The Cadets Experience is Yours for the Taking Beginning Dec. 9

An Interview with Tuba Section Leader Sam Ambrose

“On the field, from Allentown, Pennsylvania…”

The brim of your shako blocks Lucas Oil’s looming tiers of seats, but you feel the eyes of a large crowd. Brad Pouncey is standing on the podium. He lifts his right hand and sets it emphatically in conducting position. Instinctively, your arms bring your instrument to your lips in perfect unison with 79 Cadet brass players. Adrenaline tingles in your fingertips, gently curled over valves.

You’ve never anticipated 12 minutes more, though logic and muscle memory remind you that these are the most familiar 12 minutes of your life. Your eyes look past your maroon sleeves and crisp, white gloves gripping perfectly polished silver. Brad’s hands force time to move. You breathe in, and your right foot steps forward.

DCI Finals are on Aug. 11, 2012. The other 79 members of The Cadets horn line will be there, but it’s up to you to claim your spot.

“This experience is not for everyone. However, you cannot say that it’s not for you unless you come to a camp, audition and try it,” says tuba section leader Sam Ambrose, 21. “I went into high school band not wanting to have any part of marching band, and here I am, seven years deep in drum corps.”

Sam was 16 years old when he auditioned for a tuba spot in The 2007 Cadets, and like most, he had no clue what he was getting himself into. It’s amazing how quickly one summer of drum corps can turn into six years of Cadets history and friendships that will shape the rest of your life. “I view that summer as my ideal staple of the perfect drum corps summer,” Sam said.

He referred me to an inspiring essay that Leonard Bernstein wrote in the mid-1950s for a radio broadcast titled, "This I Believe," and it seems appropriate to quote it here. Bernstein’s words capture not only the theme of The 2007 Cadets, but the heart of this organization:ambrose

"I believe in the potential of people. I cannot rest passively with those who give up in the name of “human nature.” Human nature is only animal nature if it is obliged to remain static…But the laborious, loving way, the way of dignity and divinity, presupposes a belief in people and in their capacity to change, grow, communicate, and love…For me, all art is a combination of these powers; for if love is the way we have of communicating personally in the deepest way, then [sic] what art can do is to extend this communication, magnify it, and carry it to vastly greater numbers of people."

Sam returned his second year in 2008, quickly becoming one of the best marchers in the drum corps. At 18, he became the leader of the 2009 Holy Name Cadets tuba section. “I thought it was going to be difficult since I had 12 vets in my section,” he said. But despite the pressure of leading a section full of 21-year-olds in a diamond-anniversary corps, the difficulties subsided. The Cadets united for one of the most tradition-rich years in the corps’ history.

The next year, 2010, brought many new faces and a lot of leading by example, as Sam and his few fellow veterans imparted a 75-year tradition of excellence to a brand-new decade of Cadets. And then came 2011, the summer when Sam says he decided to really challenge himself as a Cadet.

297293_2221323046810_1059700163_2591700_2945260_n.jpg“Because of a required summer class, I didn’t attend spring training, and I knew I couldn’t falter in leadership as a result,” he said. “When I arrived in mid-June, my goal was to learn the show in two days. I learned it in one and a half.”

Although he finally became a world champion last year, Sam doesn’t march Cadets primarily to win the judges’ approval. “I’m a very competitive person, and I’m not afraid to say I want to win, but winning doesn’t always put a ring on your finger,” he said. “To quote the Cadet who has inspired me the most: ‘In all the years that I have marched, I won every single year. Regardless of what the score sheets said.’”

For this reason, Sam doesn’t wear his maroon bowling jacket outside of tour and Cadet-related activities. “I try not to flaunt the fact that I march with such a prestigious organization because I don’t want that to define who I am. And generally speaking, most people view The Cadets as an emotionless, quasi-human marching band. The Cadets do not define me or anyone else. Rather, every person in that uniform defines who The Cadets are.” The 2012 season marks Sam’s 7th year in drum corps, his sixth year as a Cadet and his fourth year as the tuba section leader.


It’s no secret that marching in The Cadets is a major financial decision; six-year vets still have to pay their tour fees. But according to Sam, it can be done: “For the new folks, there are ways to find money and march, you just need to exercise all of your resources and creativity. I come from Florida, so financial commitments to The Cadets have been rather difficult year after year, and they’re hitting me harder this year than ever. I am very blessed to have a family that supports me, but I usually end up using a fair amount of school scholarship funds. I’ve also had help from outside sponsorships in past years, and I will continue to ask for sponsorships for this current season.”

Sam said that through all those years, whenever his parents asked him why he kept marching, he has always replied, “Because, for all the things that bother me, the feeling of performing and achieving my goals overpowers it all. I may dislike waking up early, but I know that by the end of the day, it will have all been worth it. My experience as a Cadet has taught me to go beyond the uniform and find deeper meaning in life. Not everything is black and white, or as simple as 'snap'. But more than anything, when this year is over, I will miss working side-by-side with amazing Cadets, as they have truly been the biggest inspiration in my life.”

The second round of Cadets auditions is December 9–11 at Woodstown High School in Woodstown, N.J. Whether you’re 16 or 21, this is truly an experience worth working for, and it’s yours for the taking.

If you would like more information on registering for the December Audition Camp, please visit or contact Melissa Barlow at or at 610-821-0345 ext. 115.


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