Who’s the best of the best in DCI? Want to know how your favorite drum corps placed or who had the best horn line, drum line or color guard? Find out the final rankings and award recipients.
Note from the Editor: Halftime Magazine congratulates all participants in the 2007 Drum Corps International World Championships. Although this article highlights award recipients, Halftime recognizes the commitment, energy and hard work of everyone who participated. We give all of you a standing ovation!
The Blue Devils climbed to the top of the Division I drum corps ranks with “Winged Victory.” The Spartans seized gold in Division II while Memphis Sound maintained dominance in Division III. This year’s competition may have been the tightest yet. In fact, it was so heated that the Marines were brought in on finals night before thousands of screaming drum corps fans. How did the battle in the Rose Bowl play out? Let’s review this year’s top drum corps, award winners and special appearances.
The Blue Devils Win With “Winged Victory”
On Aug. 11, 2007, The Blue Devils from Concord, Calif., made drum corps history by clinching another DCI World Championship. No other drum corps has won more DCI titles than The Blue Devils and now they have increased that number to 12.
The Blue Devils also took the Jim Ott Best Brass Performance Award, Fred Sanford Award for Best Percussion Performance, Don Angelica Award for Best Overall General Effect and Best Visual Performance Award. The Cavaliers captured the George Zingali Award for Best Color Guard, preventing a sweep by The Blue Devils.
“Having the drum corps championship in California has been a dream of ours for many years,” says David Gibbs, executive director of The Blue Devils. “It was great having our friends and family there for the big event in the Rose Bowl this year.”
The Blue Devils’ show took to the skies with “Winged Victory.” This mythological journey featured a cornucopia of characters from Pegasus to Icarus in a montage that delighted the ears and eyes.
As with any drum corps show, the production process evolves over the season through many revisions. Gibbs shares his thoughts on what it takes to get the show soaring above the competition:
“It took until the Stanford contest [on Aug. 4] to really get the show where we wanted it to be,” Gibbs says. “The staff and members hung in there and got ‘Winged Victory’ to take off in the end.”
Sheri Van Wert, an alum from 1997, recalls her favorite part of the show: “As a color guard person, I focus on the visual package of each corps and was particularly impressed with the visual impact of The Blue Devils’ closer,” she says.
Established in 1957 as a Drum and Bell corps, the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary with this award-winning show. The corps put on an alumni reunion to celebrate the past, present and future of The Blue Devils from Aug. 3 to 4.
“The Blue Devils organization has a strong heritage and connection to the past that is still connected to the current day,” says Gibbs about the celebration. “I’m thankful for all the support we’ve had in California. Thank you to everyone who supported us.”
The Cadets Capture Silver With “This I Believe”
The Cadets from Allentown, Pa., jumped up from fifth place in 2006 to second in 2007.
This summer, their show titled “This I Believe” relayed The Cadets’ 73-year history of ethos and excellence in an innovative program loosely based on the National Public Radio show of the same name.
Director George Hopkins reflects on what some may say was a controversial season due to the narration used in the performance: “Well, I definitely did not expect for people to degrade and boo the corps, or me, for that matter,” he says. “I thought that civility and respect for the goodness of youth would prevail. Most nights, I was correct. Some nights, I was startled by the rudeness.”
But not everyone disliked the show. Hopkins goes on to explain the positive aspects of “This I Believe”:
“Many, many people loved and enjoyed the show,” he says. “They listened to the words for the additional value brought to the performance. Voice did not change the fact that the corps was fabulous. The voice made it more interesting for some. And for others, well, I wonder if they ever gave us a chance?”
Hopkins celebrated his 25th anniversary as director this season. Events for the celebration included an alumni reunion as well as a special tribute brunch honoring Hopkins. “This is a year I will remember until my last day on this planet.”
Len Insalaca, a baritone player who aged out with The Cadets in 1995, co-founded AngelWind Media Productions and credits Hopkins for his successful cinematic music production business.
“George Hopkins pushed me to do things that I didn’t know I could do, and I am thankful for that,” Insalaca says. “I now go through life knowing that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.
Spartans Seize the Day
The Spartans from Nashua, N.H., captured the 2007 Division II World Championship with a score of 96.150. Their show, “Tarot,” included a collection of music by Key Poulan, Peter Furnari and Eric Putnam.
“Traveling this far and coming home with the gold again was glorious,“ says Peter LaFlamme, director of the Spartans, which had previously won the Division II title in 1997, 1998 and 2004. “We had many great teams to contend with and thank them all for pushing our kids to work harder.”
In addition to claiming the Division II championship, the Spartans earned the Best Visual Performance, Best Color Guard Performance and Best General Effect awards while Jersey Surf took Best Brass Performance and Best Percussion Performance.
LaFlamme, who has been the director for the Spartans since 1980, reflects on his 27 years running the corps: “It was not easy getting the corps to where it is today, but it has been a great learning experience for me,” he says.
Since the corps was founded in 1955, the Spartans have performed in five Presidential Inaugural Parades, at Disney World, Six Flags Theme Parks in four states, and Nashua’s Sesquicentennial Parade in 2003.
“This year meant a lot to us as we had a very large number of younger students than in most years past,” LaFlamme says. “Having a young group must say something for our staff that is able to teach them how to win at such a young age.”
Jersey Surf Takes Silver
Jersey Surf took the silver medal for the first time at DCI World Championships, capturing both Best Brass Performance and Best Percussion Performance in the process.
In addition to receiving their best placement in their corps’ history, they were also recognized as the Most Improved Division II corps of 2007 with special Director of the Year honors going to director Bob Jacobs.
Color guard member Steph Broadbelt relays her feelings: “Although we were in the race for first, I have no regrets with our second place finish,” she says. “I know that everyone in my corps left all that they had on the field at finals. Our staff and members were really proud of the show we put on the field Saturday afternoon.”
The corps had previously received the 2003, 2004 and 2005 “Spirit of Disney” award for design creativity, innovation and performance excellence.
Jersey Surf, based in Mount Holly, N.J., celebrated its 17th year in DCI competition and its first cross-country trip to the West Coast. This year’s show, “Snapshots from an American Journey,” took the audience on an aural and visual transcontinental journey. Program segments included “Megapolis,” “The Heart- (and Soul) Land,” and “Left Coast Confidential.”
Memphis Sound Secures Gold
Memphis Sound from Memphis, Tenn., scored a 90.550 to win the Division III World Championship with their show, “Harmonic Voices.” It is Memphis Sound’s first title in the corps’ short history that began in 2002.
In an interview with DCI, Andre Feagin, director of Memphis Sound and recipient of the Division III Director of the Year, discusses the corps’ accomplishment:
“The corps members were hungry to be great, and really, that’s all I needed,” he says. “You show me a group of young men and women who are willing to make a difference, and I’m going to make sure that that’s possible.” Memphis Sound also received Best Brass Performance, Best Visual Performance and Best Percussion Performance awards while Fever earned the Best General Effect and Best Color Guard Performance awards.
“Thank you to all the hard-working young men and women who gave their very best this summer along with the instructional staff, volunteers, parents and fans,” says Feagin in the DCI interview. “We’re all looking forward to another successful season in 2008.”
The Fever Rises to Silver
In a tight race for the Division III title, Fever scored a 90.450, missing the championship by one-tenth of a point to Memphis Sound. The battle for third place was just as close as Dutch Boy from Kitchener, Ontario, pushed past Revolution for the bronze medal by scoring two-tenths higher than the San Antonio-based corps.
Hailing from Modesto, Calif., Fever is a newcomer to the drum corps scene. Formed in 2003, Fever drew a lot of its inspiration from the predecessor, Valley Fever Drum and Bugle Corps.
The corps is currently under the direction of Shavon Garcìa. “We’re very proud of our members for the hard work they put into the season,” says Garcìa on Fever’s website. “We’re happy with the results. What a great way to end the year.”
Marines Kick Off Finals
Commonly known as the first ones in, the Marines were on hand at the Rose Bowl but not to provide a security detail. The “Commandant’s Own” U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps kicked off finals competition with an exhibition performance.
Formed in 1934, the Marine drum corps was created to augment the Marine Band, which provides musical support to ceremonies around the nation’s capital as well as various military and public events. By contrast, The Marine Drum & Bugle Corps travels more than 50,000 miles annually, performing in excess of 400 events across the nation and abroad.
Sergeant Chad Kirk, a euphonium section leader, talks about his participation at the Rose Bowl:
“To perform as a Marine at DCI finals is an absolute honor,” Kirk says. “Drum and bugle corps has its roots in the bugle calls and drum cadences that signaled troops in battle. I’m proud to be a part of that history.”
Anaheim Kingsmen: DCI’s First World Champion
The Anaheim Kingsmen, the first DCI World Champions from 1972, made a special appearance in the Rose Bowl as a 286-member alumni corps. The average age of the members was 49 years old.
The junior corps is not currently active, however. The Kingsmen Alumni Corps formed to help commemorate DCI’s 35th anniversary. They performed at several 2007 DCI shows, culminating with DCI Semi-Finals on Aug. 10.
The 2007 alumni corps included 28 original members from the 1972 Kingsmen. They performed an 11-minute greatest hits program, consisting of traditional marching formations and music as well as a concert number.
Tony Antonelli, a contra player in the Kingsmen Alumni Corps, reflects on his experience: “When I bought my cadet uniform for this alumni performance, I was so proud,” Antonelli says. “It was all worth it when the crowd gave us eight standing ovations during our performance.
Carolina Crown’s “Triple Crown”
Carolina Crown, which finished sixth, concluded their remarkable “Triple Crown” season, receiving three major awards—the Spirit of Disney Award, Director of the Year and the Jim Jones Leadership Award.
The Spirit of Disney Award rewards the corps whose show best exemplifies the ability to translate imagination into an educational and fun forum for all participants and to provide great entertainment value for the audience.
“This show has been in the works with our design team for three years,” says Director Kevin Smith. “They decided not to do it prior to now because they didn’t have all the pieces to make it the overwhelming success that it ended up being in 2007.”
Smith received this year’s Dr. Baggs Leadership Award (Director of the Year), which is determined by the vote of all the Division I directors. Smith is the only director to be honored with both this award and the Division II or III Director of the Year Award. He was recognized in 1993 when Carolina Crown was a Division II corps.
“This was a tremendous season for Carolina Crown,” Smith says. “We reached many milestones and set several new corps records. It was the corps’ best season ever, so we were certainly very happy about the outcome.”
Evan VanDoren receives this year’s Jim Jones Leadership Award, which honors an outstanding Division I drum major nominated by his or her director and chosen based on his or her leadership on and off the field. DCI Hall of Fame members select the award’s recipients.
Carolina Crown is the only corps to have a member honored with the award two years in a row.
Adam Jatho, a second-year trumpet player with Carolina Crown, talks about VanDoren as a leader: “He meets every ideal of what a good marcher and person should be, and we could all learn something from striving not only to act but to be like him,” Jatho says.
About the Author
Gregory M. Kuzma, who simply goes by “GM,” is the author of the book “On the Field From Denver, Colorado … The Blue Knights!” which highlights his 1994 summer tour adventures as a drum corps member. He currently resides in San Antonio, Texas.
Photo by Eric Sullano. All rights reserved.