The Big Win

A Section Leader's Perspective

December 31, 2011 2:16:12 pm PST

By: Ian Wudyka

From our first audition camp in November until the DCI Finals in mid-August in Indianapolis, it was an unforgettable journey with 2011 Cadets. A championship season with any drum corps is never easy, and this season was no exception. It begins with the work of the design team before auditions start, to the final product; the performance of the one hundred and fifty member ensemble.

As the “Center Snare”, a leadership role in the ensemble, it is important to communicate clearly to all of the members to make the season run smoothly. The summer is long, and consistency is difficult to achieve from day to day. But this drumline was different, starting with the attitude of every player. From those with the most experience to those with the least, it was constantly a team effort: from learning the music correctly in December, to learning and marching the drill as a unit, to coming out at 8 AM in the morning ready to get better, to stepping off the bus looking like a champion at 30+ shows. After three years in the Cadets, this drumline and the full corps was the best at these things that I have seen.

The Leadership Team is a group of people who are highly dedicated to making the season run smoothly. As a leader in the group, it is important to establish the goals for the day, the week and the full season in advance and make sure that every member understands them and is in agreement. During the winter camps, we met at least once on the weekend to identify potential improvements and to resolve various issues. Then, during the summer we would meet at lunch or after a show at least once a week. What we talked about stayed within the Leadership Team, but our ideas and decisions affected one hundred fifty people.

I have always enjoyed learning from the staff of The Cadets. This year the members and staff felt as though it was “one group” instead of something like “staff against students!” It made the season a lot more enjoyable because nothing that was said or done was taken in a personal way. It was always for the betterment of the group. Colin McNutt, the Caption Head and Arranger, brought a new type of management to the drumline that really emphasized performance and “equal contribution” throughout the drumline. I really enjoyed this type of teaching because it often makes rehearsals feel like shows, so that once we put the uniforms on and go to the field, it doesn’t feel that much different. This is an experience that will be beneficial to any performance or entertainment group. Also, I am extremely gratified to say that I was a part of Colin’s first championship season.

During the 2011 season, unfortunately, a snare drummer got hurt. This is always an obstacle to overcome for a drum corps. It is rare that a section makes it through an entire summer without someone getting injured. We realized we would have to “close the hole” in mid-July just before the regional competition began. Closing a hole in a snare line can be “easier said than done”, especially when the drumline is separated into “angels” and “demons”! We had to make some slight adjustments in the order to balance the character roles, as we finished the season with seven snare drummers. As a group we needed to stay positive and motivated as we strived to improve each week. This took a large amount of time and effort including rehearsing during a few “laundry days” so we could finish learning the adjusted drill. After all was said and done, it was totally worth it and we definitely improved, with everyone committing themselves to successfully making the adjustments.

The most enjoyable time of the season was from mid-July until finals. This is the point in the season at which the competition really begins to set in, and each weekend includes a big regional event which all of the corps attend. For me, the weekend “regionals” really make the hard work feel like it is paying off. When I watch videos, or hear the judge’s tape from the prior week, it makes me realize how much we actually improve from week to week.

The show that affected me the most was the Giants Stadium performance. This show is always held about one week before finals and usually creates a corps’ mindset for finals week. Leading up to this show, the Cadets and the Blue Devils were in a dogfight for that number one spot. For the Cadets, the Giants stadium show is like a home show, and a lot of our fans and alumni attend. Before each show, George Hopkins, the corps director, usually tells us what we should expect and gives us some motivation before we head to the field. Before this performance I remember George saying, “You will never get a chance like this to perform in front of a crowd that wants you to take it. Every member of that audience is here for you.” This hit me in a way that I never felt before. It made me realize that I am performing an eleven minute show to make people excited about everything we are doing. After finishing the grand ending to our show, I remember looking up at the astonished audience giving us a standing ovation. Some appeared to be speechless, as they tried to absorb what we gave them. After that show, the snare line was talking about our performance, when one of the general effect judges for that night walked by us and simply said “that was it.” I have never felt so accomplished. We waited in the tunnel for the scores and we placed first in the last big show before finals. The confidence and motivation for the ensemble going to Indianapolis was “through the roof.” After rehearsing again for the three big shows, we knew that the season was not over yet! Personally, I was anxious to show the judges and the crowd the best product we could give them. Every night’s performance got better, and after the finals performance, with emotions sky high, George Hopkins brought us in before full retreat and said “I have never been a part of a group that gave it their best on the last night, but you guys did.” This will be one of the most memorable times in my drum corps career and I still have three seasons to go! As a center snare and a leader for the future, I am excited about what I learned in this season. I now can pass down what I learned about what it takes to be a champion. Even though we did not win the drum line trophy, it was by far the best drumline I have ever been in! And now, it’s time to think about next year. I’m ready to get started!

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