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Marching to her own beat
BHS grad performs nationally with corps
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Carla Lackey performs at a Drum Corps International show in Pennsylvania. “We are undefeated so far!” she wrote in an email Wednesday. (Contributed photo)

Monday, July 7, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Recent Bassett High School graduate Carla Lackey was nervous when she went on the field at Indianapolis, Ind., high school to perform competitively with the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps for the first time this summer.

“...But once the announcer said,’... Drum Corps International is proud to present ... the Cadets!’ I immediately knew why I chose to commit and practice long hours and push myself to be better — it’s because I love performing and the anticipation leading up to a big performance,” Carla wrote in an email.

The event was the 2014 Drum Corps International Tour kickoff on June 18. From June 18 through Aug. 4, the Cadets are competing at more than 30 events in cities in 17 states from Wisconsin to Texas. The closest local competition will be in Charlotte, N.C., on July 27.

“At the first show it was really exciting, and it felt like a payoff for all of the past month’s hard work,” Carla wrote. “We go through a month-long ‘spring training’ where we start to get to know the show we are performing and we practice literally all day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.”

While on tour, the Cadets rehearse at various schools, but it is less strenuous than “spring training,” she added.

Carla left high school early to join the corps.

“I took all of my exams early (at Bassett High School) in order to be ready to graduate when I flew back from spring training to graduation,” Carla wrote. “It was really overwhelming to leave Bassett early because all of my teachers were trying to cram so many last-minute things in before I left, and I also had to learn the music that I was missing at Cadets, because I actually moved into the Cadets spring training a few days late since I was in school finishing up exams.”

Carla, one of the top students academically in her class, was among the speakers at the BHS graduation. “No dream is outside your reach,” she said.

Carla aspires to become a music educator. She will enter George Mason University in the fall term.

At BHS, Carla, a percussionist, made the All State Band and was one of 125 high school marching band members nationwide selected to perform during the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. She is playing vibraphone in the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps, based in Allentown, Pa.

According to its website, the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps, founded in 1934, is the oldest continually operating Division I group in Drum Corps International (DCI). The Cadets corps is known for artistic innovation and has won nine World Championships since 1983.

Drum Corps International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to competitive drum and bugle corps activities, according to the DCI website.

The Cadets corps is one of more than 20-top tier DCI member corps. Each year more than 8,000 students audition for fewer than 3,500 positions available in those corps, according to the DCI website.

“I’m meeting people from all over the USA,” Carla wrote of her experiences with the Cadets.

She added: “The housing is basically school gyms and sleeping bags. They are generally nice schools with turf fields, and we utilize the school locker rooms for showers. We eat off a Cadets food truck, which follows us throughout our summer tour and feeds us excellent meals ... and snacks! We have volunteers who serve and make food for all 150 of us performers!”

Her typical day starts with a meeting where the group discusses the objectives of the day.

“The front ensemble (the part of the corps that I am in) goes and unloads our instruments from the truck and pushes to our morning site. We warm up and then review our extra tunes (’Don’t Stop Believing’; ‘Swing, Swing, Swing’; and ‘Vertical River’). Then we do sub sectionals where the marimbas and the vibraphones split up and work on show music,” she wrote.

After lunch, the members hold a huge front ensemble sectional. After a snack, they go to the stadium for the evening ensemble with the whole corps, and then they usually are free to go.

“On a show day we have shorter rehearsal blocks and we usually drive to a show around 5 and perform that night,” she added.

Carla wrote Cadets average three to seven hours of sleep nightly.

“My role basically consists of being attentive and ready to play. I have to give 100 percent at every practice repetition and just stay focused. I am also responsible for knowing my music, but that comes almost automatically given the amount of hours of practice time we put into our 12-13 minute show,” she added.

“I’m learning about different percussion techniques and ways of playing that I have never learned before,” Carla wrote. “... When I do leave the Cadets after this summer, I’ll feel more confident teaching others when I become a music educator because I will have gained much more knowledge and background on my instrument ....”

Carla, 17, of Collinsville, wrote she believes this summer experience is “making me mature. It’s teaching me how to be responsible for myself and be focused at all times.”

Corps members are not paid. Rather, Carla said she pays tour fees. Fundraisers help cover some costs.

She also feels being part of the Cadets will help her at George Mason. “I will probably be better at learning music faster .... We learn music at a really fast pace here. And the music we play is on a college level.”

Despite their busy schedules, it’s not all work for the Cadets.

“We get free time to play Frisbee! ..., ” Carla wrote. “The other free time that we have is usually for eating and sleeping. We rehearse mostly. But it pays off because we won our first show and best our rivals, Carolina Crown.”

Carla, the daughter of Carl Lackey and Erlinda Lackey, wrote she was not as homesick as she thought she would be. “The people here make me feel at home wherever we go. I have never been away from home this long ever in my life.”

“I am having a lot of fun here!!” she wrote.


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