Webinar Recap: An Evening with Michael Cesario

Hopkins & Cesario spent an hour sharing stories and insight into the world of DCI

michaelcesario.jpgThroughout the off-season, Cadets Director George Hopkins has been hosting a series of webinars every Tuesday evening featuring key staff members and influential figures in The Cadets' history.

On April 15, George was joined by special guest and drum corps legend Michael Cesario in a live, one-hour webinar directed by listener-submitted questions. 

Cesario was instrumental in The Cadets' rise in competitive success from 1981 to 1986. To this day, his programming expertise is still quoted from coast to coast, and as the Educational Director of Drum Corps International, his influence is far-reaching.

Michael defined the niche of American classical music that led The Cadets to numerous classic shows featuring the music of Copland and Bernstein, a flavor the corps still returns to today.

The conversation spanned a wide variety of topics, starting with Michael's significant contribution to The Cadets' identity in the early 80s.

Cesarioguarddesign1982_edit.jpgwhitestripe.pngFor one, he was one of just a few who people who totally recreated the concept of a color guard. Softening the image, he first removed their shakos and then gradually let the costuming evolve to enhance the corps' visual concept.

George and Michael went on to discuss The Cadets' rise to competitive success in DCI.

"One of my favorite moments was in 1982," Michael said. "We went out to do the show in Madison, and we knew we were just gonna get creamed by the Regiment and Madison. We were just trying to get there and get through the show.

"There was a famous announcer back then named Joe Bruno, and he was announcing that show. He had a really deep, exciting voice. Well we were just frantically trying to get on the field. They weren't even in step getting to starting line, and then Joe Bruno's voice came booming over the speakers, 'When you think about the power of the East, you think of Garfield!' "

This was at a time when The Cadets were by no means used to being named among DCI's top corps, and Joe Bruno's grandiose statement gave the Cadets a tremendous confidence boost.

"The kids went out there and just blew a show they had no right to play," Michael recalled. "After the show, the audience was saying, “Those were the cadets? Geez, if that’s the cadet corps, their big corps must be really good!”

Cadets DM Retreat.jpgGeorge said one of his favorite moments from his first few years with The Cadets came in Huntington, W.V. in 1983.

"I think you told me we were gonna beat Santa Clara that night," he said to Michael. "After the show, they came running up to me saying, 'There’s no critique tonight! The judges had to leave the stadium.' "

Today, The Cadets are known for their silent, calm stance in retreat, regardless of whether they win or lose. Every year, George explains to new members that we stay true to this tradition because, if we do not win, it's someone else's night, and we need to be respectful of them in their victory. Likewise, if it is our night in the top spot, we remain mindful that other hardworking corps are dealing with disappointment. "No matter what happens," he always says, "you stand there."

"But I didn’t really even train that yet," George said of that first DCI victory in 1983. Why would I? I didn’t really think we were gonna beat anybody!" he laughed.

"So I I walked the kids like three miles away from the stadium after that show, because I was afraid they were going to explode."

But they didn't. As George put it, "They were perfect."

Michael agreed. "Taking over The Cadets had all these pitfalls, and the longstanding tradition was one of them," he said. "But when they beat the Santa Clara Vanguard and they just stood there and waited until they were put at ease, it was just the most amazing display of personal self-discipline. That’s when you knew you were dealing with something special."

This conversation led to another important step forward: The non-stop show. Before the mid-80s, most corps still stopped in the middle of their show for a "concert" piece that was performed as a standstill.

Michael summed it up well: "We just said, 'No no, are you ready for this? Music is motion.' And the performers were just fearless. They would just do whatever they could to be great."

By this time in the webinar, listeners' questions were piling up, so George and Michael spent the remaining half hour moving through more current topics, namely the continued progression of the drum corps activity.


In reference to the new adjudication captions in DCI for 2014, Michael emphasized the importance of general effect.

"Open the doors and let the audience in!" he said. "It’s okay if we admire corps, but it’s even better if we admire them and LOVE them."

"Of course," he went on, "there are many ways to reach an audience. Some corps go straight to the heart, while others are brainy and require more intellect to appreciate the program."

For years, DCI has continued to seek the perfect balance of achievement and effect on the judges' sheets.

"On the first page of our rule book, it's written: 'We reward achievement,' " Michael said. "That is our number-one goal."

And, of course, you can't talk about the direction of DCI today without discussing new instruments. "As the artistic director, I have to be open," Michael said. "I keep trying to figure out why we’re saying no to half the high school instrumentalists in the country. "I like to think we’ll be brass, though."

Michael said that it's also important to remember that DCI makes decisions and rule changes at the request of participating corps. "If the drum corps want this [the allowance of trombones and French horns], DCI didn’t put it in their heads," he said.

"Now, I don't think you're gonig to see many marching trombone lines because they’re hard to put in the drill," he continued. "But let me see it, and then I’ll decide what I really think."

In the final minutes, Michael answered some more questions about drum corps and marching band uniform design. George then wrapped up with a heartfelt thank-you to Michael for his lasting impact on The Cadets: "It’s rare that someone can be with a group for five to six years and still continue to influence them 30 years later. And I’m not just saying that. How you pushed us all down the street -- we’re still doing all that today. And I think everyone who’s a fan of The Cadets would thank you for pushing us in that direction so that we weren’t playing "Elk’s Parade" for the next 30 years."

"Although it might be time," Michael said with a chuckle.


Thanks to everyone who tuned in to last night's video conference.

If you missed the talk, tune in on Tues., April 22 for a video webinar with George Hopkins and a few key team members at Youth Education in the Arts about the current and upcoming program offerings and news.

We'll get to hear about Cadets Winter Percussion's inaugural season and WGI victory from Director Rich Hammond, as well as updates on Cadets2 and YEA!'s fast-growing Xcape Dance Studio.

Then, George will go into more detail about the upcoming Cadets rehearsal weekend and more in the world of The Cadets! Don't miss this one; it's going to be a special night!

Sign up to listen here, and you will receive an e-mail reminder inviting you to the call on Tuesday.


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