Paula Hyman will be contributing columns to each Wednesday. Here's her seventh installment. Every year that I've marched, and even before that, we've had a show or at least a rehearsal at West Chester University in West Chester, Pa. 2004 was no different. The corps rolled into WCU around 7a.m. -- ready to rehearse, of course. We've never had access to gyms or anything like that at West Chester, so we didn't get any floor time once we arrived. We got right off the bus and went straight to a Hopkins meeting while the volunteers prepared breakfast for us. George Hopkins, director of the Cadets, discussed the season with us. We talked about our goals for the summer and what we (the Cadets) were here to accomplish. Entertaining the crowd and changing people's lives through our performances were pretty much number one on the list.

Paula Hyman (center) with Dean Westman (right) and Jon Bilby, in Bristol, R.I., on Paula's birthday (also a Cadets' free day). Dean was the Cadets' brass caption head and Jon the visual caption head.
George told us it was most likely going to rain but he didn't know exactly when it would hit. Rehearsing in the rain was nothing new to us. If I remember correctly, we had a huge smorgasbord of cereal on this day. Corn pops, Count Chocula (my favorite), Lucky Charms and Cap'n Crunch, to name a few. I am pretty sure I had four bowls of cereal that morning. Probably not a good idea, but I did it anyway. As breakfast started to come to a close, many of us made our way out to the field. It was about a 10-second walk, so it's a good thing I left early. Knowing that it was probably going to rain at some point, a good number of us decided to put our rehearsal bags underneath the stadium, just to be safe. We then began what was to be a glorious day of rehearsal. From what I can remember, the sky was as beautiful as it could be. We jumped right into making changes to and cleaning the drill during the drum solo in our second tune, "Bouree." After that, we moved on to making yet more changes to the jazz/classical section that occurs a bit earlier in the tune. This was a pretty cool part of the show, since a group of us were playing Jazz while the rest of the corps played classical music. There was lots of standing around for me and the others in the small group, but we pushed through. And then the unthinkable happened -- RAIN. Not just a light drizzle, but a downpour. So all of those people who thought their bags were home free under the stadium -- well, the bags were soaked. Luckily, I (and a handful of others) knew better than to just leave our belongings on the ground. We put our bags on top of chairs and garbage cans, protecting them from the flash flood. WAHAHAHAHAHHH! Champions. I put my dot book and hoodie in someone's trash bag on the sideline. We use trash bags to put our stuff in when it rains. Unfortunately it opened up somehow, and everything inside was drenched. Oh well, at least everything else I owned was dry. We were supposed to give a clinic later on that day. Actually, a bunch of kids at a West Chester band camp were just going to watch our ensemble rehearsal, but because of the weather, George decided that this clinic would be better off indoors. Rehearsal cut early so we could have time to eat, shower and get ready for the "show." Everyone in the corps wore their member shirts with jeans except for the mellos, who wore their mellophone shirts. They looked like little league baseball jerseys -- cool stuff. Anyway, it was a change getting ready for a performance and not putting on "The" uniform, but it was nice to do something different. After a short bus ride to the other side of campus, we got into twos and walked to the church we would be warming up in. Playing inside is always awesome because everything is ridiculously LOUD. Jay Bocook was also there. He walked in so we decided to play "Cadillac of the Skies" for him. We asked if he would conduct and he agreed. It's not too often that Jay conducts us so it was pretty emotional. After all that stuff we hurried up to the concert hall so we could get there and wait. This was going to be a stage show. We thought we would just perform our show, they would clap, and then we'd leave. This was definitely not the case. What was about to happen would be the greatest experience in my life, and I'm sure that most, if not all, of the corps would say the same thing. This auditorium was packed full of high school kids. I think something must have been wrong with them, because they were CRAZY! The brass line was waiting backstage to go on and all we could hear was screaming kids. The guard was on the stage and they were throwing it down. I am pretty sure the drums were after them. Same reaction: We (the brass line) didn't know what was going on out there because all we could hear was screaming and clapping -- just a constant drone of excitement coming from the audience. It was now our turn to tear it up. We walked out onto the stage and were instantly greeted with an incredible amount of applause. We then knew that this was going to be something special. I don't remember the order of tunes, but I know we played "Linus and Lucy," the Peanuts theme. They were going nuts for our drummer, Zach. A song that we normally kind of went through the motions on turned into one of the most exciting things I've ever played. I think it was that moment that made me decide that I wanted to be some sort of music educator. These kids were going crazy over the Peanuts theme, dancing and whatnot. I want to be around kids like that every day. It was pretty awesome. We played some other things such as "White Dawn" (our chord progression) and "Madrigal" (another tune we played in the lot). It was time for "Cadillac of the Skies." Jay Bocook again conducted us and it was even more incredible than the time he did earlier in the day. I'm pretty sure everyone was crying towards the end, especially Jay, who was shaking while he was conducting. It was pretty incredible. The "William Tell" small group was up next -- we definitely lightened the mood. I've never had so much fun performing something. Well, I did later on in the stage show, but we're not there yet.
It felt pretty much like I was in "Blast!" I was pretty surprised that these kids still had voices left. They were laughing and screaming, and it was amazing. The rest of the corps then entered with "Moondance." Some even went into the audience while they were playing. The small group was in the back of the stage watching all this madness. We had about 45 seconds to take it all in before It was time to go back out there. We finished up "William Tell" and I am pretty sure that's when my hearing started to become a little messed up because of the constant roaring from these kids. We bowed and went back to our spots in the arc, but they wouldn't stop screaming until we came back out and bowed again. These kids must have had a million Pixie Stix or something before the show -- I don't know how else they could be like that. After all that madness, the drum line came out onto the stage and the crowd erupted again. We then proceeded to play through our show. Things really got out of hand during our second tune, "Bouree." Oh my gosh, these kids were going insane. We were giving to them and they were giving it right back to us. We finished the show and they would not let us leave. So we HAD to play them a little encore. We decided to play from the drum solo to the end of "Bouree" for them. It was seriously like a rock concert. I am pretty sure there was some sort of mosh pit action down on the floor. They were jumping up and down with their hands in the air. The guard was in the audience dancing around and interacting with the kids. Some horn players even spread out through out the theatre and played. This was probably the best thing I've ever done. I could write about this all day long, but unless you were there, you can't really understand that feeling. There was a point where I couldn't hear anything but screaming. After we finished, they went absolutely insanely insane. That's the only way I can explain it. We then proceeded to hop down into the audience, running around giving high-fives, and kids would just grab us for pictures say that this experience was "So cool!" We got back on the stage and waved good-bye. We started giving them our patented "Yay!" chant. The curtain closed and they kept screaming in hopes we'd come back out. We wanted to go back out but we had to leave. Some of us would peek out of the curtains and the kids would scream. The guy speaking to them on the stage had no idea what was going on. It was pouring rain when we made our way back to the school for dinner. We even had a dance party when we got back. Everyone had an ear-to-ear smile on the rest of the night. We really knew at that moment that scores didn't matter. This was the most incredible feeling ever and I wouldn't trade it for anything -- not even a 99.9 at finals. We changed people's lives that night, and those kids changed ours. It's a good thing that it rained. Paula Hyman is a fourth-year member of the Cadets where she is the mellophone section leader. She is 20 years old and currently single. Originally from South Florida, Paula recently made the move to Allentown, Pa., to work for YEA!, the umbrella organization of the Cadets, Crossmen and the U.S. Scholastic Band Association. She ages out in 2006. Past columns by Paula Hyman: Trick-or-treating at a band show It's a show day! What's a free day? Rest stop or heaven? The Move to Allentown Welcome back to the real world