It doesn’t take long for an award-winning group of performers to pick up where they left off. And for The Cavaliers’ percussion section, the turnaround in creating a memorable November weekend in Indianapolis was a quick one.

After three months apart, the Rosemont, Illinois corps’ battery and front ensemble percussion had the opportunity to reunite for appearances at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) and Bands of America Grand National Championships, both held in Indianapolis the weekend of November 9-11.

The corps’ opportunity to perform at PASIC — for a fourth time in the past 10 years, having appeared in 2013, 2018, and virtually in 2020 — is a prestigious honor. Annually PASIC represents one of the largest gatherings of percussion students, professionals and enthusiasts in the world, typically featuring more than a hundred concerts, educational clinics, masterclasses, and much more.

And even with just a couple of days of rehearsal time, the 2023 DCI winners of the Fred Sanford Award for Best Percussion Performance looked just like their old selves.

“It came together very quickly,” Cavaliers battery percussion coordinator Russell Wharton said. “And by the end, they played excellently. I'm super proud of them, and can't believe how well they played, especially after just a couple days of putting this thing together.”

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Members of The Cavaliers' percussion section rehearse prior to their presentation at PASIC.


Beyond the corps’ quality of performance, though, a weekend together in Indianapolis provided a meaningful reunion — both at and away from the instruments — for a group that spent an entire summer working hard to perfect their craft.

“It's been a pretty intense and full last couple of days,” Wharton added. “But it's just been full of love and full of celebration, and getting to spend time with each other and hear this music in person one more time.”

Prior to arriving in Indianapolis, The Cavaliers’ journey to PASIC and Bands of America featured months of planning and rehearsal.

As percussion caption head Michael McIntosh noted, much of the weekend’s advance preparation came down to many virtual meetings, and support from a slew of individuals.

“Zoom, Zoom, Zoom,” McIntosh said of the corps’ emphasis in planning. “It took a village to make this happen, from the board of directors, to administrative staff, raising money for members that didn't have the money for a flight.”

Most of the section’s members arrived in Indianapolis Thursday, and engaged in plenty of rehearsal time as they prepared to present a 50-minute educational clinic for a packed audience at the Indiana Convention Center’s Sagamore Ballroom on Saturday.

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The Cavaliers' percussion section and staff pose for a group photo following their presentation at PASIC.


On their first night of arrival, members remained compartmentalized by section, practicing their own music, before bringing the full ensemble together to rehearse through music, and the overall flow of their presentation.

“We stayed up kind of late, rehearsing down in the expo halls, just re-remembering how this thing goes, getting our talks together,” Wharton said. “It ultimately culminated in this presentation, where the staff talked about some of our educational pillars and our process, all interspersed with the members playing through their show.”

Aside from their own on-stage obligations, The Cavaliers were able to enjoy a weekend of social reconnection as well, as their trip to Indianapolis marked their first time all back together since the DCI World Championship Finals, August 12. The weekend included multiple social engagements with The Cavaliers’ percussion sponsors.

“This has been a really, really special experience for the Cavaliers,” McIntosh said. “It’s really about the forward-facing experience for the members. It was all about them. We think they had a great time.”

The presentation itself featured several speakers, who shared on a variety of topics that all tied into The Cavaliers’ overarching philosophy when it comes to managing a percussion ensemble.

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The Cavaliers' PASIC presentation featured the corps drum line and front ensemble percussion section.


Among those who offered their perspectives, lead audio engineer Nick Mason offered an inside look at how The Cavaliers organize and edit audio output, and multiple section instructors shared insight into how The Cavaliers rehearse, warmup and teach technique.

“We consider it really important to present the marching style of playing and sort of educate the audience,” Wharton said. “When we get an opportunity like this, to kind of let people in and let them understand our process, I think they find the entire thing to be clearer, and perhaps a little bit less intimidating.”

“It was really important to me to empower the staff to talk because we're all part of the brand,” McIntosh added. “We wanted to do the best we could to collectively push the Cavalier brand in the PASIC idiom.”

While The Cavaliers’ clinic at PASIC was the focal point of its weekend in Indianapolis, the corps’ percussion section also had the opportunity to take part in two other performance-related engagements.

The Cavaliers’ bass drum section presented its own Friday clinic, and the full battery performed as part of the awards ceremony at the Bands of America Grand Nationals.

“We did an excerpt from the show one more time at Lucas Oil Stadium,” McIntosh said, “kind of as a chef's kiss to the ending of this incredible year that's been 2023.”

The message that rounded out The Cavaliers’ presentation at PASIC was one that reverberates throughout the next several months in the drum corps activity — audition. With the corps’ November reunion serving as the cherry on top of its recent summer, the book is officially closed on the 2023 season, with the 2024 season’s story set to be written.

Auditions, which will take place throughout the winter months for The Cavaliers and for all corps across the country, provide an opportunity for students to get their foot in the door, sharpen their skills, and pursue the opportunity to take part in the drum corps experience.

And to that end, Wharton’s message was simple.

“Go for it,” he said. “You’ve got to just take that first leap. Even if you don't think you're ready, just come out and audition. Check it out. You're going to have a good time.”

Audition for drum corps in 2024