The Wearing of the Maroon

The story of an Irish trumpet player

Shayne O’Brien, 18, lives in Clonmel, Ireland. He started playing the trumpet when he was eight years old in an elementary-level, afterschool band.

After about three years, Shayne decided to audition for Banna Chluain Meala (Gaelic for “Clonmel Band”), a 100-to-150-member ensemble which includes both a concert and marching band.

“I went for it and got in,” he said. He spent the next three years in the Clonmel concert band growing as a musician.

“The first time I seen Cadets was in 2006,” Shayne said. “I thought they were excellent. But to be honest, it was the screaming trumpets from Blue Devils that caught my eye in DCI.”

In 2008, at 13, Shayne decided to join the Clonmel Bluehawks, the marching division of Banna Chluain Meala which competes in the Drum Corps Europe (DCE) circuit.

The Clonmel Bluehawks from Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland

“It was the first time I had ever been on a field trying to march and play at the same time!” he said. “I loved it. I started pushing to be better, and with time, that happened.”

Shayne_O'Brien_Bluehawks.jpgHe marched with the Bluehawks from 2008 to 2010, winning two All Ireland titles.

Meanwhile, Shayne and his friends followed DCI on YouTube. “My knowledge of drum corps grew, and I began to fall in love with The Cadets,” he said. “I have never seen them live, but I didn't need to to realize how good they were and how much I wanted to stand in one of those uniforms. They’re different from everyone else. I love their history, tradition and attitude towards every goal that stands in their way. They've always come across as magnificent, humble human beings that work so hard day in and day out for something they love, and I just wanted to be a part of that family. Seeing all of that on the YouTube videos made me strive to be that good.”

In 2010, Shayne traveled to the Mansfield Town Football Club in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, UK with a group of friends. “We went to DCUK [Drum Corps United Kingdom] Finals to see what we knew to be DRUM CORPS!!” he said.

“I remember seeing Kidsgrove Scouts and saying, ‘I'm joining them next season and nobody is stopping me,’ ” Shayne said. Kidsgrove won that year.

The Kidsgrove Scouts from Kidsgrove, Staffordshire, United Kingdom

The next season, Rob Swindells, the director of the Kidsgrove Scouts, asked Shayne if he would like a spot in the corps. He immediately agreed and marched there in 2011 and 2012, traveling back and forth from Ireland to England nearly every second weekend for two years.

Shayne_Kidsgrove3.jpg“We won the DCUK National Title both years and came second in DCE both years also,” Shayne said. “I loved it. Being surrounded by so many people who have the same passion as you do – it's a special feeling!”

During his two years with the Kidsgrove Scouts, Shayne marched with several members who had previously marched in American DCI corps. Because of his growing love of DCI and The Cadets, he tried his best to march and play at their level or better.

This past August, the Kidsgrove Scouts traveled to the United States for the DCA World Championships. “We arrived two weeks before finals and took part in two regional shows (Bridgeport and Pennsauken), where we took the brass and guard captions,” Shayne said.Shayne_Kidsgrove1.jpg

Rehearsing in the US for two weeks gave Shayne a taste of a summer in DCI, and he thrived. “I had Cadets running through my head every time I found it hard,” he said. “It's fair to say I’m ready for more of that this season!”

At DCA Finals in Annapolis, Kidsgrove came in seventh place overall with a score of 90.75. “We had a fantastic time and the crowd loved us,” Shayne said.

Just a few months later, Shayne was on a plane back to the United States to attend The Cadets’ December rehearsal weekend. He made the 2013 trumpet line and got to try on his uniform for the first time.

Shayne on the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial
Stadium after DCA Finals in Annapolis, MD in 2012

Shayne_O'Brien_Cadets.jpg“To be honest, it still hasn't hit me that I'm a part of this amazing organization,” he said. “I thought of this as, ‘The Impossible,’ and now here I am.”

As with following any dream, Shayne has made sacrifices. “Obviously the flight fares are expensive – you’re talking €800 each flight,” he said. (That’s about $1,050.) “I also gave up my place in the London College of Music (England), as it was either one or the other,” he said. “On the upside, I will be attending the London College of Music in September, where I will start my four-year course in Music Performance.”

Shayne said that he would like to thank everyone who has supported him in this journey. “Without my parents, I would seriously not be able to live my dream,” he said. “I want to thank Jon Bilby for being my absolute inspiration. Without him I probably would of have given up. [Jon is from the UK and marched in The Cadets’ soprano line in the late ‘90s.] Also the staff that had a major impact to me (Eoin O'Keeffe, Tez Smith and Rob Swindells), and obviously the support from my friends and family. I also want to congratulate all of my friends who I met auditioning for Cadets in December who are now with different corps and wish them the very best. I’ll see you very soon!” he said.

Shayne is 18 and plans to march until his age-out summer. “I will hopefully bring back experience and knowledge to Ireland. I hope that this amazing activity will grow and more kids will get involved,” he said.

And in the spirit of today, Shayne concluded, “Happy St. Patrick's Day and... Do Beidh ainm naofa a bheith i gcónaí (For Holy Name Shall Always Be).”


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