The World of YEA!

Our department heads shared updates from each program


Throughout the off-season, Cadets Director George Hopkins and key staff members have held a series of webinars every Tuesday evening to discuss the many facets of The Cadets.

On April 22, former Cadets Assistant Director and current Director of USBands Justin Heimbecker led the talk, joined by Cadets2 and Cadets Winter Percussion Director Rich Hammond, The Cadets Tour Director Lainey Braatz, and Xcape Dance Studio Director Dawn Blanco in a live, one-hour webinar guided by listeners' questions. 

Here's a recap of the talk, which painted a picture of the far-reaching world of The Cadets.

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Established in 1934, The Cadets have grown into much more than just one drum corps. The is now the flagship program of Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!), a non-profit organization that was created in 1990 to oversee The Cadets and USBands, then known as the Cadets Marching Band Cooperative (CMBC) and then the US Scholastic Band Association (USSBA). YEA! has not stopped growing and now includes Xcape Dance Studio, Cadets2, Cadets Winter Percussion and the Designated Hitters, with even more planned for 2015 and beyond.

Find out how you can see The Cadets perform on stage with its sister programs early this summer!


YEA! moved to its current home in downtown Allentown, Pa. in 2001 with the hope of making a difference in the lives of inner-city youth in addition to the life-changing programs offered by The Cadets and USBands. Thus, Xcape Dance Studio was born, and has now grown to a weekly participation of over 160 students ages 6 to 22 within the local community.

"I’m a firm believer that the arts have the power to develop magnificent people," Xcape Director Dawn Blanco began, echoing YEA!'s mission statement.

She explained that Xcape's many dance classes are virtually free to all participants, which presents more space and staffing challenges as the studio continues to grow. But it's worth it, she said, because of the immense pay-off she and the two other teachers get to see in their students' lives.

"It's amazing to see these kids really value and learn from one another," Dawn continued. "It's a beautiful thing to see them grow as people. They learn discipline, responsibility and work ethic. We teach them that the road to success is through hard work, and they are really learning that if you put forth the effort, you will see the result. We've seen these values carry over into their schooling and their interactions with people in their lives as well."

Dawn appeared with dance instructor/choreographer Portia on the Queen Latifah Show in October. Read about it and watch a clip at



Justin then segued into an overview of USBands, YEA!'s marching band circuit presented by The Cadets. As a Cadets alum and former assistant director who also spent some time teaching music in the public school system, Justin brings valuable perspective to his roll as Director of USBands.

He explained the philosophy behind USBands, the United States' largest sanctioning body for scholastic music competitions. Since its creation in 1988, USBands' goal has been to create the best performance and adjudication experience possible for students and directors nationwide.

"Through years and years of experience with The Cadets, we understand the struggles the directors and performers face, and do our best to help our member bands do well and grow their programs," Justin said. "Sometimes a band just needs an extra 30 seconds to get on the field, or to roll out their indoor floor, and for the most part, we don't believe in penalties. We've given out three in 25 years."

YEA!'s furthest-reaching program, USBands emphasizes helping band and indoor programs grow. World-class adjudicators are brought in from around the country to offer constructive feedback and one-on-one advice at USBands' 150+ annual competitions.

Justin also briefly discussed USBands' younger programs and innitiatives, the largest being USBands Indoor which just completed its fifth season and has been rapidly growing in participation in the Northeast.


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Rich Hammond then took the floor to tell listeners about the two programs under his direction: Cadets2 and Cadets Winter Percussion.

"When I first came to YEA! in 2011, I heard that they were starting a new drum corps and thought, 'Cadets2? I wonder who's going to be in charge of that,' " he said. "Turns out it was me."

Now in its third year, Cadets2 is The Cadets' DCA sibling, with a membership that ranges in age from about 15 to 25.

"They really look and sound like The Cadets on the field," Rich continued. "It's the same tradition, and the kids have just as much respect for the legacy and the uniform as The Cadets do."

Rich went on to discuss C2's 2014 program, Our Favorite Things2, which brings beloved Cadets staples from years past back onto the drum corps field.

"I remember watching Garfield when they first played "Rocky Point" back in 1982. It was one of the greatest things I'd ever seen on the field, and it still is," Rich said.

Other selections for this year include "On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss," "Ballet Sacra" and "Children's Dance."

"I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great teachers we have at Cadets2," Rich said. "Because of the age and experience level of our members, our staff really has to develop the kids from the ground up and teach them how to do drum corps. And they have to do that quickly because of the weekend-only fervor that we're used to."

Although Cadets2 was not formed to serve as The Cadets' feeder corps, training and teaching students to become great musicians and, more importantly, great adults is a goal that has now led to 22 "age-ups" from C2 to The Cadets.


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"Rich I also want to congratulate you and another one of our programs on bringing home the gold in the very first year of Cadets Winter Percussion," Justin said.

Rich thanked him and told listeners a bit about Cadets Winter Percussion.

"From day one, I realized, 'Wow this drumline is going to play really well,' " he said. "We definitely fit into The Cadets/Cadets2 idea of percussion. They're agressive and talented, but The Cadets weren’t indoors, so the members and staff really had to pave our own way and figure out how to bring that standard of excellence and tradition inside in a way that's appropriate for the WGI world."

More than half of the inaugural members of CWP were either current or former members of The Cadets and/or Cadets2, and Rich emphasized the importance of connecting these talented percussionists back to USBands Indoor so that younger high-school musicians can see the possibilities in their arena.


Rich also emphasized the significant role volunteers played in the success of CWP. Many expenses were taken care of by generous Cadets parents and supporters who stepped in to help out where they could.

"We were so lucky to have the help we had in our first year," he said. "And it's a good feeling for everyone. When people come out and volunteer, they feel their impact on the kids and know they helped them succeed."

In closing, Rich said, "We were just so blessed to have been able to do this and to be as popular as we were in our first year," he said. "They went out and achieved the highest score ever for their class, and we're just excited about the possibilities from here."

Read more about Cadets Winter Percussion's trip to Dayton.



To finish out the conversation, The Cadets Tour Director Lainey Braatz gave a brief overview of this weekend's rehearsal at Hopewell Valley Central HS in Pennington, N.J.

The corps will be learning some drill outside and continuing to fine-tune the music book as well.

Color guard members are more than welcome to come audition!

Curious about the show?  Next week, George Hopkins is dedicating the full hour to Promise: An American Portrait! Listen in for exclusive insight into The Cadets' 2014 program, from the music, to the concept, to the various visual effects.

Sign up now. This may be the most intruiging webinar yet this spring!


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