The Academy of Tempe, Az., captured first place in today's Division II Finals competition in only their first appearance at DCI Championships. 135 members strong, the corps was a crowd favorite with their program "Danzón." Corps director Mark Richardson was also awarded the 2006 Outstanding Division II Director award. "It's really a surprise, actually," Richardson commented. "It feels like it's really quick, but it also feels like we've been doing this forever. We started in 2000 with putting together the board of directors and setting everything up, so today was the product of six years of work." Richardson attributed the success of the six-year-old program to the wealth of community support the corps receives in Tempe and through the Arizona Academy of Performing Arts. "It's been just everybody in Arizona doing their part in to ensure success. There are a few key members in charge of fundraising, in charge of food, in charge of staffing, but really it takes hundreds of people to make sure we can make this opportunity available to the members of the community, the kids in the drum corps." Richardson hopes to continue the progress the Academy has experienced over the past three years. "Our mode of operations so far has been to only take steps as far as we can be successful. And it's been baby steps so far," he said. "We always want to be very comfortable that we're able to sustain what we're doing and be successful, and never take a step back." One of the most gratifying aspects of the corps' success so far has been the positive response The Academy has received throughout its three seasons of competitive activity. "Every year we've gone into a new arena – the first year putting the drum corps on the field, the second year going to Drums along the Rockies, this year DCI Championships, and everywhere we get amazing response from the crowd, people cheering for us and giving us all the positive energy that is needed for any kind of youth activity. So that's meant a lot to our volunteers and members to get that kind of support from just total strangers," he said. "So that's a big thank you to everyone for that!" As to whether the corps will attempt to step up to Division I activity anytime soon, Richardson says that's "up to the gods. We submit the application every year to get feedback on what we've done right so we can keep doing it, and improve in other areas," he said. "If we're going to take that step we want to do it in a way that we can be good citizens to the activity and bring something positive to Division I."
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