Cavaliers win DCI, finish season undefeated

by Daniel Buteau, DCW staff

Blue Devils (Concord, CA)
Photo by Alan Winslow

August 10, 2002 — Madison, WI . . . The Cavaliers capped an undefeated season by achieving a score of 99.15 and nearly sweeping all captions at the 30th anniversary DCI Division I Finals at Camp Randall Stadium. The defending 2001 DCI champion kept the rest of the top-12 at bay, achieving a 1.85 margin over the second place Blue Devils.

DCI could not have asked for a more deserving champion to celebrate its 30th anniversary milestone. Not since the 1984 Garfield Cadets had a corps been able to become the epitome of its generation by presenting a show that redefined what the drum corps medium is all about. The 2002 Cavaliers left the fans in complete awe with the most crowd-appealing all-original musical show ever attempted by a DCI competitor.

The corps’ third DCI title in a row also echoed the mid-1980’s Garfield Cadets, the only other corps to garner three consecutive DCI Division I crowns.

Essentially competing against themselves for the whole season, the Cavies used the 2002 DCI week to play with the record book. They tied the old 98.80 record at quarterfinals, established a new one by scoring 99.05 at semifinals and dared posterity by pushing it to a 99.15 at finals. Cavaliers’ director, Jeff Fiedler, remained modest, though, stating how “this corps is not the end of it all.”

One of the night’s most intense contests was the fight for the silver medal. The Cadets and the Blue Devils had not only been close in scores all season, they also both presented shows designed to please audiences everywhere. They were both vying for the unofficial title of definitive crowd favorite. The Blue Devils sneaked past The Cadets to snatch the medal after what Corps Director Dave Gibbs labeled as “the most incredible growth over the season” in the corps’ illustrious history.

If The Cadets’ third place finish appeared disappointing for a corps that seemed destined to place second all season, spirits may have been soothed when the corps wrestled the top percussion award away from The Cavaliers. It was, in fact, the only caption award to slip away from the 2002 DCI champion. It also was rather remarkable given that the Cavies had locked their claim on previous DCI titles thanks to dominating percussion contingents.

Cadets’ multi-tenor percussion player Jared Andrews stated it best. “Drums are a very significant victory, man.” Fellow multi-tenor Kenny Isodoro was quick to also point out that “placement doesn’t really matter though.”

As for the “crowd favorite” title, audience reaction to both corps was remarkably enthusiastic and nearly deafening. Both received numerous spontaneous standing ovations from the crowd that was estimated by DCI executive-director Dan Acheson at “26,000, including 20,000 paid entries.”

The fourth place Santa Clara Vanguard found themselves in a competitive situation much similar to The Cavaliers. They remained in the same spot they have occupied for the past three years. The corps never seemed to pose a real threat to the top three during the past season, nor did they appear to face real challenge from the crowded field of fifth place contenders.

The corps nevertheless remained keen to set its own competitive standards. Director Rick Valenzuela explained how the corps “strives to push members to new ways of performing.” He further stated that SCV’s goal was to have their best performance of the year, something he felt the corps definitely accomplished.

2002 will be remembered for the unprecedented levels of sophistication and proficiency demonstrated by the bottom two-thirds of the top 12. The Glassmen’s slipping out of the top five did not happen as a result of under-achievement on the part of the corps. Phantom Regiment, Boston Crusaders and Bluecoats just became prime examples of the consolidation of talent that has pushed the top nine much closer in level of performance than in previous years.

In fact, the race for the fifth place spot was not even settled, because Phantom and Boston were locked into the evening’s only tie, which might be just fine if the reaction of four of the two corps’ members reflects the overall feeling. Phantom brass player Read Pope expressed great satisfaction with his corps’ 2002 DCI Finals performance. “We had the best show out there, the best show we could perform.” For fellow brass player Josh Peter, the key point remains that “the horn line was so much better than last year.”

Boston Crusaders members Jatinder Channa and David Torress expressed similar sentiments as they rejoiced on how great their year had been. Torress has great confidence in the direction his corps is heading. “We placed higher than last year, right!”

Even though the two perennial Ohio DCI finalists were pushed out of the top five, their week-long jostling for the state bragging rights provided the crowd with energetic performances and exciting speculation.

The Crossmen finished in ninth place, nearly two points away from the other top-five contenders, despite having achieved scores that indicated top-four potential in the early weeks of the season. Brass player Nicholas Bédard confirmed that the corps went through a roller coaster of emotions all season-long. “We went from the joy of getting two points close to the Blue Devils to the frustration of scoring a mere 84 for two weeks at midseason,” he said.

The Crossmen showed great resolve and determination by significantly improving the delivery of an especially challenging show over the course of its three DCI week performances. It is a testimony to the marching members’ dedication when a show that had obvious weak spots on Thursday could gain the much more mature and polished sound demonstrated Saturday night.

Bédard explained that “nothing was easy for Crossmen this year. The show was very demanding, but Dean Musson, our director, taught us to always perform, that we should never let go of an opportunity to perform it.”

The 2002 DCI Finals turned out to be more than a mere 30th anniversary when the fight for the last three spots in the top 12 turned into an epic of major proportions. Fans witnessed the first top-12 to include a university-sponsored ensemble, as well as the first top-12 corps to hail from the Pacific Northwest. Hell may have been permanently frozen over when Magic of Orlando not only became the first division II corps ever to advance to division I finals, but also achieved such a feat in a convincing manner by placing 11th.

The 2002 division II champion simply seemed to use the last three days of the DCI week to start a new season, one where they denied the Blue Knights and the Colts the top-12 status they could envision in San Antonio and Indianapolis. Andrew Nelson, a Magic member with one of the proudest smiles ever seen, clearly explained what truly happened: “We made DCI history.”

What remains most amazing is not only that three newcomer organizations, one a first-time finalist, the other two total reincarnations of former finalists with few links to their past, cracked the top 12 in the same year. For the first time since 1978, the top 16 had a genuine shot at the top 12. The hometown Madison Scouts found themselves out of the top-12 for the first time since 1972. Carolina Crown endured the same predicament after six uninterrupted stints in the DCI elite.

Also striking was that there was little doubt in the minds of all in attendance that Spirit of JSU, Magic of Orlando and the Seattle Cascades were indeed the three contenders of this group of seven corps that truly belonged in the 2002 finals. There appeared to be consensus that the judges got it right this time. The Seattle Cascades may have seemed at risk at quarterfinals with a nervous performance that featured many individual mistakes, but they had gained their poise back by semifinals.

Another wink at history was that Spirit and Magic staged the kind of battle for the 10th and 11th spots that their two forebears, Suncoast Sound and Spirit of Atlanta, became famous for in the late 1980s. It was also the first time since 1997 that two corps from the Southeast made it to the top 12.

Magic’s classification as a division II corps was, of course, seen as rather dubious by many after the corps was denied division I status by a DCI board of directors vote. Such difficulties should not be repeated for 2003. According to DCI Executive Director Dan Acheson, there are two conditions an organization must fulfill in order to be fully recognized as a division I member, “be willing to tour, and score to the top 21.”

He did touch upon the question of Magic of Orlando’s financial situation. “I would encourage Magic to look at their finances,” he said. “I think they would say themselves that they are a long way from where they want to be.”

As for Spirit of JSU, the corps is definitely breaking new organizational grounds as a college summer marching ensemble. Spirit’s executive director, Ken Bodiford, who is also the college’s band director, explained that “Jacksonville State University wanted to expand its band program to include a summer performance ensemble.” He also expressed a resolve to demonstrate the activity’s educational benefits and build a bridge to what he described, with a chuckle, as the “anti-drum corps crowd,” a group that apparently includes many college professors.

Spirit operates as a summer course to which all members are enrolled and from which they derive college credits and a scholarship. According to Boddiford, Jacksonville State University has made the corps stronger by providing financial support. He sees the relationship as a solid long-term commitment…

The Cavaliers (Rosemont, IL)
Photo by Ron Walloch