August 13 Report: Cadets Win More Than a Championship

Perspective on most impressive win from Cadets Hall-of-Famer


Indy...the big's one of the biggest in our long and storied history.

What can I say? You had to be in Indianapolis to fully grasp the enormity of what our 2011 corps of Cadets, their staff, and of course George Hopkins, accomplished during this season. Our 2011 corps didn't just win our 10th DCI title. They won the hearts and adulation of the huge audience in Lucas Dome, and audiences everywhere else they appeared this summer as well.

I wish you had all been in Lucas Dome to hear the roar of the overflow crowd as they showered their admiration and affection on our 2011 Cadets. I would guess that the majority of you probably have already heard that our 2011 Cadets just made history — the 2011 DCI World Champions! Did they deserve it? You bet your --- they did! They not only deserved it, but over the course of their long, hot, exhausting season they EARNED it the hard way.


Which was sweeter, hearing " first place with a score of..." or hearing the deafening roar of approval from the audience when those words were announced? There was no doubt whatsoever that this corps, this show, this performance, struck a chord with the audience in a very unique and emotionally overpowering way.

You didn't even have to watch them perform to realize that. It seemed as though every other person on the packed concourse was wearing something maroon, most of it purchased at our merchandise table. Those working the table could barely keep up with the demand. The volunteers attempting to keep up with the the long hours and hard work deserve a huge vote of thanks from all of us. They worked their tails off for three straight days from the minute the gates open until the minute they closed, and that had been preceded by the throngs making purchases at DCI-East in Allentown on the preceding Friday and Saturday, and the hugely successful Tour of Champions Grand Finale at The Giants' Meadowlands Stadium the day after Allentown. Just for the record, they sold nearly every item we had available.

I have witnessed many Cadet triumphs over the years, but this, without a doubt, was one of the most impressive and one of the most satisfying. And don't think for a single second that it was a best-of-the-mess victory. Every single corps, top to bottom, brought their top game to the field, and that comment is not an attempt to be diplomatic. This was truly a year of rebirth and redirection for drum corps as an entertainment activity for all.

If you have never attended a DCI Championship competition you have no idea how talented and how entertaining these elitest-of-the-elite corps become by championship week, and I mean that to include the bulk of the corps in open class as well. I sat in the stands during quarter-finals watching an open class corps I had never seen before — Music City from Memphis — with my mouth hanging open in amazement. Far earlier in the summer I had been amazed by Jersey Surf, one of my home-state corps, and they sure didn't disappoint in Indianapolis. Those are just two examples of how deep the quality and talent is of nearly every corps now in competition.

Lukas Oil Dome was packed on finals night, with people sitting way beyond the end zones on all seven levels. The audience loved every corps that performed, but they tore down the house for Phantom Regiment, Carolina Crown, and The Cavaliers, and all three corps deserved the response they engendered. The defending champion Blue Devils defended their 2010 title with every weapon in their arsenal, and they relinquished their title with respect and dignity. We salute them!

Watching the final six corps from the tunnel entrance, the electricity and excitement in the stadium could be felt all the way across the field. The response first to Phantom Regiment, then Carolina Crown, then The Cavaliers was deafening. I couldn't imagine any corps topping the response that these three great and immensely popular corps had received...but then our Cadets made their entrance.

The Cadets entered the field a roar like I've never heard before greeted them. But that was only the beginning. It was obvious from the first step and the first note of music that The Cadets had found their groove, and the audience had determined who they wanted for their champion. At first it seemed the audience focus was so intense their collective reaction was more oohs and ahhs then unrestrained cheering. The first I began to feel and hear the shift in the crowd was the drum feature/battle scene. The audience erupted, jumping to their feet and filling that cavernous stadium with a roar that tore me out of my shoes. That was soon followed by a second standing ovation and another adrenalin-fueled roar halfway through the ballad when "Amazing Grace" and "The Doxology" begin to mesh. I'm not sure when I first realized it, but at some point the audience and the corps had become one. The Cadets' performance had turned into an audience/Cadets love-fest!

The climax of The Cadets' performance could barely be heard. The audience was on their feet roaring out their approval a full minute before the end of the show. The roar of the crowd never subsided, just grew in intensity until the Corps stood in a company front directly in front of the audience, the "demons" on their knees with the alternating "angels" standing with their hands pointing towards the sky. It was a moment that defied description, a moment of such immense pride for myself and I'm certain for every other Cadet alumnus present, that I could feel my body shivering with emotion. At that moment it didn't matter where they placed. They were my corps, my kids, my history and heritage, my pride, and there is nothing going forward that can happen that will ever make me forget that moment and that feeling.

It soon got even better. With the corps lined up on the field for retreat, Ben Pouncey, our much-admired drum major, was awarded the Jim Jones leadership award for being named the most outstanding drum major in DCI for 2011. We were given an award for best marching corps. We received high music and high GE all three nights. There was much more in the awards department, but you get the idea.

Of course the announcement of scores was nerve-wracking. We knew that all our competitors were in the race, and they had all performed their best shows of the year. We had and still have immense respect for all of them, and we were aware that judging is opinion. There was no way of knowing at that point what direction that opinion-process would take. It was obvious that our corps had won the audience, but we had no idea if the judges were equally impressed. As became obvious in short order however — they were! The most stressful moment was "in second place, with a score of" — long pause — Blue Devils. The audience exploded. I have never heard a roar of approval from an audience like that during my entire life. I don't think I will ever hear anything like it again. It was raw, unbridled emotion and exaltation. WOW! WOW! WOW!

The Cadets stood without flinching, in true Cadet fashion, as the coveted gold medals that all world champions receive were placed around their necks. They were smiling of course, and tears were running down many faces, but THEY WERE CADETS — FIRST, LAST, AND ALWAYS CADETS — and as they all knew long before the medals were placed around their necks, they were champions, and they represented many other champions who had preceded them. They had clothed our corps in glory once again. They had earned the accolades rarely given by seven and a half decades of Cadets. They "did us proud!"

The banquet is always capped by the age-out ceremony which concludes, as most Cadet functions do, with the singing of our Holy Name hymn. Cadets past and present gather in a circle around the age-outs, and they sing our hymn of affirmation. Marching Cadets traditionally close their eyes when they sing this cherished song, and the tears flow, most especially from the age-outs who realize that their time as a marching Cadet has come to an end.

I think though that in spite of those tears of separation they will never really leave The Cadets. What they have done, what they have learned, the values they have come to believe in, will be a part of their lives every moment of every day for the rest of their lives. They will ALWAYS be Cadets, and the love that has now taken root in their hearts will live on.

A few final things: First, as The Cadets were moving out of the tunnel onto the field to begin their competition performance they were applauded by many of The Cavaliers behind them in the tunnel. That, my fellow Cadets, is one of the finest demonstrations of grace and pure class that I have ever witnessed. Just as was the huge congratulatory cake they presented to us for our 75th Anniversary in 2009. Thank you Cavaliers past and present for who you are and what you represent. We stand with you not only as competitors who have walked the same walk together for many decades, but also as friends whose friendship has stood the test of time.

Finally the day of championships began, as they have for a number of years now, with our traditional finals morning breakfast with The Cadets at their housing site. There was a huge gathering of parents, friends, and alumni in attendance to honor the 2011 Cadets. Instead, The Cadets honored us by sharing with us some of their personal thoughts and feelings about their summer as Cadets. In one emotional, from-the-heart speech after another, Cadets rose to express love and gratitude to their parents for all the support and sacrifices they had made so "their Cadet" could realize their dream of wearing the maroon and gold, and understandably had many of those very proud parents in tears.

The Cadets thanked George Hopkins and all the members of the staff for teaching them not simply how to be a great drum and bugle corps, but also how to apply the skills and values they had learned to every aspect of their lives. Most touching of all, they expressed their deep affection for their fellow Cadets in words that brought tears to the eyes of many of us listening to them, and the knowledge that the 2011 Cadets won more than just a title this summer.

So now once again we begin to look to the future, to the marching Cadets of our 2012 Cadets and Cadets2. We don't know what that future has in store for our two corps or for any of us as individuals, but we will keep true to our history, to our traditions and our heritage, to our values and work ethic and to each other. We are, after all, The Cadets!

For Holy Name shall always be...




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