The Experience for a Lifetime

Photo courtesy of The Pouncey Family

A championship-winning drum corps. An award-winning drum major. For The Cadets, the secret is waking up each morning with the right attitude. And that’s a lesson that will last a lifetime.

The drum corps experience is something that is difficult to express in words. It is something that cannot be explained to your friends at home or in a brief essay about “what I did this summer.” Sure, one could talk about the rehearsals, the performances, the friendships and the memories, but the true essence of drum corps is an intangible phenomenon that can only be understood by those who have had the experience.

The lessons and the values that are learned through marching music’s major league are priceless pieces of information that I believe cannot be taught to such a capacity anywhere else. The importance of team, hard work, trust and leadership are unparalleled in this activity.

Reflecting on my experience with The Cadets and as a drum major, I can undoubtedly say that I am a completely different person today than I would have been had I not been a part of the drum corps experience.

Family Support

I have been exposed to music my entire life. My grandfather is a trumpet player and a retired band director. My dad also played trumpet and participated in band all the way through college, where he met my mother in the marching band. Through this musical foundation, my interests naturally were drawn to music and playing trumpet.

Today, I am a senior music education major at the University of South Carolina. My entire family including my younger brother, Brad, and my younger sister, Beth, have always been tremendously supportive of my involvement in band and drum corps.

I began watching drum corps at a fairly early age, probably before I ever picked up a trumpet! My dad marched soprano in the 27th Lancers in 1980 and 1982 as well as Spirit of Atlanta in 1981. Through my father’s experience in drum corps, watching video recordings and listening to his old cassette tapes, I immediately developed a passion for the activity and knew that it was going to play an important role in my life one day.

In 2003, as an 8th grade middle school student, I began my participation in marching band. During that same year, I attended my first live drum corps show in my hometown of Columbia, S.C. It confirmed my goal to march drum corps.

In 2007 I became a member of The Cadets. I marched trumpet in 2007 and 2008 and was the drum major from 2009 to 2011. I am extremely honored to have been the recipient of the World Class Jim Jones Leadership Award for the 2011 season.

During the summers of 2009 and 2010, I had the unique and incredible experience of marching with my younger brother, Brad, also a trumpet player. In 2011, Brad joined me on the podium as drum major. It was an amazing experience for both of us to serve as drum majors together.

For people who must eventually step down from their leadership position, their greatest wish for their organization is to hand over control to someone who will continue their work for excellence both on and off the field. Brad did an outstanding job this past season, and I know that he and the leadership team will continue to do wonderful things over the coming years.

The Cadets Experience

I chose to march with The Cadets because of the group’s historical tradition as a drum corps as well as the cutting-edge programs presented each year. I was always astounded by the performance quality that The Cadets produced, all while creating a program that was not only entertaining for the crowd but was also pushing the envelope of the drum corps world.

After my age out this past summer, I continue to reflect on my experience in drum corps. The Cadets taught me how to relate the drum corps activity to real-life experiences. The members are taught to choose their attitude each and every day. We are taught that when you wake up in the morning, whether happy, sad, excited, depressed or indifferent, how you approach that day is your choice!

A new challenge is presented every day during the course of the summer. These obstacles can be weather, equipment issues, facilities, logistics and more. The secret to overcoming these hurdles lies within the reactions and attitudes of the individuals. Allowing these challenges to impede the productivity of the drum corps would be detrimental to the success of the entire group. Choosing to work through various hardships and maintain focus on the ultimate goal ensures success at the end of the road.

As Cadets, we learn that regardless of any bumps in the road along the journey of life, each day we have the opportunity to wake up, work hard and improve as we constantly strive for perfection.

Perfection could mean something different to everyone, whether it means perfection at work, perfection in your career or perfection with your family. However, if you don’t wake up each day, work hard and strive for what you want out of life, you will never get there. Yes, life will throw curve balls and things will get in the way. A job interview may not go well or an audition may not work out, but just as in drum corps, you alone have control over your reactions to these situations through the choices you make and the attitudes you embrace.

The most valuable advice that I can give to others is to never live your life wondering where you are going. Drum corps is a personal lifestyle, not based on competition or winning a world championship but that of memories made and lessons learned. Through personal reflection, one will discover that the drum corps activity is not only an experience of a lifetime but also an experience for a lifetime.

About the Author

Ben Pouncey was drum major with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps, the 2011 Drum Corps International World Champions, for the past three seasons. He started with the corps as a trumpet player in 2007. This summer, he received the Jim Jones Leadership Award, given to an outstanding drum major in World and Open Class. Ben is a senior music education major at the University of South Carolina.