Each weekday before the DCI 2005 Classic Countdown, we'll be running first-person accounts of the seasons and the shows that will be featured in that event. Here's the ninth installment: When I meet new people, and they ask me about my drum corps career, this is essentially what I tell them: I was a member of the Cadets for six years. I marched contra for four seasons, and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve as drum major my last two years. Invariably, they say the following: "That's cool. Did you march in 2000?"
People don't want to hear about the perfect field visual score in 1998, the unbelievable horn line in 2001, the three straight percussion titles, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," or even the Z-pull in 2003. They want to hear about 2000. What was the drum solo like? How fast was the opener? Were the horn players really playing each other's horns? Is that a double C? Who was the center snare? "We are the Future" continues to affect people on a very personal level. I'm not sure if it has more to do with the concept behind the show, or the fact that to watch the show is to be entertained and flabbergasted simultaneously by some of the jaw-dropping things that are happening on the field. Either way, this show is very special to many people, including its performers. From 1997 through 2002, the Cadets and the Crossmen essentially rented out a small Catholic college just outside of Allentown for a month to prepare for the summer tour. We slept in the dorms, parked the food trucks in the parking lot, and had rehearsal on every patch of grass we could find. It was like a little drum corps city. For some reason in 2000, we had to find somewhere else to go for a week in June. Apparently, DeSales University had been rented out to someone who could afford to pay a bit more for the week. I'm not sure where the Crossmen went, but we ended up at a sports camp somewhere in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Conditions were less than ideal, to say the least. Pretty much everything you need to know about Camp Greeley can be summed up by the following: One day during ensemble rehearsal, there was a family of hungry bears rustling around in the brush behind the "field," which was actually the place where the Pennsylvania geese "grazed" while we were not busy marching. The kitty litter that we had spread to combat the natural slickness of goose feces had long since been absorbed by the constant rain, and now very closely emulated both the color and the texture of Cocoa Pebbles that had soaked in milk for a few hours too long. Ensemble rehearsal continued, and the bears continued rustling. Now imagine running around at 192 beats per minute under conditions like this for 12 hours a day, for nine straight days. It was an experience in "character building." Our final day at Camp Greeley was the longest day of my drum corps life. And that's saying a lot. We got up around 6:30, and started rehearsal around 8 a.m. We finished up around 7 p.m., at which point we packed everything we owned, loaded the truck, ate some dinner, and got back on the bus for the three-hour drive back to DeSales. Sounds pretty tame, I know. The only catch was that we were going to perform live on the "Today" show the next morning in Manhattan, and we had to be parked outside the Radio City Music Hall by 4 a.m. So after arriving at DeSales around 11, we had about three hours to clean all of our equipment, shower, shave, and get our uniforms together. We spent most of the bus ride into the city memorizing the music we had to play -- the "Today" theme, and "God Bless America." I've got some great home video of the buses emerging into pre-dawn Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel. It was beautiful. The short version from here is that we played the "Today" show gig, and by 11 a.m., we were let loose in Manhattan for the day -- only 29 hours after we got up. Carpe diem! The preceding event is fairly indicative of the Cadets experience from year to year. The biggest difference between each season's corps is the way the group handles adversity. The 2000 Cadets handled everything in the most professional manner that I have ever seen from a drum corps. One day (South Carolina, maybe?) Jeff Sacktig suggested that we add some sort of fun aerial kick after our horn feature. Cool. Later that day, someone else thought it would be funny to scream "East!" during said kick. It was meant as a joke, but everyone started doing it, and somehow it stuck. After that, pretty much everything during "Celebration" was ad-libbed by the performers. We came up with all of the wacky stuff that seems to be happening during the drum solo on our own. If you know what to look for, there's some pretty funny stuff going on. I would like to take this opportunity to state for the record that the horn-line-playing-each-other's-horn thing IS REAL. I promise. Really Once daily performances began, all of the hardships of spring training started to pay off in a big way. After our first show in Lima, Ohio, it became clear that our show was a crowd favorite, to say the least. Knowing that each night's crowd was going to go bonkers at one point or another during the performance made for rehearsals that were much more enjoyable, and a lot more fun. We started to rehearse not for competitive reasons, but rather because that we knew that the better we got, the more the crowd would cheer. Personally, I figured out somewhere along the way that the only reason I cared about "winning" was that "winning" meant another opportunity to perform at the end of the night. When the crowd loves you, it's a feeling like no other. I vividly remember watching people lose their minds during some of our encore performances. People shouting, laughing, screaming, and just generally being entertained by us. What a feeling. We rolled into San Antonio using this as our mantra: Perform the tar out of this thing, and the rest will fall into place. After a DCI/BOA leadership clinic, which took place in the temperate Alamodome on a scorching day in July, we strapped into our uniforms for our first "really big" show of the year. To say that we "nailed" our show would be a gross understatement. For 11 minutes that night, it felt like we were walking on water. We owned our show, and we still had a whole month to get better. Riding the momentum of our San Antonio triumph, we continued the tour with shows in Baton Rouge (where our buses were broken into while we were asleep at 4 am), Murfreesboro, Hornell, Allentown, and finally to our home show at Giants Stadium. When the Cadets perform at Giants Stadium, it's a big deal, and not just because its usually late in the season. The corps alumni tends to show up in droves at East Rutherford. For the Cadets, performing in front of alumni is almost as big a deal as performing at DCI Finals. If San Antonio's show was a nine, East Rutherford's was an 11. Several people just emotionally lost it after the show. Having a show like the one we had that night in August in front of all of our friends, family, and alumni is a once-in-a-career moment. And we still had a week to go. The last week of the season always goes by in the blink of an eye. One day you look up, and you are on the bus on the way to finals. And then it's over. 2000 was no exception. I don't remember much, but I remember thinking that finals week felt more like a victory lap than a week full of intensive rehearsal in preparation for the end of the season. We were so confident in our abilities as a team and as individual performers that the thought of not being magnificent never even entered our minds. People sometimes ask what it was like to perform our show. Well, it was absolutely the fairy tale you want it to be. I remember our warmup on semifinals night. Kyle and I were talking during one of the little breaks we used to get to clear our heads, and we decided that no matter how many years we marched in the corps, or how many championships we won, or how many standing ovations we got, that this moment -- right here -- was as good as it would ever get. And it was. Sure, the corps was outstanding every other year that I marched, but there is just something about 2000 that seems mystical. Its the only show I ever marched that still gives me goosebumps when I listen to it or watch it. It's hard not to think of the concept of the show -- "We are the Future" -- and five years later reflect on how perfectly it seems to fit. Members of the 2000 Cadets are now beginning to fulfill the lofty challenge that the show designers bestowed upon us -- we are starting our own families, earning graduate degrees, teaching music, performing on Broadway, investing other people's money on Wall Street, serving our country in the Middle East, and generally pushing things forward in a positive manner. We have all gone our own separate ways, but it is very clear that none of us will ever forget the extraordinary experience that was the summer of 2000. It really was true. We really are the future. Enjoy the show. We did. Sam Saunders lives in Ann Arbor, Mich, and will be attending the DCI Classic Countdown in Walled Lake, Mich.
The Cadets in 2000.