DCI Division I drum majors from across the country will compete for the title as the best drum major in the world at the Drum Corps International World Championships in Orlando, Fla., but their performance in the Citrus Bowl will only be part of the equation that decides the winner. Each competing drum major will also go through an interview process with Gene Monterastelli, a former DCI judge and instructor with the Troopers. At stake is pride, a plaque and scholarship money -- last year, it was $900. It's called the Jim Jones Leadership Award after the late drum corps legend that built the Troopers into the type of powerhouse that The Cavaliers are today. Monterastelli looks for leadership skills in the contestants. "When you think of DCI leadership, you think of Jim Jones," Monterastelli says. Monterastelli interviews each contestant during the summer tour and asks questions that make them think on their feet. "I ask questions like, 'What do you do to make the corps experience better for your corps?'" Monterastelli says. "Or, 'What do you do to help them reach their goals? How do you want members of your corps to remember you?'" Monterastelli then gives the tapes of each interview to the DCI Hall of Fame committee that selects the winner. That committee also judges the on-field performances of each contestant. After examining the tapes and performances, they select a winner and announce it at the DCI Finals retreat. The award money is a big help to corps members like Josh Phillips, who won the award as the drum major of The Cadets last year. "To be honest, marching for three years has been quite a financial burden," Phillips says. "Always returning to school with only minimal funds was a challenge to push through until I found employment. This award helped me move into my new apartment and purchase some supplies for school, as well as pay my first month's rent." Monterastelli says Phillips was a great choice as the award winner. "It was what he had done in his career to that point inside of drum corps and outside of drum corps," Monterastelli says. "Receiving this award was a tremendous honor, not only because of the many great people that were considered, but also the legacy of Jim Jones," Phillips says. "He was a significant leader in the drum corps world from the influence of character and sportsmanship, as well as the overall development of the activity. When I was announced as the recipient of this award, it was a great satisfaction and joy that I was now able to share with the many outstanding people who had received this honor." Jeff White won the award as the drum major of The Cavaliers in 1999. "It was an incredible honor and quite a surprise to win this award," White says. "Through the season, you get a chance to meet some of the drum majors from other corps who are also competing for the award. I met several who were great leaders from great organizations. Because of our similar schedules, I often visited with Tommy Feagan of the Phantom Regiment during the 1999 tour. He was very impressive to me and we had a good time together. He was one of the many leaders I felt were very deserving of the award. He clearly demonstrated that by winning it the next year." White says the award is still an important reminder about what he can achieve when he puts his mind to it. "The award was an example of how drum corps, and especially The Cavaliers, made me a better young man," White says. "It was an indication to me that I really could achieve when I prepare, work hard, think and learn from others. I use the plaque not as a token of something cool I got four years ago, but as a reminder that I can and should be an effective leader when given the opportunity." Phillips says it's awards like this one that give kids an opportunity to learn the life lessons drum corps has to offer. "Without trying to sound too clich?©, drum corps has had a tremendous impact on my life," Phillips says. "Without it, I would not be the person I am today. The depleting support for arts programs across the nation is a travesty, as we all know. Drum Corps International and the many organizations involved are responsible for such a positive influence on today's youth." Phillips plans to attend Northwestern University to get a master's degree in music performance. White is a transportation planner for the state of Missouri and is starting a rental properties business. He hopes to get back to teaching drum corps and/or marching band some day.

Monterastelli says he's impressed by the drum majors he meets. "I can't tell you how positive and wonderful it has been," he says. "The caliber of the DCI drum majors has been and continues to be tremendous."