The threat of rain didn't stop fans from coming out in force yesterday to see the eight World Class drum corps competing at the Drum Corps International Central Illinois Premier Event in Normal. Hundreds of high school participants, part of the Music for All Summer Symposium, helped pack Illinois State University's Hancock Stadium to capacity as fans watched the Cavaliers (78.600) beat out Phantom Regiment (2nd, 76.700) and Carolina Crown (3rd, 75.400) for the gold medal. Even before the show started the crowd was ready to give the corps on the field their all, and after a performance of the National Anthem by the Music for All Summer Symposium marching band, the Madison Scouts (8th, 65.600) took the field. Their show was punctuated by the spontaneous applause and cheers that would come to define the evening. The Colts (7th, 68.700), Glassmen (6th, 69.000) and Spirit (5th, 69.200) were judged to be in a dead heat, only half a point separating the three corps in competition. The Bluecoats (4th, 74.400) were comfortably ahead of the pack, though short of a medal tonight. Their show "The Knockout" portrays the essence of the boxing experience, with a drum line feature that is presented as a training session and the whole performance bookended with themes from Sylvester Stallone's Rocky movies. Receiving the bronze medal was Carolina Crown with a program of famous classical music endings, titled "Finis." Drum major Evan VanDoren was thrilled with the audience's reception of Crown's program. "I couldn't have been happier with the performance and with the reaction we got from the crowd," VanDoren said. "This great stadium with all these great students here with the Symposium … what a pleasure to perform in front of all these people." VanDoren explained some of the recent developments made to Crown's program: "We had two rehearsal days this week where we altered the beginning of the show a little bit. We sliced a little bit of music out and put it together in a more unique way. It's really changed the pace of the show with a more energetic beginning, and I think the crowd is responding to it."
Phantom Regiment took the silver medal. "Spartacus," a program telling the story of the Roman slave-turned-rebel leader, uses some of the music the corps performed in its 1981 and 1982 seasons. With music rooted in ballet, the Regiment has worked hard to make the show crowd-friendly, and the audience caught on immediately when the drum major demands "Live…or…die?" during the performance, leaving the fate of Spartacus in the spectators' hands. "It was a lot of fun to perform in front of this crowd," said Phantom Regiment conductor Will Pitts. "They were really into it; it's really motivational for us to have that kind of interaction with the audience. I think that hyped up our members and we were able to have a great performance because of the high level of intensity that they had." Phantom Regiment continues to refine "Spartacus," and Pitts said, "We're confident in our program. We enjoy performing it, which makes it a lot of fun to rehearse and a lot of fun to make better." The Cavaliers' program "Samurai" goes all-out in its portrayal of Japanese warriors; the show is complete with taiko drumming flourishes, a sword duel, and medieval Japanese costuming for both the color guard and the front ensemble members. After their show, the Cavaliers took the field a second time to perform a segment of their first tune accompanied by the Music for All Summer Symposium marching band campers. Cavaliers assistant drum major Alex Harmon said, "It's always fun to be here. The crowd is really energetic and it makes our job a whole lot easier to bring out the energy and perform for them. I think everyone really focused well tonight and took it to a new level." Harmon had plenty of positive words about the Summer Symposium too, saying, "Getting to perform with the campers is always a fun experience. There's nothing like coming out here and doing our show and then coming right back out and doing half of the opener again [with the students]."
A sellout crowd packed Hancock Stadium on the campus of Illinois State University.
When asked about the corps' program this year, Harmon said, "This show is who we are. It's fun to perform every day, and it's never going to get old. I really think it's going to be a show that people are going to remember." The Cavaliers celebrate their 60th anniversary this season and will be gunning for their eighth title, undefeated so far this season. Six of the eight competing corps from last night will head to Madison, Wis. today for the DCI Madison Premier Event presented by Drums on Parade. There Spirit and the Glassmen will meet the Blue Stars and Crossmen in what is likely to be another close contest. The Cavaliers, Bluecoats, and Carolina Crown will meet the Cadets, Blue Knights, and Boston Crusaders, as a total of 19 corps fill out the lineup. Those drum corps fans who can't make it out to Madison tonight, can follow all of the action live from Camp Randall Stadium with the first DCI Fan Network Live Webcast of the 2008 season. Find an upcoming DCI Summer Tour event near you!
The Cavaliers perform an encore with Music For All marching band students.