East Goes West & West Goes East


Why do eastern young men go west to be in a drum corps, and what entices a West Coast girl to twirl her flag for an eastern guard?

In the case of two friends from New York, the chance to learn the West Coast style led to the cross-country trip. Ed Hennessy, of Rochester NY, and David Bowen, of Ithaca, both in the Blue Devils color guard, both veterans of different East Coast guards, made a pledge years ago that thtey would march together during their age-out year. Ed was in the Blue Devils guard during the 2000 season and liked it enough to both come back and entice David to join him.

It wasn’t a hard sell. “I was a member of (an East Coast guard) four years ago, and enjoyed the Blue Devils show; it was really entertaining,” David said. “Plus I’d never been to California.”

For both guys, learning the West Coast style has not been easy. “You have years of learning how to handle a rifle, how to toss, how your body looks behind it,” Ed said. “Then you have to change all that,” that’s become second nature, embedded in muscle memory through countless repetitions.

Both say they consider the West Coast style “more professional.” I’d learned a more ballet like style (in the eastern guards) Ed said. The Blue Devils movement is “more hip-hop, more mature.”

They have found their interactions with their instructors to be strikingly different, Ed and Dave say. “In the East, they beat it into you; you’re afraid to drop, there’s a lot more pressure.” With the Blue Devils, it’s like (guard instructor) T.J. [Doucette] says, ‘you perform for a reward, instead of doing it to not get punishment.’ ”

It’s a different story for 19-year-old Bekah Chaderdon, of Portland, Oregon. She saw the Cadets show when she was 13 and has not been the same since. “I was blown away, completely amazed. I couldn’t understand how what they were doing was physically possible. But I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

She tried out the next year, made it the year after and is a five-year Cadet vet before her 20th birthday. Though marching with an East Coast corps, she and the other Cadets were paired up with the Blue Devils during the two corps’ recent East Coast competition swing and are together again while the two corps make a similar run of shows up and down the West Coast.

Bekah may have recently had the best of the west and eastern drum corps worlds, but, still, she has had her second thoughts. “Every year at the end of the season I say I’m not coming back, but then I go to banquet, see my friends, we talk about this memory, that thing that happened, and I have to come back.”

Bekah is out of high school but not going to college yet. “This is what I love. I want to give it 110 percent, go all out for the thing I love. I don’t want to go to college and do it part way. She hopes to find something else she loves as much as drum corps to pursue in college.

For all three kids, getting the chance to perform in a top corps makes the trip cross country, as well as being away from friends and family for literally months at a time, worth it.

“I enjoy it so much, and when I think about it, it would just kill me not to be able to do it every year,” Chaderdon says.
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