Drum Corps International
A California gala for the ages
A Vanguard aussie serves as a centerpiece during a join anniversary celebration with the Blue Devils on Saturday.Photo by: Drum Corps International

A California gala for the ages

by Christina Mavroudis

On Saturday, the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency hosted two corps' anniversaries simultaneously: Santa Clara Vanguard's 50th and Blue Devils 60th. It was a night to celebrate, to rekindle friendships, remember the past while looking to the future.

The evening began with a walk down memory lane. Memorabilia from each corps—one side Santa Clara Vanguard and the other Blue Devils—were exhibited. Young and old could see Vanguard's Phantom of the Opera mask from the corps' popular 1989 production and one of the Devils' paintbrushes from 1993.  Patches, programs, uniforms, flag silks, and even all 17 Blue Devils Championship rings were on display.

For those in attendance, the gala brought out jewelry, bow ties, and corps jackets for the formal sit-down dinner. It even brought out some of DCI's finest—Executive Director Dan Acheson and DCI Hall of Famer Brandt “the voice” Crocker who guided the night's Santa Clara Vanguard program as their emcee.  Proclamations from the City of Santa Clara and State of California were presented. Even the President of the Tournament of Roses, Brad Ratliff, came out to speak as one of his last duties before retiring.

So much to celebrate this evening - so let the festivities begin! We're kicking off the 2017 Anniversary Gala with our good friends from Concord, the Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps. Check back in from time to time for updates from the event!

Posted by Santa Clara Vanguard on Saturday, June 24, 2017


Vanguard Hall of Fame member Scott Pierson talked about how the Vanguard Alumni Corps was formed, a group that will perform on Sunday in Stanford before making a trip to Indianapolis this August for the DCI World Championships. Then charter member Marilyn Modesitt Gill reminisced on the corps' early years. The Vanguard side wrapped up with 2017 age-out drum majors, Joselyne Grace and Christopher Harper explaining how the organization changed their lives.

Throughout the speeches, one could hear a highly proficient Blue Devils auctioneer blister his way through one-of-a-kind items on the other side of the banquet facility's wall.  Vanguard also offered its own auction items to help with the organization's newly launched “Building Our Future” campaign.

Once their respective celebrations were completed, that wall was literally taken down to create one large ballroom. Corps directors Charles Frost and Justin Heimbecker met in the middle while both audiences stood and applauded each other.

Within moments, the surrounding outer walls of the massive ballroom were taken over by 354 brass players from five corps: Santa Clara Vanguard, Vanguard Cadets, and all three of the Blue Devils ensembles. High upon his podium in the center, longtime Blue Devils brass caption head/arranger John Meehan led the groups through a space-chord warm-up progression. Meehan even confided that the group had never practiced this together before. One would never have known.



Blue Devils and Vanguard percussion caption heads Scott Johnson and Paul Rennick likewise introduced their percussion lines who took the way-back machine to some of the corps' early beats like “The Ditty” and “13” respectively.

Primed to perform for an enthusiastic audience and trading off pieces between the corps, the Blue Devils A corps first jammed with “Free” from the “Chicago III Suite,” which was popular with the corps in the late 1970. Vanguard countered with “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom of the Opera and Philip Glass' “The Canyon,” from the corps' 1999 World Championship-winning season. Then the “C” corps drum major directed all three Blue Devils units to perform “Chase the Clouds Away” while the Vanguard groups closed with their signature “Send in the Clowns.”

The Tommy Igo Groove Conspiracy band ended the night with a wallop, presenting drum corps inspired tunes that had even the oldest alumni and rookie corps members grooving together.

Blue or red, diamond or gold, it was a night to remember for all.

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