Wooded cabins nestled amongst wildlife in serene natural surroundings might seem like a far cry from the typical high school stadiums drum corps utilize for their spring training, but the Oregon Crusaders are taking advantage of a new rehearsal site in northern Oregon to get their 2017 season underway.

This year, members and staff of OC will work on crafting their competitive production titled “ENcompass,” in what executive director Mike Quillen calls a picturesque “log cabin” setting. After moving corps members in for the all-day rehearsals one week earlier than in previous years, the corps' early-season productivity is now in full swing.

Run by the Catholic Youth Organization, Camp Howard, which is located about 35 miles east of Portland, is generally utilized as a summer sports camp.

After some uncertainty on whether or not the facility could work for the corps' rehearsal and housing site, Quillen says that he worked to setup a meeting with the camp's management so he could “get them to feel more comfortable about who we are and what we do.”

After providing some education on the sport of drum corps, the CYO obliged to host the corps, Quillen said.

“They were very impressed. They had never seen anything like what we do,” he said.

Quillen says the off-the-beaten-track facility even offers something many corps members rarely witness while traveling the country during their summer tour: deer sightings.

“We have members split up in cabins instead of a traditional gymnasium-type setting,” he said of the corps' sleeping arrangements. “And there are pretty stupendous views of Mt. Hood all the time.”

We're taking "That one time, at band camp..." jokes to a whole new level... ICYMI, #OC17 is drumming, tossing, tooting, sweating and striving for success at gorgeous Camp Howard near the Columbia River Gorge. Consider joining OCVIP for the full picture.... click the link in the IG bio, or find details @ oregoncrusaders.org/ocvip music by #AndrewApplepie video by @flyingnarwhal #dci #marchingband #bandcamp #drumcorps #mthood #columbiarivergorge

Posted by Oregon Crusaders on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Generally, one of the biggest obstacles faced when moving corps members into their spring training site is faced in the logistics of getting the entire 150-member ensemble to one spot, Quillen says.

“We've seen an increase in out-of-state membership this year with a lot of kids flying into the airport. We've been helping with shuttling and getting them to the camp,” he said.

Matt Huffman, a fourth-year bass drummer with OC, said that the new rehearsal site has infused his spring training experience with a real “Oregon vibe.”

“It's definitely nice to be a lot closer to nature,” he said. “Just being here makes me feel a lot more relaxed.”

Huffman said that the earlier start to the corps' spring training this season is already helping corps members connect as a group. With two more years of eligibility left to march as a member of the corps, he said he hopes for Camp Howard to become a new tradition.

As the Oregon Crusaders hit the rehearsal field to learn the music and drill formations to their “ENcompass” production, Quillen said the maturity of this year's performers—whose average age is slightly older than in recent years—is helping designers put together what he sees as a “meatier” show for the group that finished in 18th place at last summer's DCI World Championship in Indianapolis.

“The program is coming together really well,” he said. “We feel like we have a very talented group this year. (‘ENcompass' is) about encircling things, encompassing things and people—you'll find a lot of that theme in the drill formations and the movement that we're doing.”

After wrapping up their spring training rehearsals, the Oregon Crusaders will kick off their summer tour with an educational event in cooperation with the Blue Devils on July 6 in Hillsboro, Oregon, before making their competitive debut at the Drums of Fire DCI Tour event a day later.