and I had no idea that the Cadets were in second place with 10 championships.  With 44 years of history, there’s obviously quite a bit that happened before I ever knew about DCI.



This got me to thinking about what the equivalent charts and data for WGI PIW would look like.  I’ve been following that activity much more closely for over a decade as well, but for me personally, I really didn’t know the history of what had happened prior to about 2003-ish.  So I started doing a little research and set off on an Excel spreadsheet adventure, followed by nerding out over some charts and graphs for the past few days.

What I Learned

Independent groups were added in 1994, which was the 2nd year of WGI Percussion Finals.  There were only four groups for Independent in that first year: Blue Knights (1st), Wheaters (2nd), Mandarins (3rd), and the mighty University of Toledo (4th).  Since then, the number of Independent groups has grown quite a bit obviously.  According to WGI’s website, there are currently 45 active groups in PIW alone.  Over the past 22 years though, one group has ended on top more often that anyone else…


As you can see, over a 22 year period (1994-2016) we’ve only had six different PIW Champions.  Out of those six champions, Music City Mystique has a record best seven titles.  Of these six groups, Atlanta Rhythm Machine is the only one not in existence today.  From my understanding, they came out of nowhere to win in 1995 and stuck around in Independent finals for a couple years after that.   Of these groups, MCM, Pulse, RCC and Rhythm X are seemingly in contention to win a medal every year.  There may be 45 PIW groups, but those four are clearly your blue blood programs.


PIW Finals in the 90s


The Blue Knights pretty much dominated the medal count in the 90s by medaling every year and winning twice.  They had a lot of success early on, but haven’t won WGI since 2003.  The Blue Knights actually medaled in 10 consecutive seasons, from the first year in 1994 to 2003.  Since then they’ve only medaled once, third place in 2007.

Music City Mystique didn’t have quite as many medals the Blue Knights this decade, but MCM did three-peat in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

In the early days of Independent World is where we see the most parity – eight different groups medaled in a six-year period.


PIW Finals in the 2000s


In the 2000’s we see a few new groups land in the top three of PIW finals and walk away with a medal.  MCM and the Blue Knights are still pretty dominant, but now we see groups like RCC and Rhythm X really become prominent, especially in the second half of this decade.  In this 10 year period, Rhythm X and the Blue Knights won’t medal together in the same year.  As the Blue Knights go down in the pecking order at finals, Rhythm X essentially replaces them.

This is also the first time we see an international group medal at finals, with Aimachi medaling three different times.  They placed third in 2000, 2006 and 2008.

Parity amongst the groups starts to decrease as we now have only seven different groups medaling in a 10-year period, as opposed to the eight groups medaling in a six-year period in the 90s.


PIW Finals in the 2010s


The 2010’s sees Pulse breaking into the top-three in 2010 to win their first WGI Finals, and get their first medal.  In this decade so far, they’ve medaled in every year but one.  MCM, RCC and Rythm X are still very relevant with multiple medals and each winning WGI finals at least once in this decade.   And look at Broken City, seemingly coming out of nowhere to medal at last year’s finals in 2016.

There’s still a few more years left to round out this decade, but again, the trend of decreasing parity continues as there are now only five groups with medals in a seven-year period.


Overall Thoughts


Some groups come and go, some stick around and achieve high levels of success for years.  It’s pretty amazing that groups like MCM and RCC have been performing at such a high level for as long as they have been.  I’m not sure if their longevity is more impressive, or the fact that other groups like Pulse can work their way into the inner circle and outperform everyone else over the past six years.

Looking back at all of this data, it’s pretty cool to see where Independent percussion groups in WGI started and where this activity is now.  Going from only four independent groups in 1994 to 45 Independent groups in World Class alone in 2017 is awesome.  I can’t wait to see what WGI Finals is going to be like in 20 more years.


Up Next

Check back soon as we’ll be releasing some similar information and analysis on PSW finals.  Spoiler alert:  Southern California schools dominate the 2010s, in case you didn’t know this already.