Drum Corps International
The Making of a Champion -- from DCI Today, summer 2002

The Making of a Champion -- from DCI Today, summer 2002

by Drum Corps International

The Making of a ChampionThe Cadets and Blue Devils may have tied for second place with an overall score of 97.60 at the 2001 DCI World Championships; however, the Cadets percussion section and Blue Devils color guard skipped over second place to seize the title in their captions. Caption Awards are determined by averaging caption scores from the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals competitions. The Cadets Drum Line earned Best Percussion and the Blue Devils Color Guard earned Best Auxiliary Awards at Championships in 2001. Just what does it take to be in one of the best lines in the world? Drum corps fans are lucky - they get to enjoy the final product - the precise and exciting performances that members of the corps have been working towards day in and day out for months. What many fans don't witness is the hard work, sweat and determination put into each minute of rehearsal. According to Muhammad Ali, "The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road - long before I dance under those lights." Although he was speaking about boxing, his words ring true throughout the drum and bugle corps activity. Members of the 2001 Champion Cadets percussion section and Blue Devils color guard share with us the pride, focus and determination that are essential in becoming one of the best. Blue Devils Color Guard"There's a fire that burns within the Blue Devils Color Guard. I know this fire because it dances through me and radiates from the arms of my friends as they move through space. I like to call this fire 'passion' or sometimes 'sheer desire.' This is what drives me, and I think it is safe to say that it drives the Blue Devils Color Guard. What drives this passion and desire is unique to everyone. However, it is certain that we are all driven by our fans and audience, our love for this activity and our focus to be the best at what we do. "Working toward being the best is not an easy task. This will be my fifth year with the Blue Devils, and I still feel like I'm on my toes. This is the toughest competition! "Each year is a process. Winning high color guard is a process. I've won and lost with the Blue Devils Color Guard. And my experience has showed me that every last detail matters in a champion color guard. Eating correctly, sleeping, being respectful of others, pushing through the smallest details in choreography and conducting yourself in a professional, mature manner are just a few of the key elements that bind the greater picture. The reality of our color guard is that no one is perfect. It's not rare to find people practicing on their breaks or asking for help on parts they are having trouble with. "On top of it all, we have a phenomenal staff. With Scott Chandler doing our choreography, Jay Murphy writing our drill, and T.J. Doucette and Dave Meikle as technicians, we cannot help but be perfectly set up for awesome performances. Part of my love for the Blue Devils comes from the fact that our staff is priceless and we are treated professionally. "Winning is a bonus when you are a part of a great color guard. The most magical part of the 2001 Blue Devils Color Guard was the spirit we each had. I was amazed how we were able to roll out of bed, aching and sore, and the next minute be dancing and jumping up and down. If you saw our energy through our performance, you can imagine the energy we circulated on a daily basis. Instead of spiraling down when we were tired, we would fight through exhaustion with laughter and cheers, clapping and pats on the back. On behalf of the Blue Devil Color Guard, I would like to express our thanks to DCI and all of our supporters for giving us the opportunity to share our energy. We perform for you. See you this summer!"Jessica Allen; Blue Devils Color Guard, 1998-2002; Color Guard Captain '01, '02Cadets Percussion"Winning the high percussion award was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It was great for Tom and the staff to receive the award, and the guys in the line enjoyed the experience more than I can tell you. "I think our work ethic and determination allowed us to be so very successful in 2001. When we started with camps back in December of 2000, I was a bit worried. We only had three snares, one quad, two basses, along with two people in the pit returning. A veteran core of only eight people in the drum line is not usually promising. With a predominantly new percussion section, I really didn't know what to expect. "A lot of people compared us to the Cadets' 2000 drum line, saying that we weren't going to be as good as them or whatever, but I think that's unfair. I was a member of both drum lines and I can tell you that we worked much harder in 2001. Every year is different. The talent level of the 2000 line was tremendous and we were consistent all year. In 2001, we worked extremely hard to get where we were at the end of the season. I can remember working parts of the show over and over again for endless hours. "Another big component of our success as a line was the chemistry of the group. I have never been involved in an organization with such a great intensity. We all got along and worked extremely well as a team. To me, in an activity like drum corps, it is important for a group to remain focused on the task on hand yet still be able to cut loose and have some fun. We knew when to "turn it on" and push ourselves to the limit. Great drum lines are the ones that are consistent all year and practice the smartest. Last season was a fabulous year for the entire organization, not just the drum line. The corps made its first appearance in California in more than 50 years. That was also an experience I will not soon forget. Quite an adventure! We had show full of a wide variety of music that presented a great challenge for us, too. As George Hopkins told us all year, the show was all about performance. If we performed well, we would see the results. The show wasn't going to win it for us. In the end, we were right where we wanted to be. We were in the thick of the hunt. Last summer was a great payoff. I learned a great deal about teamwork and commitment last summer. The staff did a terrific job in writing us a great drum book and we did an exceptional job in pushing ourselves during rehearsal. I've learned not to make preseason assumptions! After last summer I have figured out that any goal is attainable with hard work." Chris Vale, Cadets Drum Line, 1999 - 2002; Snare Drum Section LeaderBlue Devils Color Guard"My first season with the Blue Devils Color Guard was in 1997. It couldn't have been a more fulfilling experience. I won my first Drum Corps International title as well as my first High Auxiliary title all within my rookie year. I like to think that I was spoiled. In 2001, I aged out of the Blue Devils, taking two DCI Championships and four High Auxiliary titles with me. It has been five years of my life that I will treasure forever. "During the summer I work harder than I do any other time of the year. Being in the sun from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. tests your personal strength and limits. We spend countless hours every day with the expertise of incredible staff members like Scott Chandler, T.J. Doucette and Dave Meikel, working towards excellence. At times it's monotonous, emotionally draining and even physically painful. You deal with sunburns, tendinitis, sore muscles and fatigue for three months straight. "Just as we work hard, we love to play just as much. Some days seem unbearable, but the staff always knows how to revive us with a little Popsicle break. As much as our staff loves to work, they like to play as much as we do, and at times almost seem younger than us. "We fought all summer for the High Auxiliary title against the Cavaliers. At times we won and at times we lost. At Finals, hearing 'High Auxiliary' goes to the Blue Devils' weas the sweetest sound my ears had heard all season. Everything that you have worked for the last three months has been culminated into one glorious moment, and at the same time it is such an emotional release that all you can do is stand there and cry. "My experiences with the Blue Devils Color Guard have been life-altering. Without them, I would never appreciate the true meaning of hard work. You learn to push yourself beyond your limits, even when you don't think that you can go any further. It is a constant learning process. Even now after aging out, I am continuing to learn as I continue in teaching. Above all, I value the friendships that I have made along the way. The people that I love and hold closest to my heart are those that I have met in the past five years as a member of the Blue Devils Color Guard. These are the memories that I have made, and the lessons that I have learned – both of which I will take with me for the rest of my life."Jennifer Byers, Blue Devils Color Guard, 1997-2001 The Cadets Percussion"While reflecting on the ingredients required in forming a championship drum line, it is clear that all top corps in DCI are populated with talented members. "The factors that make the Cadets stand out among other factors are, in my opinion, our unending hard work, desire, heart, stamina, focus, discipline and intestinal fortitude. The winning mixture of talented, dedicated and intense musicians is embellished and showcased by our challenging musical arrangements and knowledgeable instructors. Indeed, the instructors' physical and mental commitment is as significant as any of the percussion ensemble members. "The individuals who join the Cadets come from all over the world. They come with one major common goal - to be the best they can be. Each Cadet strives for perfection and seeks that level of performance that few ever achieve. We come to learn that perfection is something we will never attain, and yet, we work towards the unreachable day after day. It is an interesting paradox, one we learn over time to understand, respect and embrace."By the time we reach the field for performance, the sacrifice, pain, frustration and exhaustion disappear. Members are filled with immense pride, emotion and excitement, and they are ecstatic over the crowd's reaction and appreciation for their hard work. The chance to perform is what makes the drum corps experience so very, very exciting."When you're part of an organization that requires an individual to stretch beyond his normal limits, a natural bond forms between its members. The bonds formed through this intense activity are similar to the friendships forged throughout the human existence in other challenging efforts such as military service and world-class sports. We are a team. "Aside from the friendships gained, the enjoyment in the drum corps activity stems largely from the sense of accomplishment, the achievement of goals, and the ability to work as a team far and above any normal level of participation and performance. Throughout my three years as a Cadet, it has been my pleasure and privilege to come in contact with some of the most driven, success-orientated, positive young people in this country. I am confident that the life lessons learned by each of us will serve as a significant factor in supporting the development of magnificent human beings."Robert Marino, Cadets Bass Drum Line, 2000-2002

Related News

View all news

by Drum Corps International

6 things to know about Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Read more

by Drum Corps International

Corps news and announcements
Read more