Life-long friendships, life-changing lessons

Color guard co-captain Mallory Yohannan describes her experiences as a member of The Cadets for the last five years

In just eight days, high school and college students from around the country and world will be well on their way to Reading, Pa. to audition for the 78th installment of The Cadets.


Joining this corps is a pivotal decision that affects many Cadets for the rest of their lives, and it’s exciting to think that next weekend will be a cornerstone for many newcomers. Too often, we tend to focus on the musicians in The Cadets, but this week I’d like to highlight the masters of another art form: the color guard. The Cadets do a great job of unifying the different sections of the corps, but the color guard is wrought with its own traditions as well.

“One of our oldest traditions is our nickname, The CBCCG (The Cadets of Bergen County Color Guard),” said Mallory Yohannan, 21, who will age-out this year as a six-year member and two-year co-captain of The CBCCG. “We have multiple songs, spirit days and phrases that catch on during the summer, as well as show hype.”

Yohanna started marching drum corps in 2005 with The Magic from Orlando, Fla., and she marched with the Boston Crusaders in 2006. “In 2007, I found my home with The Cadets, where I have been ever since.”

Yohannan joined The Cadets when she was 16 years old. “Being a part of The Cadets Color Guard has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Granted, it has taken up more than a quarter of my life, but if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t keep coming back for more. It is an amazing feeling to be surrounded 149 people who have the same work ethic and are all aiming for the same goal. The friendships I have made through this activity will last forever. We can go months without seeing each other, but the moment we do, we’re the same goofy group of kids we were years ago, and it’s just like we’re back on tour.”

Yohanna said she loves that no one is flawless or unteachable when they walk in the door for a new season with The Cadets, even the long-time veterans. “No one here is a rock star, but by the end of the summer, we create a product that we are all proud of.”

Like many, Yohannan admired The Cadets before she ever thought of becoming one. “I always viewed The Cadets Color Guard as one that achieved excellence. Their technique, clarity and poise always stood out to me, and I can't believe that I have been a part of such a phenomenal group for this long now."

Yohannan auditioned for The Cadets in November 2006 when the corps held an audition camp in the Atlanta area. “I went in only knowing one person, so I was extremely nervous. I used to be a very shy and quiet person, and being one of the younger ones to enter such a well-established organization was very intimidating for me.”

At first, Yohannan said, she attributed the friendliness of The Cadets to the unique audition setting in Atlanta that year. “My audition was a very personal experience, and I thought it must be because there were fewer people there. Everyone was extremely outgoing and nice, and the people I had admired for years were suddenly sitting beside me and sparking conversations with me. As it turned out, when I went back in April (to the normal New Jersey winter camp site), I had the same experience, except even better! This time there weren’t just 20 or so others that I admired; everyone who I would soon be marching with was there, and they were all just as nice and welcoming!”

Just like the other sections of The Cadets, the color guard understands that a drum corps is only as strong as its weakest member. From the beginning, vets welcome newcomers into their friendships, their traditions and their work ethic. “Even before my first summer, it was easy for me to get used to my surroundings, thanks to the veterans who were always available to answer questions and help with anything,” Yohannan said.


She and her co-captain Ashley Pittman carry this approach into their leadership of the guard. “I try to keep a good relationship with every member because we are all equal. We, together, are The Cadets Color Guard,” Yohannan said. “I approach my role as a section leader as similarly as possible to my role prior to being a section leader. I always tried to do what was asked of me and set a high standard for myself, and I aim to be very approachable in hopes of solving any and all problems that arise. I hate to see people unhappy, and often times talking to someone can make any experience much better.”

Yohannan said  The Cadets has changed her life tremendously and shaped the person she is today. “The lessons I have learned from this organization will stay with me forever. They are not just lessons on spinning; they’re life lessons that make you a stronger, more well-rounded person. It is a constant reminder that hard work gets you where you want to be, and without it you probably won't achieve things to their full potential. Whenever the going gets tough, I just put on my Cadet shoes and remind myself that I was a part of one of the hardest working groups of people anyone will ever know. I have learned that everything is a choice, including your mindset.”

The Cadets form close relationships with each other as well as their staff, and this seems especially true of the color guard. “The Cadets guard staff is elite, in my opinion,” Yohannan said. “Each staff member has an incredible history with this activity. They each have their own fortes, yet they are all super talented. I feel privileged to wake up every morning and be taught by this group of people.”

A summer with The Cadets isn’t all work and no fun. “It’s a blast on the field, most of the time!” Yohannan said. “My favorite is when we can get better and still have fun laughing at each other. I find myself searching for something that comes close to this at home, and I have yet to find it. The power and unity in The Cadets is unparalleled in anything I personally have experienced. The Cadets Color Guard has given me an experience I’m will never have again. I am looking forward to making memories that will last a lifetime for one last summer.”

Yohannan lives in Boca Raton, Fla. where she is in her fourth year at Florida Atlantic University. She is currently studying exercise science and health promotion in hopes of eventually earning her doctorate degree in physical therapy.


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