| ||Cadet History, 2005|
Archive article reprinted from the New York Times|
shared by Cadet George Lea
BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY
A Championship Drum & Bugle Corps Leaves the State
by Jonathan Miller
For the record, the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps -- formerly the Cadets of Bergen County, formerly the Garfield Cadets, formerly the Holy Name Cadets, and formerly poised to celebrate its 71st year in the Garden State -- did not skulk out of New Jersey last August, in the dead of night, Baltimore Colts-style.
But the group that once played at the closing ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and appeared on the "Late Show With Dave Letterman" has quietly marched off to Allentown, PA, about 100 miles away, and in the aftermath it has left disappointed fans and alumni in the little-known but rabid world of drum and bugle corps.
"Sad," was how Richard J. Bohan, Bergenfield's Mayor put it. "A very good name to have in town. It's a well-known group. Championships forever. It always gave the town prestige."
But prestige did not pay the bills. Tight budgets and the high cost of living in the New York area forced the Cadets out, said George Hopkins, the group's executive director. Even though the group received a sweetheart deal from the borough of $500 a month to rent out the top floor of borough hall, it still fell behind in the payments, he said, and the town had to forgive the debt.
"We have a tough time," Mr. Hopkins said. "Much of our students are 21, 22, and we'd lost people because they couldn't afford it. A one-bedroom in New Jersey is $1000.
Put on top of that a $1,700 annual tour fee, he said, and it became an expensive proposition.
"The way the program has developed, there's no real base," he said. "We didn't believe there was any real practical purpose to be in New Jersey, or Connecticut or what have you. The drum corps travels so much anyway."
In Allentown, the Cadets have set up shop in a 25,000-square-foot former advertising office and will lease the space from the city for another 29 years.
For others, the exodus is something of a shock.
"I was surprised at the move to a different state," said Steve Vickers, publisher of Drum Corps World, a newpaper based in Madison, Wis., that keeps track of such things. "They have a lot of alums that still live in New Jersey. I would think that it would have been somewhat of a challenge to get all their alumni on board to move the corps."
"They had difficulty getting traction in northern New Jersey," he said. "They were lost in northern New Jersey. There's just so many things going on, and how do you get everyone's attention?"
The world of drum and bugle corps is indeed obscure and, not surprisingly, little understood. Like high-states Scrabble tournaments or pigeon racing, it attracts a small but zealous following. Members pay money to travel the country on buses, sleep on gym floors and practice their shows (about 10 minutes long) in withering summer heat. Competitions are held in stadiums across North America and culminate in championships in August.
The Cadets are considered the oldest running and one of the most successful drum corps in the entire activity. They have won a Yankee-esque 18 national championships, and for the last 20 years have been considered one of the top five such groups in the country.
In recent years the Cadets had already begun shedding their New Jersey identity. They dropped the "of Bergen County" from their name several years ago, after the county stopped letting the Cadets use Bergen County Technical High School near Teterboro Airport in 2001. This year, only about 10 of the 135 members come from New Jersey, Mr. Hopkins said, and most of them are from the central or southern part of the state.
That is not to say that the Cadets have abandoned the Garden State entirely. The group practices in Pennsville, near Exit 1 on the New Jersey Turnpike -- for now -- although it is looking to move closer to Allentown, where its administrative offices are, if it can.
And over the Memorial Day weekend, the Cadets played at three parades in New Jersey, including Carlstadt, Rochelle Park and Hawthorne. The corps will be host to an alumni dinner in Garfield on July 2 and will play a show in Giants Stadium the night before.
For now, the Cadets are part of an organization known as Youth Education in the Arts, an umbrella group that also includes Crossmen, a drum corps originally from Pennsylvania, and U.S. Scholastic Band Association, a nationwide high school circuit that includes 400 members.
Many of the drum and bugle corps began after World War I as offshoots of Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion Posts. Often, the corps grew up in blue-collar towns like Garfield or Bayonne, where the brassy Bridgemen once played, or in Revere, Mass., home of the now-defunct 27th Lancers, famed for a rousing rendition of "Danny Boy."
The activity and the Cadets have evolved dramatically in the last 30 years. Where once the groups drew on local schoolchildren who could barely play an instrument, now a majority of members are college music majors from around the nation. So saying the Cadets were from New Jersey was similar to saying that Yankee players come from New York.
Money was so tight this year, Mr. Hopkins said, that the corps did some last-minute casting for a Memorial Day parade - which typically pays several thousand dollars -- before landing one final appearance to round out its day. In its former hometown of Bergenfield, the corps was denied a spot, Mayor Bohan said, because there was not enough money in the budget. Nevertheless, he said the Cadets would be welcome to march next year if they applied early enough.
Not just the Cadets are struggling, Mr. Vickers of Drum Corps World said. In the last five years about 50 groups -- large and small -- have tossed in their batons. Only 140 corps now exist in North American, when at their height in the 1960s, there were thousands. High costs -- groups like the Cadets rely mainly on membership fees and corporate sponsors for most of the money -- and demands on members time are just a couple of the factors driving away would-be marchers.
In Carlstadt, where the Cadets marched on Memorial Day, some were disappointed but pragmatic about the departure. "It's their prerogative," said Walt Siri, a member of American Legion Post 69, although he added, "I'd rather see them stay."
Bill Westdyke, 80, a former Navy Commander in World War II and a member of VFW Post 3149, said that the move was a necessity. "They have to, they have no place to go," he said. And of New Jersey, he had just two words: "Too expensive!"
Trailing behind the corps was Noel Borden, 72, who volunteers as the group's transportation coordinator. "It's hard to leave New Jersey after all these years," Mr. Borden said. "New Jersey was the home of the Cadets."
| || |
| ||The Cadets Building in Allentown. Photo submitted by Christen Juel. || |
The Cadets spent many years in Garfield and later Bergenfield, bouncing from one inadequate site to another. As the writer noted, many alumni were upset with the move, but in the years since the move to Allentown, most have come to realize that our corps now has a modern, affordable, and stable location for our administrative offices that provides the stability sorely lacking in the past.|
| || |
| ||The entrance of the Cadet office. Photo submitted by Christen Juel. || |
Alumni and friends traveling through the Allentown area are always welcome to stop in and visit, to see for themselves what a great setup the corps now enjoys. Once you do I believe you will think, as I do, that they would have been crazy not to take advantage of what they were offered in Allentown.|
| || |
| ||Cadet DCI trophies in the conference room. Photo submitted by Christen Juel. || |
| || |
People not familiar with the northeast probably don't realize that Allentown is located just over the western border of New Jersey, and that the many alumni still living in the North Jersey area maintain the footprint of the Cadets in our original home base. Cadet Alumni meet the first Thursday of each month at the VFW Hall in Garfield for social gatherings-of-the-maroon, in part to ensure that the New Jersey heritage of the Cadets is part of our present, as well as our past.|
For Holy Name shall always be...
| || |