Spotlight Series: New Face, Same Heart – The Unity Project

For The Cadets, this year has jump started an era of starting new and moving forward as an organization. Through their tribulations, The Cadets have grown stronger and more unified than ever, and the establishment of this new identity is the foundation for their 2018 production The Unity Project. A last minute decision for the corps, this program embodies the same soul but new face of the organization. From a changing of the guard to a new contemporary wardrobe for the corps, The Unity Project , while not inspired by, delivers the message that, resonating with the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi, “unity, to be real, must stand the severest strain without breaking.” DSI spoke with Drew Shanefield and Scott Litzenberg to get a look into the process and path of this year’s edition of The Cadets. What they had to say can be summarized as embracing the idea of unity both within the production and within the corps. They are standing strong and standing together with a production that has “given [their] alumni a lot to be proud of this year.”

Embodying the Message

According to Shanefield, the show “follows...an evolution from disjunction to cohesion, through the synergy of design and performers coming together.” He notes also that this program reflects the identity of the Cadets: “vastly diverse yet wholly inclusive, markedly different yet profoundly similar.” The 2018 Cadets span an international sphere of influence with members joining from around the country and the world. Shanefield expresses that even though there is great diversity -- be it age, nationality, socioeconomic background, and more -- among the members, the tie that binds these individuals together is their unification by being Cadets. Their embodiment of the message they perform nightly makes them even greater role models for young performers to aspire toward.

Scott Litzenberg, corps director for The Cadets, is proud of this embodiment as well. “The corps has embraced the Unity Project from day one,” he states, “as a way to express their emotions from many things that have happened this season.” They have embraced the alumni and traditions that have always given the corps the support they need to be extraordinary. This group has proven to be, to the screaming praises of Shanefield, “dedicated, hard-working, tenacious, caring, and [team-oriented].” They personify the persona of a Cadet. Litzenberg further states that they have dealt with the happenings of this early season with professionalism and have decided to be the best Cadets they can as a means to show audiences that they are strong, driven, and relevant.

The Project

If social media is any indication of popularity, then The Cadets have clearly stolen the hearts of their fans. Audiences this season have expressed how the corps has “given [their] alumni a lot to be proud of this year” and “Cadets win for ‘Best Ballad to Reduce You to a Puddle of Tears.’” But it didn’t begin this way. The Cadets had a different working title throughout the winter camps, but made a last minute decision to go in a different direction. Shanefield elaborates:

The design process is always an organic one. That is, ideas evolve and change as the winter season turns into spring. As the show continued to develop we decided to make a few changes, including a change of the working title, some of the source repertoire, and the overall message of the program. The Unity Project resonated with the design team in terms of the mood, the uplifting journey of the show arc, and the audio/visual possibilities the title offers. Like most shows, a show title or show concept, serves as a vehicle to collect and organize ideas. This indeed is the case with The Unity Project.

Shanefield's explanation of the show as "a trajectory and evolution from disjunction to cohesion" can be heard throughout the arrangement of their powerful repertoire. Jake Montanero, Cadets colorguard captain, explains that this structure is one of the elements that makes the production unique. "Different sections [of the music]," he says, "will cut off others in our opener and slowly throughout the show the sections begin to support one another in 'unity.'" 

What to Look For

So what should spectators be on the lookout for in the last week of DCI 2018? Litzenberg offers some insight.

Visual Unity. Design-wise, the show uses separation of individuals or sections in the opening of the production. Throughout the musical selections, this gap of separation is closed with the unity of the ensemble and a celebration of that harmony. And while this thematic driver is a simple notion, the visual interpretation the Cadets present exquisitely shows the empowerment individuals can have when they come together.

A New Face. The Cadets have undergone a cosmetic makeover in their uniforms this season. Litzenberg notes that the uniform creates “contrast from front to back” allowing individuals or elements to disappear. This helps further the visual motif of separation versus unity.  

The CBCCG. Montanero encourages everyone to watch closely to the flagline during the "Misterioso" section. "Even though the rifles are going hard with the percussion front field," he explains, "the rest of the guard is producing a beautiful show backfield with the horns."

Our Partnership

This year, The Cadets are outfitted in the Showstopper Patent Shoe and the Ever-Jazz performance shoe. They express that the decision to go with the shiny Showstopper was for its consistency and comfort. The shoe is able to handle “outstanding wear and tear” that the high-intensity style of the Cadets puts on the shoe, and it has served them well. The decision for the colorguard to wear the Ever-Jazz performance shoe echoes this notion, being chosen for its support and comfort as the guard dances and moves.

DSI is proud to support an organization dedicated to the educational and moral development of their members. Their ability to hold fast to tradition while embracing a new era of identity is inspiring. The Cadets have taken on 2018 with chins high, hearts full, and minds driven, and we wish them the best as they finish Allentown to head into the last week of the season.

About the Author Danielle Geier

Danielle Geier lives for pageantry and the marching arts. Passionate about colorguard, she has marched since she was in 7th grade. She marched with the Morton High School band program for a total of 6 years, including 3 years in their circuit-level winterguard. She was a 4 year camper at the Music for All Summer Symposium and marched in the 2009 Bands of America Tournament of Roses Parade Honor Band. She went on to attend Murray State University, where she studied English Education, was an active member in the MSU Racer Band, and was devoted to her sisters in the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. She marched with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in 2010, 2011, and 2014 as well, earning a bronze and gold metal during her tenure. She has teched, choreographed, and directed for Marshall County High School, Calloway County High School, Bethel University, and Morton High School. Geier currently resides in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she directs the Waukesha North Northstar Marching Color Guard and the Waukesha United Winterguard. She is also a staff member at the Music For All Summer Symposium.

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