A Drummer with a Tuba

The story of John Roche, an age-out of The 2012 Cadets

John Roche is one of those unique stories that surface in The Cadets every so often, and proof that if you want something badly enough, you can find a way to make it happen.

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Johndrum.jpgJohn marched in the Crossmen drumline and had tried out for The Cadets on snare three times prior to 2012. "The tradition and long, rich history of The Cadets is what drew me to them,” he said. “And I love to work hard and be pushed beyond my limits.”

But in spite of John’s hard work, The Cadets’ drum staff had to let him go at the first January camp this year. He just didn’t quite make the cut, and John faced a difficult reality in his last eligible year to march in DCI.

“This was my age-out year and fourth time auditioning for the drumline. Getting cut Sunday afternoon stung,” he said.

But as Director George Hopkins spoke to the corps, wrapping up what would have been John’s last memory of a rehearsal weekend with The Cadets, he mentioned that the corps still had several available tuba spots.

“I instinctively found Gino and asked him if I could audition on tuba, even though I had no idea how to play the instrument,” John said. “It felt like a crazy idea, but I knew a guy once who did something similar with another drum corps.”

Skeptical, Cadets Brass Caption Supervisor Gino Cipriani agreed to hear John audition on tuba at the next camp.

“The next day was the first day back at school after the winter break, so I signed up for tuba lessons and started practicing from scratch,” John said.

For the next seventeen days, he locked himself in a practice room with a tuba for between four and eight hours a day. And less than 20 days after he had stood in ensemble with The Cadets drumline, he was traveling back to camp.

“I played some exercises for Gino on Saturday, and he offered me a spot,” John said nonchalantly. “I was in The Cadets, and it really didn’t matter what instrument I had to learn. I continued my practice habits throughout the spring and put in at least several hours every day on tuba up until move-ins.”

But like many drum corps kids, John faced the opposition of professors who preferred that he focus on his primary instrument and major. “I was busy finishing my last semester of classes as a percussionist, so the two didn’t mix well, especially for some of my peers and teachers who didn’t think what I was doing was a good idea. I didn't care though,” he said.

Even after hours of daily practice, John showed up to Spring Training having been a brass player for only a few short months, and the demand of The Cadets became a reality. Despite the grueling rehearsal schedule, he spent time in the basement of the dorms, continuing to practice Gino’s technique exercises and the show music – a sacrifice of precious sleep that certainly paid off on tour.

“The hornline was awesome,” John said. “The guys and girls in my section welcomed me from the start and were really encouraging. They could have made my first month a miserable experience, but they didn’t.”

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John successfully marched his tuba spot in The 2012 Cadets and finished the summer as strongly as any Cadet on the field. And now that he’s too old to return, he hopes to be an encouragement to those thinking about auditioning.

JohnRoche.jpg“My message to any kids out there wanting to march who think they’re not good enough is that you can do anything you put your mind to,” John said.

Like so many others, John is now a member of The Cadets family. “It feels great to be a Cadet alumnus, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” he said. He went on to say that his experience as a Cadet has made him a better teacher: “I really miss marching, but as a student teacher, it is great to have experience on a wind instrument. I have so much more to offer students in the classroom, and I definitely feel more well-rounded.”

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