Like many corps around the country, The Academy recently wrapped up arguably the most important weekend of its preseason, as its April rehearsal camp brought the full corps back together following the conclusion of the indoor percussion, color guard and winds seasons.

With just eight weeks until the corps’ first performance in Clovis, California, on June 22, executive director Mark Richardson and the members of the corps are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“So far, we’re excited to have everybody back,” Richardson said. “It seems like every drum corps out there is getting back together this weekend, so it’s great to have the percussion and color guard back.”

As part of this past weekend’s camp April 27-29, the corps hosted its annual “Meet the Academy” event at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert, Arizona, which allowed fans of the corps to get an inside look at the inner-workings of the ensemble.

The evening opened with an immersive, hour-long walk-through of various sectional rehearsals that were going on throughout the school’s campus.

Academy April Camp Percussion

“This event is always a way for us to debut what it is that we’ve been working on since September or August even,” Richardson said. “It’s the culmination of all those ideas coming together, and it’s the opportunity to bring our donors and the people who support us the most out to get the first glimpse of what that is.”

Following their tour, fans were welcomed back into the auditorium to hear from Richardson, as well as board president Mike Ripley and drum major Austin Cahoon, regarding the positive direction of the organization and its expectations for the 2018 season.

Those in attendance also got to hear from the corps’ new program coordinator, Lindsey Vento. To wrap up Saturday night’s festivities, Vento gave an explanation of the design team’s plans for this year’s production.

Vento and the other experienced members of The Academy’s design team — which features the brass arranging of Michael Klesch and the drill design of Jaime Holly — have taken the corps in a slightly different direction with this year’s program. The process of doing so, according to Vento, has been a special experience.

Academy April Camp Brass

“It’s rare that you find the team instantly jumping on and saying, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s the one,’” she said. “And that’s really what happened. And I’m not selling that. Everyone on the team thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s it. That is it. That’s the name, and here’s all the music that goes with that, and let’s develop it from there.’ That’s really how it happened and it’s one of the most exciting things that I’ve gotten to be a part of.”

Over the past few years, The Academy has fielded productions that tell familiar, sometimes lighthearted stories through widely recognizable music.

2015’s “A Step in Time” featured the music of Disney’s “Mary Poppins.” In 2016, “Drum Corpse Bride” brought Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” to the field. Most recently, The Academy’s 2017 program, “By a Hare,” featured pieces of music commonly tied to "Looney Tunes" cartoons.

While the corps hasn’t officially announced the theme and music selections for its 2018 program just yet, both Richardson and Vento alike alluded to the show carrying a more “sophisticated” element, while making it clear that it will still feature a familiar repertoire.

The Academy will also, once again, be partnering with Fruhauf Uniforms for this season’s costuming. The new look was previewed for Saturday’s audience.

“Certainly we are looking to continue the aesthetic that The Academy has brought, with some familiarity with the musical efforts, and we want to reach the crowd on that level,” Richardson said. “I think what we’re doing from a visual standpoint will be really well-connected as well with the new uniforms from Fruhauf. It's going to be an entire package along with the color guard costumes.”

With all of the pieces back together and a successful April camp in the books, Richardson and The Academy can feel the 2018 Drum Corps International Tour fast approaching.

“When the color guard and percussion come back, it definitely feels like, ‘Oh, here we go, it’s just around the corner.’ Before we know it we’re going to be on buses and riding to a show,” Richardson said. “It definitely kicks it up a notch when we hit this April camp every year.”

View The Academy's 2018 DCI Tour schedule.