After a Wednesday performance at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, the 150 local musicians who make up the Academy Drum and Bugle Corps hit the road later that night on a competition tour that will take them around the country.
The group, which is made up of musicians ages 16 to 22, is one of 22 world-class drum and bugle corps recognized nationally. Because of their high standing, practice and perfection is a requirement.
Auditions for the group are in December and for those that do make it, the work is just beginning. Some of their practice days last from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a break in between. The kids know what they are getting into when they sign up and push through because they know the result of their hard work will be significant.
"I was pretty nervous about all the hard work we were going to do at first," said Kaitlin Dickson, a senior at Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee Foothills. "At first the practices seemed a little long, but after awhile you get used to it and you know you are going to get better."
Executive director of the drum and bugle corps, Mark Richardson, said kids come from places like California, Utah, Texas and Oklahoma to try out and play, but 80 percent are from Arizona.
"We are the only (world-class corps) in Arizona so people are willing to come from all over," he said.
The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and was originally started by Richardson and a board of directors.
The group played with two other drum corps from California on Wednesday at Corona del Sol. In total, more than 400 students took the field over the course of the hour performance.
Afterward, the real fun began.
"We are hopping on the bus and heading out to El Paso tonight," Richardson said.
From there, they will play the Alamodome in San Antonio, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and their final performance will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Richardson said they will play in front of up to 100,000 people over the course of their trip, which lasts until Aug. 15.
"It is cool to see how many people come out and watch," said Jeff McCleve, also a senior at Desert Vista. "It can be exhausting mentally and physically, but it is definitely worth it."
To find out more, visit www.ArizonaAcademy.org.
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