Battle of the Bands Has an Argyle Connection

Battle of the Bands Has an Argyle Connection

by Susan Neuhalfen

For the hard core band geek, DCI is a common term. DCI stands for Drum Corps International, an organization that pits the very best marching bands in the world against each other for several showcased competitions all over the United States.

Even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been bitten by the DCI bug. His production company is producing a documentary highlighting the rivalry between two long-time DCI competitors: the Cadets of Allentown and the Blue Devils from California.

The Cadets stared in 1934 as the Holy Name Cadets and have had some name changes over the years but have always remained the Cadets. They have won 10 Drum Corps International World Championships. The Blue Devils began in 1957 in Concord, California. They have won 17 Drum Corps International World Championships.

Here’s the clincher: two graduates of Argyle High School are representing both sides of this rivalry.

Zach Schermerhorn graduated in May and is a lead trumpet with the Blue Devils. Reid Sullivan is a 2015 graduate and is a Primary Rifle with the Cadets. Both were members of the prestigious Argyle High School Band and both credit their experience in Argyle with their success in DCI.

This is Schermerhorn’s third year with DCI and his second with the Blue Devils. According to Schermerhorn, it’s hard to get a spot on the Blue Devils, but once you’re in, you want to stay.

“The staff has been here forever,” he said during his one hour break for dinner. “My first year there were a lot of new people because many had ‘aged out’, but this year we had a lot of people return.”

By “aged out”, Schermerhorn is referring to the age limit. While the lower age limit varies from corps to corps, members across the board may not be older than 21. The average age is 19, and given their traveling conditions, hours and injuries, DCI is definitely a young person’s racket.

After trying out for the Blue Devils here in Dallas, Schermerhorn traveled to California for a monthly camp, working with the horn line as well as working on marching techniques. Around mid-May, “spring training” starts. Then the competitions begin and this grueling schedule continues until the World Championships in Indianapolis in mid-August.

For spring training, DCI teams practice roughly 12 hours a day with one hour breaks for lunch and dinner. Whatever the weather—it doesn’t matter—they are practicing non-stop. They live with host families while training at their home field, but once they start traveling they practically live on buses and sleep on gym floors.

“DCI is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s helped me see the best in every situation,” said Schermerhorn. “I feel like I can work now without ever complaining.”

Reid Sullivan is a 2015 graduate of Argyle High School. His title is Primary Rifle in the Allentown Cadets. This is his second year with DCI and his first with the Cadets. He started late and almost had to forfeit his position this year due to financial constraints, but he swears there’s no place he’d rather be.

“I love it or I wouldn’t have come back,” said Sullivan, who works at Mansfield Timberview High School. “I’ve learned 90% of the routine in the last six days and it’s been brutal but I love it.”

Last year, Sullivan was with the Santa Clara Van Guard Corps which is what is referred to as “open” corps. This year, like Schermerhorn, he is in the “world class” corps which is much more competitive.

“You feel yourself really improving as a person and realize what you’re capable of doing,” said Sullivan. “You can push yourself even farther than you thought.”

Sullivan talked about watching people push through injuries as well as his own struggle to get caught up to his group in the last six days.

“It’s been stressful and hard, but worth it,” he said during his lunch break.

When asked if they’d seen the cameras for the show, both admitted that they’d been there but that it was wasn’t affecting their practice schedule.

“I’ve heard practically zero about them,” said Schermerhorn about the documentary film crew. “Honestly, we don’t need any added drama.”

Sullivan agreed. “We’re mainly focused on what we have to get done.”

So how did being part of the Argyle Band stack up to this experience?

“Argyle was a great band and it really prepared me well, but DCI is whole other level,” said Sullivan. “You really learn to work together better as a group.”

Schermerhorn also credits Argyle with helping him succeed at DCI.

“Without my directors helping me every day, I don’t think I’d ever be here,” said Schermerhorn. “Argyle Band taught me a lot about being a good follower as well as a good leader.”

Both Schermerhorn and Sullivan will be playing in the DFW area with DCI the latter part of July. The Allentown Cadets will be competing Thursday, July 21 in Denton at C.H. Collins Stadium. On Monday, July 25 The Blue Devils will be competing in the North Texas Festival of Drums and Bugles at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas. Both will be part of a DCI show featuring several bands with their own unique shows and styles.

When asked if they would recommend DCI for their fellow Eagle Band members, they both agreed it has been a once in a lifetime experience, but it’s not a casual choice.

“The Argyle Band prepared me both musically and physically,” said Schermerhorn. “But really DCI is undescribable to someone who doesn’t know what it is.”

“This is intense,” Sullivan agreed. “ I would recommend it for those who really have a passion for music, but realize that it’s not going to be easy.”


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