DCI Eastern Classic foreshadows Championships battle

by Catherine Thomas, DCW staff

2002 Blue Devils (Concord, CA)
Photo by Jeff Sallee

August 3, 2002 — Philadelphia, PA . . . Five hundredths of a point was the deciding factor in the Drum Corps International Eastern Classic as The Cadets edged the Blue Devils 95.75 to 95.7 for first place. Adding to the buzz in the stands was the Boston Crusaders’ third place finish .85 over the Glassmen, who narrowly outscored the fourth place Bluecoats by .35.

Performing disparate styles The Cadets and Blue Devils were electrifying. The fans reacted to The Cadets’ drum corps classicism and the Devils’ excursions into jazz. With a cast of talented performers, the two corps’ strengths and weaknesses balance out. Tonight, The Cadets had a three-tenths edge in general effect and .35 in music while the Blue Devils had a six-tenths lead in visual. The Cadets’ weaknesses in visual and the Devils’ weaknesses in percussion give both corps room for improvement.

Based on the crowd response to The Cadets and Blue Devils, some fans may think the corps cannot get any better. According to Derek Gibson of The Cadets’ brass staff, The Cadets have a lot of room to improve. “There’s still a lot of demand in our show musically,” Gibson said. “We still have a lot of things to clarify — what is the role here, what we should be listening for here.” He admits, “(The corps) still has a couple of problems spots where it still feels like the kids aren’t completely comfortable with the show. We have a lot of room to improve. As a matter of fact, I wish we had another week. In another week, it would be perfect.”

Even though Gibson sees room for improvement, he felt tonight’s performance was exceptional. “(The Cadets) had a really good performance tonight,” explained Gibson, “very controlled with a lot of energy. I was very happy.”

The Cadets’ energy is not only important for a quality performance but also important for Bill Kellerman, a cancer patient and a Cadet brass staff member this year. “Drum corps, especially The Cadets, has been an inspiration to me all summer,” Kellerman said. “With everything I’ve been going through I just think about what they’re doing every day and try to do what the doctors tell me to do every day.”

As much as he enjoys being around the Cadets, Kellerman will not be at the DCI World Championships in Madison. “I am going to start some treatments next week hopefully,” Kellerman explained.

For any drum corps enthusiast like Kellerman who attended the DCI Eastern Classic and who won’t be in Madison, the Blue Devils performed in championship style. Moving up nearly three points in score in a week, the Blue Devils’ visual program increased in clarity as the marchers moved large forms with exactness and the brass players used more body movement to interpret the music. The auxiliary’s equipment handling is more precise and its dancing is more controlled.

Although The Cadets and the Blue Devils’ performances were hot, Marie Faance, a mellophone player from the third place Boston Crusaders, had a different perspective of the Boston Crusaders’ performance. “Ours was cool,” said Faance. Despite her limited proficiency in English, since she is a native of Quebec, she eagerly stated, “We did a good performance, I think. We were not stressed tonight.”

Anne Marye, another Boston Crusader mellophone player from Quebec, tried to help her section mate translate her assessment of the corps performance from French to English. After a brief exchange in French about the strength of tonight’s show, Marye asserted confidently, “It was the energy of the corps.”

Whether it was cool or energy, the Crusaders blend of music, language and visual images catapulted them one point over the Glassmen in GE and mesmerized the fans who gave the Crusaders a standing ovation before the corps members formed their closing flag formation. Although the Glassmen outscored the Crusaders in visual, the Glassmen’s ninth place finish in the ensemble music sub caption was too great a hurdle to overcome.

Despite the Glassmen’s fourth place finish in ensemble music, Christopher Allen, their brass caption head, thought the corps members’ overall performance was strong. “A lot of things locked in tonight. They did exactly what they needed to do in order to move up the ranks here toward the end going into championships,” Allen said.

In the coming week, Allen revealed the Glassmen will work on their mental game to get the corps members to focus on their individual performance level. He emphasized, “Now it’s about their own personal dedication to it and really performing up to the box . . . letting everyone know what our show is all about.”

For the eastern fans who rarely see the Glassmen, he explained, “I think of our show as more intellectual, just as entertaining as any other show out here but in a different way. It’s something different from what most drum corps fans are used to and what they believe is entertainment. Loud is not always entertaining. People are just as entertained going to a symphony concert as they are going to a jazz concert.”

The fifth place finisher, the Bluecoats, had no trouble entertaining the crowd.

“I thought the show was great tonight,” said Shawn Lawler, a Bluecoats tenor. “You could not ask for a better show.” Lawler said he feels one of the highlights of the program is the closer. “We have a great closer this year. Our soprano soloist does really well. The crowd was really into (the closer). They ate it up,” exclaimed Lawler.

The Bluecoats’ movement, color and musicality drove the fans to their feet. In the opening set, the auxiliary provided the color and the movement as its members raced through a series of curved brass files while hoisting an array of brightly colored flags. After the auxiliary passed through the files, the brass and percussion brought their urban-themed program to life, playing fast paced rhythms while moving figures that morphed from squares to diamonds to triangles.

The Crossmen may have placed sixth but they were first in the hearts of their hometown fans. Invigorated by their supporters, the Crossmen performed what C. J. Frederick, a Crossmen contra player asserts was their best show of the year.

“It was really exciting. The crowd really enjoyed it,” declared Frederick. “We all came off the field really excited and energized by our performance.”

The Crossmen’s connection to audience resulted in a fourth place finish in GE and a second place finish in the percussion. Although the Crossmen did not get the results they anticipated, Frederick said the corps members are still optimistic. “Next week, we’ll probably be working mainly on the closer. Just watch Bones,” he added. “We’ll be having fun.”

The seventh place Spirit of JSU made believers out of many fans. Their fourth place finish in the ensemble music subcaption made fans think back in time to Spirit’s strong musical programs and think forward to anticipate Spirit’s future.

“The product that we have this year, everybody is buying into it,” said Jimmy Oliver, a baritone tech for Spirit. “We’ve gotten so many people to come up and tell us how much they love the show and how much it touches them and means to them.”

Overall, Oliver stated that he was pleased with the show.

“We had a very good performance tonight despite the fact that a traffic tie up limited our warm up time to 45 minutes,” he explained. In addition, Oliver praised the maturity of this year’s corps members who could cope with snafus and still put on a good performance.

Based on performance’s like tonight’s, Oliver feels confident about DCI World Championships.

“We are going to shock a couple of people when we get to finals week,” Oliver predicted. “There are some people who are going to have to look out from behind. I think we’re not only going to make it in this year but I think we’re going to make it in pretty far.”

Even though Oliver feels confident, he knows getting into the finals show will not be easy. He admits that the Madison Scouts and Carolina Crown have experience on their side and that the Seattle Cascades bring a western mystique. Nevertheless, Oliver believes Spirit has to get the mental edge going.

With only .65 separating Spirit and the eighth place Seattle Cascades, JSU Spirit’s staff has much to think about. Spirit’s superior performance in the music caption was the deciding factor in tonight’s show. In GE and visual, the Seattle Cascades edged Spirit by .5 and .15 respectively.

For the many fans seeing the Seattle Cascades for the first time, they were not disappointed. The Cascades quirky interpretation of Bernstein and Copeland music was highly creative and appealing. The fans responded to their large moving forms, field coverage, choreography and equipment handling.

Cascades auxiliary member Donte Hudson liked the eastern fans too. He said they knew when to respond just like the fans in the West. After witnessing the crowd response, Hudson said the fans’ reaction made the corps’ practice today in 100-degree heat worth the effort.

In addition to the positive crowd response, Hudson said the Cascades are pleased with their chances in Madison next week.

“We feel great,” beamed Hudson. “We’re all happy because most of the kids are from the Northwest and it’s been over 20 years since a Northwest drum corps has been near the top at DCI.”

The ninth place finisher was Carolina Crown. Like the other 12 through 17 scorers in division I, Carolina Crown has been making slow but steady progress. In tonight’s competition, Crown could take pride in placing seventh in the music ensemble subcaption and in percussion. Their percussion placement was especially meaningful to Patrick Howard, a member of Crown’s snare line.

“We had a pretty good night given the fact that we were down a guy,” Howard explained. “His left hand got a little messed up. It was shaking. It was kind of weird so I had to fill in the hole with the drill. It was kind of difficult,” confessed Howard. “We made it through. It was all right.”

To the disappointment of some fans, the Madison Scouts placed 10th. Their score was met with a chorus of boos. Despite the fervor of the fans, the Scouts placed 10th in GE and visual. Their brass line, which has been finishing in the middle of the competitive field, placed eighth.

For Jeremy Jones, a Madison tenor, the Scouts’ performance was electric on the field. “We had a real good run tonight,” Jones said. “Our opener was up tempo and really loud.” According to Jones, the Scouts are still honing their program. “Some of the drill changes we made in the closer after Indianapolis came across very well,” Jones mentioned.

Although the Scouts are in a tough battle to remain in the top 12, the corps members are not discouraged. “We’re still Madison Scouts, “ proclaimed Jones. ” We have a good time. We will have fun with it. We’re like a family.”

The Kiwanis Kavaliers finished 11th. Even though their placement did not reflect it, their recent program changes yielded positive results. In the past week, the Kavaliers have picked up four points. Their superhero program continues to grab the crowd’s attention from the minute they enter the field. With the addition of brighter colors in the auxiliary’s equipment, the tone of the program is less somber.

Just as the fans are enjoying the Kavaliers more, so too are the corps members. “We had an awesome performance,” said Dana Genske, a Kavalier mellophone player. “We felt the energy on the field. We thought it was one of our better performances this year.” Hoping to build on this past week’s progress, Genske said, “We will just be cleaning and working very hard to do our best.”

After watching the DCI Eastern Classic, the fans aren’t the only ones who are baffled about corps’ placement at the World Championships in Madison.

“It’s impossible to tell what’s going to happen next week,” exclaimed Michael Cesario, DCI’s PBS commentator and drum corps consultant. “This is going to be neck and neck Cadets and Blue Devils. They are both improving at phenomenal rates of speed.”

Cesario mused, “Cavaliers aren’t here tonight. They’re in Denver so it will be impossible to tell how it is all going to line up in Madison.”

Cesario also said he feels the Boston/Glassmen/Phantom Regiment/Bluecoats grouping will prove to be a raucous mess.

“I don’t know if we can tell who’s going to make finals yet, “Cesario said. I think it’s going to be a phenomenal, phenomenal championship, and I hope whoever decides they need to be there better be there.”

Cesario advises, “Don’t miss this one!”

2002 Cadets (Bergenfield, NJ)
Photo by Dan Scafidi