Despite some controversies both on and off the field at this year’s Drum Corps International World championships, one thing was certain: The Blue Devils organization achieved a new level of excellence with back-to-back gold medals in both classes while other corps realized their personal bests. Take a look at this year’s gold and silver medalists as well as other notable accomplishments.
Photo by Ken Martinson/Marching.com
The Blue Devils Struck Back-to-Back Gold
The Blue Devils made history repeat itself in 2010, riding through the summer undefeated and claiming the gold medal, just as it did in 2009. The corps won its 14th gold medal definitively, with a score of 98.900—more than a full point above the silver medalist, The Cavaliers—and winning all captions except percussion performance, which went to 6th place Phantom Regiment.
“I’m so proud of the staff, the kids’ progression, the fight and the effort, for them to be able to put so much on the line,” says David Gibbs, executive director. “To do this show in this kind of environment with The Blue Devils is a huge risk. We make no bones about it; we want to be the best pageantry organization in the world.”
“Through A Glass, Darkly,” The Blue Devil’s 2010 program, is adapted from the avant-garde jazz piece “City of Glass,” written by Bob Graettinger for the Stan Kenton Orchestra. “When you’re using the term ‘through a glass, darkly,’ it’s all about trying to see something more clearly and trying to get clarity on a situation,” says Scott Chandler, program coordinator and choreographer. “Ultimately it comes down to drum corps, trying to see and get a real clarity on how drum corps can be performed and how it’s evolved and what it’s been like in the past.”
The show took awhile to set in for the performers and audiences but was ultimately well-received. “Just trying to figure out the identity of the corps was really difficult—most of the season it felt that we were scrambling to find our identity among this monster of a show,” says Amy Martz, a first-year mellophone player. “But just seeing the show transform throughout the season into this machine that was unstoppable was amazing.”
Best of the Best
Being in the A corps and winning the gold medal was a dream come true for Martz, who has been with The Blue Devils organization since 2003, previously marching in the B and C corps.
“When they made the announcement, I was just in shock; I couldn’t even cry or anything; I’ve been waiting for this moment for 10 years,” Martz says. “To be recognized as a person who is the best in the world at something is pretty rare.”
The Blue Devils staff and performers recognized that not every show appeals to everyone and that no matter who wins the medals, there will always be critics. “I think there’s been obviously a pretty large debate about The Blue Devils this year—about what we were trying to do and designing shows for one reason or another,” Gibbs says. “We really want to be able to give our members and the audience a fulfilled 11.5 minutes of an emotional, challenging, fun, intricate rollercoaster ride.”
The Cavaliers Showed Strength in a “Mad World ”
The Cavaliers and its 2010 show, “Mad World,” spent the season climbing up in the scores. At finals “The Green Machine” fended off the Bluecoats for 2nd place with a score of 97.75.
“There’s more than one meaning to the word ‘mad,’ and that’s where we were pushing everything off from,” says Adolph DeGrauwe, director and president. “Anger doesn’t always have to reflect being mad—what about our show made you mad? What about it when you walked away made you not mad anymore? What does mad mean to you, and what does it mean to us?”
The all-male corps performed a very masculine show, complete with pushups and a crowd-rousing feature that had the entire color guard and horn line spinning rifles. The group even recited part of the Marine Corps’ “Rifleman’s Creed.”
“We all loved the rifle feature; it was a blast,” says Dan Flynn, a mellophone player in his age-out year. “Hearing people start cheering just because we were doing pushups; people were almost beside themselves when we would do it.”
In September 2009, former corps director Bruno Zuccala (now with The Cadets) resigned, along with members of the color guard, percussion and brass staff.
“It felt that we were possibly going in the wrong direction; some of them disagreed with my philosophy, and they moved on,” says DeGrauwe, who at the time was president of The Cavaliers organization and a former director. “It was fine; we were able to put an awesome staff together. The members were curious about the new staff, and it was harder for the older guys, but when they talked to our brass people, they understood and accepted the new philosophy.”
One of the most important elements in the new philosophy involved practice styles. “It wasn’t that we were going to practice harder or longer; we were going to practice better,” DeGrauwe says. “We had more of the staff having control and making the decisions about who’s on the field and who’s not on the field. Our turnaround came on our Texas run in the middle of the season. That’s when everything started to kick in place.”
As an older member, Flynn set an example for the rookies. “There were a lot of staff changes, but it didn’t seem as drastic as it may have on the outside,” Flynn says. “Coming in and learning new personalities and new teachers, I understood that as a leader, I had to buy into it myself and get everyone else to as well.”
More than an Activity
Flynn has been watching drum corps since he was in his mother’s belly during the 1988 DCI World Championship. His father is a former Cavaliers drum major, and his brother also performed in the corps this year playing synthesizer.
“The Cavaliers are one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had,” Flynn says. “It’s more than just an activity; it’s a family. I aged out, but I’m definitely going to be back if nothing else to just sell T-shirts. There’s no way I’ll leave this organization.”
Blue Devils B: Encore Win
For the second year in a row, Blue Devils B (BDB) took home the gold. It received a score of 97.55—more than three points higher than the second place Oregon Crusaders— and received six out of eight caption awards. Third place Spartans received first in Visual Ensemble and Visual Color Guard. BDB’s show, “Space,” explored outer space and other definitions of the word.
“I think the inspiration was ‘The Interstellar Suite’; we came up with the concept of space, which took a lot of discussion as to what space meant,” Odello says. “We wanted to encompass more than just outer space but also an inner space, the void between notes and visual design and how it can be filled or left open.”
The show challenged and excited the members, some who were returning after last year’s winning season, but many who were new. “This year’s show was very demanding even compared to last year’s,” says Eddie Pineda, drum major. “It really pushed the members musically and physically, and it took all season up until finals to have the final product on the field. It was a beautiful thing.”
A Season of Accolades
Pineda won the Jim Jones Leadership Award, given to an outstanding drum major in each class. “The biggest challenge for me was transitioning from being an assistant drum major to a head drum major, two very different jobs.” Pineda says. “It took me a little while in the beginning, but I got the hang of things.”
Blue Devils B took home even more awards, including the DCI Fan Network Fan Favorite. “That award means a great deal to us because it means that the performance is understood by the masses and that we’re not just performing for the judges,” Odello says. “The audience appreciates the show also— and that we’re entertaining.”
Odello also was named Director of the Year in Open Class. “It means a great deal to me because that award is voted on by the other corps directors,” Odello says. “That’s a humbling experience that I take great pride in.”
Consistency in Excellence
The sweep of both World and Open Class, two years in a row, is a feat not accomplished by any other organization. “I think there’s a sense of accomplishment that again there’s a strong consistency throughout the entire organization for excellence,” Odello says. “There is a similarity and consistency of approach to all of The Blue Devil programs.”
Oregon Crusaders on Fire
It was a historic year for the Oregon Crusaders as the group earned its highest score (94.000) and placement in its history and won the silver medal.
“One of our goals was to put together one of the best corps in our history,” says director Mike Quillen. “We had very strong returning member participation, and so we wanted to take that to the next level in terms of our competitive standing and score. We also wanted to be as entertaining as possible, and I think we certainly accomplished that on those fronts.”
The show, “Dance of the Flames,” explored the different moods created by fire. “Some of those can be aesthetically beautiful or more aggressive about dancing with fire, smoke and the mood created when you’re entranced by fire, and the joy of people being together around a fire,” says Travis Modisson, brass caption head and music arranger.
According to first-year drum major Kaleigh Hull, the show truly came together during an indoor rehearsal due to a thunderstorm. “It was a show or two before quarterfinals, and there was a massive thunderstorm and lightning that came absolutely out of nowhere,” Hull says. “We were in this tiny little room where everyone was sleeping, so we pushed all our luggage and sleeping bags out of the way, and we arced it up, and we just played. We were so in tune, and everyone started to dig in to the music, and everything just clicked.”
Hot, Hot, Hot
Thunderstorms weren’t the only extreme weather the corps dealt with this summer. Bass drummer Andrew Wallner recalled one particularly hot and humid day: “It was 98 degrees with 100 percent humidity, and it was the sweatiest I had ever been in my life—the sweat was dripping off my elbows down to my feet, and there was a puddle,” Wallner says. “At end of the day, I had all these black marks on me that were bugs who had tried to drink my sweat and drowned; it was so gross.”
Overcoming those obstacles paid off for the Oregon Crusaders, whose members say they will never forget the feeling of winning that silver medal. “We were just standing there on the 50 yard-line with our hearts pounding out of our chest, and everyone just lit up because they knew it was the highest score we’ve ever gotten,” Wallner says.
About the Author
Elizabeth Geli is an editorial assistant at Halftime Magazine. She has played flute and marched at
Valencia High School in Placentia, Calif., and in the University of Southern California Trojan
Marching Band, where she is currently a teaching assistant. She has a bachelor’s degree in print
journalism and a Master’s in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from USC.