The last time The Cavaliers trekked out to the west coast, they left with a bronze medal.
It’s been a dozen years since; the 2007 DCI World Championships, which took place at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, were the last held outside the state of Indiana.
The Rosemont, Illinois corps’ return trip, according to corps director Dr. Michael Vaughn, has been years in the making. But members of the Green Machine, in 2019, are headed back to the Golden State for just the third time in this millennium.
“We’ve wanted to go for quite some time,” Vaughn said. “DCI has asked us to go out several times but we’ve always had commitments here in the midwest that kept us from making the trip. But we finally decided, ‘Hey, we have to do it, it’s been so long since we’ve gone out, we really need to make the trip.’”
Made possible by countless hours of meticulous planning, the trip itself has certainly been a bold endeavor.
Before hitting the road this past weekend, The Cavaliers wrapped up their current stint in the midwest with a very special send-off performance event at the Rosemont Theatre in the heart of the corps’ hometown.
The evening — which included the debut performance of the corps’ 2019 production, “The Wrong Side of the Tracks” — also served as a celebration of life for the late corps founder Don Warren, who The Cavaliers helped lay to rest as part of funeral services earlier in the day.
Immediately after the celebration that brought together generations of Cavaliers alumni all the way back to the organization’s founding in 1948, the corps hit the road for a series of scheduled stops in Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada over the course of five days en route to California
With the bulk of the final week of spring training having to be spent on tour busses, rehearsal time will be somewhat truncated ahead of The Cavaliers’ 2019 debut, June 21 in Clovis. But according to third-year front ensemble member Edward Li, the corps’ progress has been well ahead of schedule compared to his experience in previous years.
“We’ve gotten a lot more progress done in the three weeks we’ve had in Adrian, Michigan, than I’ve experienced in previous years of spring training,” he said. “We have our full show already on the field and now that we’re shipping out west, we can just focus on getting all the loose ends together right before we hit the first show in Clovis, California.”
Following the long haul from Illinois to the Bay Area and the corps’ season-opening event, The Cavaliers’ seven-show mini tour through the west coast will feature stops in Stanford, Sacramento, Vista, Pasadena, San Bernardino, and Mesa, Arizona.
Regardless of experience, each of those venues will be brand-new drum corps experiences for the corps’ membership, up against a strong list of competitors that The Cavaliers don’t usually get to see until the middle of the season.
“It’s really motivating the members a lot, and they’re really excited to go out,” Vaughn said. “The staff is really excited about it, to go out and right off the bat meet the top two corps in the country. So, it’s a tremendous opportunity for us and the members are really psyched and very excited to make the trip."
That said, The Cavaliers’ involvement in the west coast drum corps community will go beyond competitive opportunities.
For one, the corps will get to take part in the annual “Family Day” barbecue hosted by the Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard. Members will also have the opportunity to visit Yamaha headquarters and perform at the Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood Hills.
Not to mention, the opportunity to tap back into a major portion of its pacific alumni and fan base adds yet another exciting wrinkle to the trip.
“I think it’s kind of a treat for the west coast fans to get to see a corps other than Santa Clara, Blue Devils, Mandarins and so forth,” Vaughn said. “Whenever we’ve gone out, there’s been a tremendous reception for the corps.”
And while this certainly isn’t the case for the majority of The Cavaliers’ membership, the corps does have a handful of members who hail from the west coast — including Li — who will get the first and likely only opportunity of their careers to perform for their loved ones back home.
“I’ve never had a home show or been able to perform for my friends and family from home,” Li said. “It just means a lot to be able to see them, be able to experience a different tour than normal.”
“And, I don’t know,” he added. “California’s cool.”