Blount Press Row

Battle of the Bands

DCI’s ‘Drums Across the Smokies’ features best of best

Former Maryville High Rebel Sara Bowden takes a break during rehearsals with The Cadets of Drum Corps International. DCI brings its elite bands competition to Farragut High School Thursday night for “Drums Across the Smokies.”

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

With a big competition in Chicago weeks away, the New Jersey Catholic parish that launched them years earlier took their uniforms, their instruments and discontinued funding back in the late 1950s.

They borrowed some horns, played in shorts and golf shirts and went to the show anyway, paying their own fare.

The finished second, one spot better than the defending national champions.

A year later, the parish returned the uniforms.

Former Rebel McKenna Bell will march with the Music City Drum and Bugle Corps at the “Drums Across the Smokies” competition.

When a Dallas VFW post raised objections to a peace-symbol formation at a 1971 show, they told competition officials it was the Mercedes-Benz logo.

Straight up.

The history of The Cadets, one of the 13 founding members of Drum Corps International, is a storied one.

The premier organization for competitive, club-style marching bands, DCI brings its act to Farragut High School Thursday night for “Drums Across the Smokies.”

The show, with nine DCI member teams taking part, begins at 6:30. The Cadets are scheduled to take the field at 8:25.

“I am so excited to bring what I’ve spent the last four summers of my life doing to Knoxville,” former Maryville High Rebel Sara Bowden said. “It’s a rare opportunity to give back to the community that made all of my DCI dreams a reality.”

Comprised of invitation-only corps recruited nationally, DCI teams endure punishing rehearsal schedules to hone their shows. The goal for each is the top spot on the podium at the world championships Aug. 11 in Indianapolis.

The Cadets, headquartered in Allentown, Pa., have captured 10 world titles since the corps and its founding 12 partners formed DCI back in 1972. DCI has since expanded to 24 corps competing at the World Class level, with another 22 filling the Open Class.

The Cadets last stood atop the podium in 2011, and they’re hungry for a return.

“The Cadets are ready to show Knoxville what we’ve worked for!” Bowden said.

The Music City Drum and Bugle Corps, which includes Maryville graduate McKenna Bell, has its eyes on the prize as well.

Former Rebel Alex Douglass lights up the snare drum for Phantom Regiment of Rockford, Ill.

“The love of band started for me in East Tennessee,” Bell said. “Mr. George Hayden was my first director and his passion inspired me to take my love of music and marching to the next level.

“This is my third year with Music City Drum and Bugle Corps and I am excited for our home show in Knoxville. Our 2018 show, ‘Hell on Wheels,’ is powerful and fun.”

The Phantom Regiment, which includes former Rebel Alex Douglass, won’t take part in Thursday’s show. Drums Across the Smokies is still a must-see for music lovers of all types, he said.

“Finalists corps like Phantom Regiment have a long history of attracting the best performers in the activity from around the world,” Douglass said, “so it’s a humbling experience to be around members who are performing at the highest levels all the time.”

As stated, The Cadets, originally the Holy Name Cadets, have come long way since the Garfield, New Jersey, parish of the same name set them in motion in 1934. A testament to their staying power, the uniforms the parish returned after the 1958 show remains their trademark look to this day.

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