Cadets Experience Camp Welcomes Fresh Talent

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Halfway into the Cadets Experience and Audition Camp and 17-year-old Taylor O’Neill could genuinely say he had learned more in percussion technique than he had picked up in six years of playing.

The marimba player from Haddon Heights, N.J., was one of nearly 150 musicians and performers who last weekend attended the corps’ first camp for the 2008 season at Penns Grove High School in Carneys Point, N.J.

The Cadets Experience Camp welcomed high school and novice drum corps hopefuls to spend the weekend and see if being a part of a Division I corps is something they might want to pursue.

Setting themselves apart from other DCI corps that customarily hold very large, one-time audition camps in the late fall and early winter, the Cadets traditionally hold two more intimate, back-to-back weekend camps when laying the foundation for a new season.

The first weekend – Experience Camp – brings the world of drum corps to young people who might not be so sure the activity is for them. Should they choose to audition for the Cadets, they may certainly do so, according to Justin Heimbecker, Assistant Director of the corps. The second camp – The Cadets Audition – Camp will be held this weekend, Dec. 7 – 9th, and will welcome returning members and performers with drum corps experience.

“In years’ past, we’ve had 14-year-old musicians standing next to 21-year-old college music majors and the variance has made it difficult to offer each individual the best possible experience,” Heimbecker said.

“By splitting our camps in this manner, we encourage younger folks to come check things out, without the anxiety of trying to hang with the older players. Next weekend, we’ll kick things up a few notches as veteran members and older students gather for Audition Camp.”

Of the nearly 60 horn players, 60 percussionists and 25 colorguard members who attended the Experience Camp, nearly all auditioned for a place in the corps with more than 25 being asked to return to the next camp, said Heimbecker.

Always a fan of the Cadets, O’Neill came to rehearsal to see if the corps was right or him – if not for this season, then perhaps in 2009.

"It really may be too early for me to do this, but I came to see what it was like," O’Neill said. "I’ve always loved the Cadets… their energy and intensity. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned so far."

Musicians and colorguard members traveled from as far as Texas and Florida to audition for the Nine-Time World Champion corps that most recently earned the Silver Medal at DCI World Championships in August.

It’s the consistently innovative field programs the corps produces every season and a history of tradition that drew Taylor O’Conner to the Cadets. The 16-year-old snare drummer from Phillipsburg, N.J., saw the corps perform for the first time in 2006 during the DCI Broadcast and immediately he knew he needed to see what the Cadets had to offer.

"I think the Cadets are one of the best drum corps out there," O’Conner said. "The great thing about the corps is they are always willing to try something new. They are not the set standard out there."

Attendees were given a true taste of what drum corps life is like, according to Heimbecker. Full rehearsal days and evenings, eating off the food truck and sleeping on the gym floor are some of the amenities that come with marching with the Cadets.

During this camp, staff added in a Cadets history lesson by Alumnus Scotty McGarry and Christen Juel while parents of attendees were acquainted with drum corps life during Orientation led by Megh Healy, Coordinator of Education and Special Projects for Youth Education in the Arts. More than 15 Cadet veterans also attended the Experience Camp, participating in a Leadership Track that focused on the principles of what makes a strong leader.

There isn’t much down time for corps staff and administration following last weekend’s Experience Camp. This weekend, veterans and performers with prior drum corps experience meet at Penns Grove High School where auditions will continue.

As membership for the 2008 corps solidifies through January and February, Drew Kaczmanek hopes to keep being invited back so he can ultimately march with a corps he’s admired since he first saw them perform nearly three years ago.

“Things have gone well…they asked me back,” the 17-year-old snare drummer said. “I love this corps – their image, sound, traditional look and discipline. I really want to be a part of it.”

The Cadets Audition Camp will be held Dec. 7-9 in Southern New Jersey and the corps’ 2007 Annual Banquet will follow on the afternoon of Dec. 9th in Philadelphia, Pa.

For camp registration and audition information, contact Heimbecker at Justin [at] yea [dot] org, or by telephone at (610) 821-0345, Ext. 12. For banquet information, contact Caryn Goebel at caryn [at] yea [dot] org, or by telephone at (610) 821-0345, Ext. 21.

Posted by on Thursday, December 6th, 2007. Filed under DCI World.