Middle & High school

Even though Sluggo's dad was a music educator, he wanted to focus more on music and theory rather than marching band performance, especially for the middle/junior high level.

Sluggo only had his dad for one grade before he transferred to another middle school. Even though he knew a lot of fundamentals of playing, sluggo's marching experience was something to be considered. His new  director thought the band was good enough to do some parades and try a field show for our football games. Our band director started us on very basic block, pin-wheel maneuvers. Sure, the marching music was basic, however for middle school, it was considered a higher level than most.

 

For a middle school, we ended up marching a lot of fall parades within Virginia, and football half-time shows when our schools football team played at home. 

High School

When I got to high school, our band had already been a repeated Virginia Honor band, achieving high scores in marching contests in the fall, and high scores in concert contests in the spring. It was an awesome time traveling in the Tri-State area for competitions. We were feared by many schools, and we had a couple of schools that we were afraid of, but all-in-all, ended up having many awards bestowed upon us for our achievements.

In October of 1990, while riding back from a huge competition, I talked with a friend who graduated from our high school, and who marched with The Cavaliers, about the drum corps activity. He told me how much fun he had his two years of marching, and thought that I should make the effort and audition at the opening camp.

 

After pulling some strings, I went with him to the camp in November to audition for the Cavaliers. Over 100 people came for 64 positions in the horn line. Some of the "holes" would be filled by returning members, others by 'new guys'. I don't even know how many other people were there that weekend auditioning for the drum line, the guard, or the pit, but boy was the gym floor crowded that weekend!

Sluggo

During that November camp, the newly appointed drum major, Rob Wis, came up to me and said I looked like Sluggo from the cartoon, "Nancy and Sluggo". The nickname stuck, and so everyone in the corps started calling me by my "new" name. It felt good having a nickname, made me feel like part of the corps..

 

Anyway, I tried out that weekend, and surprisingly, was able to take a bugle home to practice for the next camp in December. I didn't think I did that great. I'm a Trombone player, and didn't know how to key for the valves, but the instructors insured everyone that as long as you were willing to learn, and practice hard, you MIGHT get a spot. During my audition, the instructor, who I later found out was John Timmons-Drum Major for 1990, helped me out with the fingering of the horn! There are three camps that are designed for auditions: November, December and maybe January. Needless to say, I took that horn home and practiced my little heart out for the next few months.

 

I had a lot to learn. Even though I was in one of the best High School marching bands in the State of Virginia, as fate would have it, the hard work we put into practicing and performing, never prepared me for the long hot summer days of Drum Corps rehearsals. Unless you marched drum corps, you wouldn't believe the long hours we spent in the hot summer sun, marching from goal line to goal line on our heels, on our toes, then going from the backs of our heels to the tips of our toes. The effect that you would get as if you were watching people on a moving sidewalk. We would do this for hours and hours, perfecting our walk/marching technique. Every camp we would practice this marching goal to goal, learning how to make a seamless effort step by step! This helped us with the tone quality. You would learn to be almost seamless instead of hearing the huffing and puffing through the horns like you would with some High School bands.

Re-learning to march

One of the people that would really make sure that this technique worked was a former marching member of the corps, Scott Seal. Scott had marched with the Cavalier Cadet corps, and continued up through the ranks to the Cavalier Junior Corps. If you had problems doing something, Scott would come over, look at your coordinates, look at the field, and march it. If he couldn't do it, then no one would be able to, so the drill was changed (usually). If he did make the spot, then you pretty much looked like an idiot because you just wasted the corps' time, and most importantly, his time.

 

The reason for perfecting the marching was to help us smooth the transitions of the designs that we made on the field. We would work on how many steps, what size of steps, and the direction of steps we would take in marching from set to set. Each individual on the field had their own 'dot' co-ordinance to learn. It would normally be around 80-90 sets (around 200 today) you would have to learn for a 10 minute show. We would practice the different moves, over and over until it was second nature to march without flaw, or close to it. Sometimes, depending what the judges feel of the formations we make, we would have to change sets and re-learn new ones. With all the practicing and running around we did, we averaged around 21-24 miles a day. This was not just limited to the Cavaliers, I'm sure that other corps averaged similar distance.

Long days

On an average day, we would wake up around 7am. Between 7-8, we would have breakfast/shower and get ready for exercises. From 9-10, stretch, do sit-ups, jumping jacks, push-ups, and run approximately 1-2 miles. This was always a task since after the first lap, we would do coordinated breathing. (next time you jog, try doing this....breathe in for 2 seconds, breathe out for 2 seconds, then breathe in for 4 seconds, breathe out for 8 seconds, then start over. It is very hard to learn this...oh, don't make any noise while doing this, just breathe.)

 

After the jog, we would have a small break, then start on marching basics. From 10-11, we would work on our marching, posture, holding the horn up/down, marching back and forth on the field. We would march 8 steps per 5 yards, (this is the marching step for all types of marching) then 6 to 5, 4 to 5 and sometimes just for kicks, try 3 & 2 to 5 yards. From 11-12, we might work on some drill segments. We would try to work on any corrections the designers felt we needed to work on. From 12-1, LUNCH/rest. From 1-3, more drill design work. From 3-5 we would start working on music. Usually for the first 30 minutes, we would warm up, and the last 30 minutes warm down. Five comes around and it's dinner. Six-Ten...This would consist of the full corps usually, putting everything together. Music/Drill. Before the end of the night, usually did about 2-3 complete run-throughs of the show. A full show would last between 9-11 minutes.

 

Nights of a contest are a little different. The afternoon would be shortened to allow music/drill together. Usually around 5-6 you're on the road to the show site. Then you warm up physically/mentally, music, and march to the show and compete.

 

After the show, we usually would get together with other corps for a snack, pack up, then travel to the next city/town. Roll in around 4-5am, sleep on the gym floor, wake up around 10am, and the day starts all over again. Now, do note that it has been around 15 years since I last did this, and I'm writing all of this by poor memory. Things are probably around the same, but I'm sure the schedules are more harsh these days.

Drill

It takes time and dedication to learn and study the drill of each show. From February-May, you're learning the drill, along with the music. By the time tour starts, middle of June, there have already been significant changes to the drill. Possibly the drill didn't fit the music, or the music didn't sound right, so they changed the music. Constantly throughout the summer, the music changes, and the drill changes. It is possible that by the time when championships come around, a corps is doing a completely different show then what they started with. This isn't just with the composer/designers ideas, it's also from being judged during the different contests. The judges give their perspective on the show and say something like, "you need to change this", or "the flags didn't look right", or "WOW, that was awesome!" After the contest, the instructors listen to the adjudicators tapes to see what the corps needs to work on for the future, so we would work on those parts the next day.

 

We really saw the country on tour. Well, actually we saw many high school gyms, and high school football fields. When we would pull in, in the weeee hours of the morning, we would go sleep on the gym floors. We each had our own little spots to sleep in. They weren't assigned spots, it's just a place that you find comfortable in the gym. Mine was usually under the basketball net inside the 3-point area with four other friends. First thing in the morning, the field staff would be out scouting the area for some great locations to have a make-shift football field to practice on. They would go out and spray paint the grass, usually about three fields. One for the Guard, one for the percussion, and one for the horns. This way during sectionals, each group had their own field to work on. While one group was working on drill, another could be working on music. It worked out well most of the time. Once in a while, they had to have the fields over lap, but it wasn't often.

 

In 1991, early in the season, we were at the Preview of Champions in Madison, WI. Who would have known that 12 months later, we would come back to Camp Randall stadium and win The DCI World Championship for the first time in our Cavalier history. The two years I marched with the Cavaliers were the best two years so far in my life. I wish I could devote more of my time to be with the corps, but my full time job calls!

 

One interesting tidbit about this corps is one of it's nicknames: Green Machine

 

It has been told that when the corps is moving, it looks like a never-ending motion and the designs look like gears of a machine at work. This was a nickname that was given to the corps back in the 60's/70's. During tour, you really start to learn a lot about the history of the corps. History that you normally wouldn't hear about in public. A lot of it you learn during your second year, where in tThe Cavaliers, you get initiated. If you are a first year member, but are an 'age-out', then you can be initiated too. The Cavaliers figure that if you come back a second year, you are more dedicated to the corps. I could go into talking about the initiation process, but I would be killed by my fellow brothers! So, you will have to go and march to learn what it takes to be a Cavalier.

 

After our 1992 DCI Championship, the corps received two letters that was printed in our Alumni Association newsletter. It congratulated the members of that corps who won the DCI World Championship for the first time. Feel free to view them here: Cavaliers 1992

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2011 The Cavaliers show: XtraordinarY

Courtesy of @DCIHornlines: Excuse the wind, but a little throw back to hanging with @CarolinaCrown back in 2015

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