2014 DCI Champions

Photo by Ken Martinson/Marching.com

The 2014 Drum Corps International World Championships broke new ground. The Blue Devils received a record score with “Felliniesque” to win its 16th gold medal. The Bluecoats defied standards and norms with “Tilt” while The Cadets explored the spirit of our country with “Promise: An American Portrait.”

World Class

The Blue Devils Set Records

The Blue Devils from Concord, Calif., made history at the DCI World Championship Finals on Aug. 9 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Its first-place victory marked the group’s 16th gold medal, more than any other drum corps. The ensemble also achieved a record score of 99.650 as well as caption awards for best general effect, best visual performance, best color guard and best brass performance.

“We’ve been doing this for many years; we have pretty consistent staff and management, and the kids are very talented,” says David Gibbs, The Blue Devils executive director.

Entitled “Felliniesque,” The Blue Devils’ show depicts the influence of film director Federico Fellini whose style blended desire, dreams, fantasy and memory in works such as “8-1/2” and “La Dolce Vita.” Set to the music of Nino Rota, Danny Elfman, Gordon Goodwin and Maury Yeston, The Blue Devils’ performance brings Fellini’s cinematic vision to life.

While the Blue Devils members always work incredibly hard, this past season was particularly challenging. “Every 10 years, we reinvent ourselves and prioritize what we do as a corps,” Gibbs says. “We refocused on teaching abilities, reinventing methods and using technology. With that focus, we put a challenge in front of us. I think that’s what made this season unique.” For instance, The Blue Devils implemented a health and wellness program and used iPads and GoPro cameras at rehearsals.

The members’ dedication certainly paid off during the DCI World Championship weekend. “It was awesome,” Gibbs says. “They felt like they did the best job they’ve ever done.”

The victories were exciting for The Blue Devils, but the fact that the members gave their absolute best performance was the best reward for Gibbs. “We have to stay true to our beliefs,” he says. “We achieved what we needed to achieve, and everything else was icing on the cake.”

Gibbs believes that all the members and staff of The Blue Devils aided in their victory. “What makes [The Blue Devils] special is they’re not individuals,” he says. “They approach this as a total performing ensemble that depends upon themselves and each other. The fact that they look at themselves as 150 strong and not 10 or 30 or a section makes them elevate to a place they never have been and never will be again.”

The Bluecoats Tilted Perception

The Bluecoats from Canton, Ohio, managed to tilt the final results in its favor at the DCI World Championships. After trailing in third place behind The Cadets for the entire competition, the Bluecoats’ final performance bumped the group up to second place, earning the corps its first silver medal with a score of 97.175.

Set to music from composers Tyondai Braxton, Andy Akiho and Vienna Teng, the Bluecoats show, entitled “Tilt,” represented the blending of traditional rules and classical music with modern technology and contemporary sounds. After the music was chosen, the idea for the prop—orange inclined platforms—came about.

“We knew we wanted to use a prop and have the prop be a major part of the show,” says Bluecoats executive director David Glasgow. “[It was] through the discussion of what the music could sound like and what the prop could do that led us to the idea of ‘Tilt.’”

The Bluecoats’ preparation throughout the season was worthwhile during its final performance. “We were on cloud nine,” Glasgow says. “The members were just tremendously excited. Everyone knew we had had the performance of the year, and that’s really what you shoot for on finals day.”

The Bluecoats were honored to have won the silver medal. “The other corps we were competing against were so exciting all year long,” Glasgow says. “The quality of the top five was through the roof.” Glasgow also received the Dr. Bernard Baggs Leadership Award.

While the victory was exciting, Glasgow says it was not the most important part of the competition. “At the end of the day, the performance of a lifetime is the most important thing,” he says. “The awards are just icing on the cake.” In terms of the future, the Bluecoats do not have any definite plans. “This year was great, but we’re not going to try to let this year influence what we do next year too much,” Glasgow says. “We want to do the very best show we can and let it go from there.”

The Cadets Showed Patriotism

The Cadets, a program of Youth Education in the Arts from Allentown Pa., gave a patriotic show entitled “Promise: An American Portrait,” featuring past presidential inauguration speeches.

The Cadets’ show was unique in its integration of narration. “We had done narration off and on for the last 10 years but not this extensively where it was so critical,” says George Hopkins, The Cadets executive director. “The biggest challenge was trying to make that work and trying to make sure that the music and voice had its place.”

The Cadets worked tirelessly all season, earning the bronze medal with a score of 96.875. Hopkins says that the medal was appreciated, but he was slightly disappointed with the outcome. “I’ve been around a long time, and I knew the judging panel, I knew the dynamics of the evening, I knew it was a good possibility we’d end up in third,” he says. “[Third place] is not going to have a huge impact on life, but in that moment when everyone cheers for the other team, it’s disappointing for an 18- or 19-year-old kid,” he says.

In general, though, Hopkins says he is pleased with this season. “It’s not just about winning another championship,” he says. “It’s about the journey and what [the members] learn along the way and the memories they create.”

Other Awards

Santa Clara (Calif.) Vanguard placed fourth in World Class finals with a score of 96.075. The percussion performance in its show, “Scheherazade,” secured the corps with the best percussion award.

Phantom Regiment from Rockford, Ill., placed seventh with a score of 91.425. Drum major David Warren earned the Jim Jones Leadership Award. Read his story on page 36.

Open Class

Blue Devils B Reclaimed Gold

The gold medal is not so “nouveau” for The Blue Devils B (BDB) Drum and Bugle Corps, which won its fourth title on Aug. 5 at the 2014 DCI Open Class Finals in Michigan City, Ind. Its final score, 82.650, was one point higher than silver medalist Vanguard Cadets. BDB also brought home the caption awards for best brass performance, best general effect, best visual performance and best percussion performance.

The BDB program, “Noir [nuvo],” brought the noir era to life by exploring the hallmarks of the classic film style with a unique present-day twist.

The experience and dedication within the membership was advantageous during the final championship performance. The Blue Devils B members “felt fulfilled,” Odello says. “They worked really hard all year for that, exceptionally hard. To be able to get that fulfillment and have that success at the end of the season, it makes all the hard work and effort … worth it.”

Vanguard Cadets Took Silver

The Vanguard Cadets from Santa Clara, Calif., earned the silver medal at the Open Class finals with a score of 81.650. Its show, “The Road Not Taken,” explores some of life’s moments when following your heart and leaping into the unknown can make all the difference.

Once the theme was chosen, Vanguard Cadets director Steve Barnhill ensured that the corps members experienced the physical journey throughout their entire season, including when they were on the tour bus. “We drove straight across to Iowa then up to Michigan [during the day],” Barnhill says. “We experienced a lot of the countryside that they wouldn’t have seen at night.”

Though Barnhill believes that the final performance was the best of the year, winning the silver medal was bittersweet for the corps. “We were in it to win it,” Barnhill says. “Our aim was to win, so it was a little bittersweet.”

Barnhill was not disappointed, however, in how the corps performed. “It was a good performance,” he says. “It was strong and exciting. It was electric on the field.”

Plans for the Vanguard Cadets’ 2015 season are already in the works. “We’re already looking at what we want to do next year—different colors, patterns, costuming, music, theme decisions, etc.,” Barnhill says. “In a month from now, we’ll have the theme for next year and our plan in place.”

Genesis Defended Title

After trailing in fourth place behind the Spartans, Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps from Austin, Texas, was thrilled to take home the bronze medal for the second year in a row at the 2014 Open Class Finals with a score of 77.900. Its program, “The Art of Darkness,” depicts a journey from the light of reality into the dark world of madness.

“We originally started with a plan [that was] light and jovial,” says Genesis director Chris Magonigal. “After six months, I wasn’t into it.”

Changing its show in May took a lot of hard work and persistence from the members. “We really went into this season thinking we needed to write and teach at a World Class level,” Magonigal says. “When we changed the music, we didn’t change that mentality.”

Along with the bronze medal, Genesis drum major John Filippone also received the Jim Jones Leadership Award for the hard work and dedication displayed to his corps throughout the season.

Magonigal calls Genesis’ final performance in Michigan City, “The best of the season.” He also adds,“ [The members had] a determination that I had not seen in our program in the past.”

Next year, Genesis plans to bring “The Phantom of the Opera” to the field. “We really are looking to take an old-school approach and bring a great production of ‘Phantom’ back to the gates.”

Other Awards

The Spartans, in fourth place with a score of 77.025, received the best color guard award. Tim Rall from 7th Regiment received the best director of the year award. Most Improved Corps went to the Racine Scouts, which landed in 13th place after Open Class prelims.

About The Author

Liz Wright is an editorial intern at Halftime Magazine. She is a senior at the University of Cincinnati (UC) studying creative writing, communications and journalism. She marched trumpet for five years in the Kenston High School Marching Band in Bainbridge, Ohio, and for three years in the UC Bearcat Marching Band. After graduation, Liz hopes to pursue a career in copyediting.

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