I first remember seeing the Mandarins when I was eight or nine years old. Three of my older siblings were marching at the time. I couldn’t wait to march. The corps was marching more than 70 members at the time, the hornline number about 36. Although their tour was only down to Los Angeles, that was the big tour to look forward to. Disneyland was the main attraction with a couple of shows thrown in as a world class sound contributing to a championship. But during the winter season, the staff and the 54 members dedicated themselves to putting together the best corps possible with whatever was available. The quality product turned out by the Mandarins is very labor and time-intensive, requiring a certain dedication and discipline that only a few can muster.
Aging out after ten years of membership, I left my shoes on the field after retreat at the 1987 DCI Championships. I remember waiting in the tunnel at Finals. I looked around and saw members, some focusing on their own silence, isolating themselves from any other distractions. Others were hugging and wishing each other good luck. And then there were those who were crying uncontrollably, realizing that hours of practice and hard work would finally come to pass in 11 short minutes. We finally got the call by Greg Mar to get set and move. After being announced, we were “off the line” and sweating like crazy. Everyone was trying to perform the most technically correct they knew with as much emotion as possible.
The scores and placements were announced. My heart was racing as the only two corps left were us and the Emerald Knights. There really aren’t any words to describe the feelings one has when second place is announced — and it isn’t you! Especially since we came from second place to win by more than a point. We were under strict orders not to become disorderly in celebration or disappointment when we were announced. As we stood at attention, we could see and hear all of our staff and boosters screaming and yelling in the stands.
It was truly a great experience to win our first championship when I aged out, but championship or not, the great friendships that were forged through the corps were the most important to me. The championships will always give me great memories, but that is all they will ever be. The friendships I made in the corps continue to provide me with laughter and happiness everyday. Thank you Mandarins and everyone involved, members, staff, parents, and friends of the corps, for making my life such a great experience!