Drum Corps International
And This time we're gonna do it right: A First-person account of the 1989 Santa Clara Vanguard

And This time we're gonna do it right: A First-person account of the 1989 Santa Clara Vanguard

by Drum Corps International

Each weekday before the DCI 2005 Classic Countdown, we'll be running first-person accounts of the seasons and the shows that will be featured in that event. Here's the final installment: By Rafael Rodriguez There are so many Vanguard performances that could have been chosen for this historic occasion. I would not be in this position if it were not for the legacy of excellence that came before me. 1989 was a special year, but in many ways it was just another year in the history of Vanguard. SCV lives by its traditions and philosophies including a strong consistent commitment to excellence and personal integrity, regardless of the outcome. This year we were fortunate to be recognized AND rewarded. I am honored to have been a part of the Santa Clara Vanguard and of drum corps history.

The Santa Clara Vanguard in 1989.
One more time "We're gonna do it again, and this time we're gonna do it right." These were the famous words of our legendary corps director, Gail Royer, at the beginning of our second season with the "Phantom of the Opera" show. The '89 SCV corps was young but experienced. In 1988, we were almost a brand new corps, but had to grow up fast. 1987 had left us with many ageouts and big shoes to fill. 1988 was rough early on, and things did not look good, but we worked hard and timed our efforts and performance on the night of finals. We had many returning members in '89. Had we not come so far and gotten so close in 1988, I don't think we would have attempted the show again the next year but Gail had faith in us and knew we had unfinished business. The Show We focused on the emotion and mood of the show. We took out the fluff of the previous year and added dissonance, tension, dynamics and emotion to the arrangement. Our visual staff explained how easy it was to wow people or make them laugh, but to make someone feel moved or cry was a completely different type of performance. The show was nearly flawless in design and orchestration from the beginning. Still, improvements were continuously made and details were perfected. Execution was good, but took a while to reach our standards, and was never to our complete liking, but the overall show design, emotion and intensity is what sold our performance to the crowd and won their hearts. The color guard did a great job of setting the mood and feeling throughout the show and was critical to our success as was the technically superior drum line. The Masks One night I was pulled from a rehearsal to meet with Gail and the visual staff. I was asked to try on a plastic Halloween-type "Phantom of the Opera" mask. They cut the nose and cheek off the mask and put white "nose coat" (think: life guard nose cream) on my face then and asked me to march outside under the lights to see how it looked. From 20-30-40 yards away and in the dark, they said it looked fine. I knew this would not work. I could only imagine how SCV would appear at warmups with white paint on our noses and cheeks when we did not have the mask on. I created a better prototype of the mask, made from plaster mesh soaked in hot water, and formed to the face covered with medical casting tape. I showed the new mask to Gail and he approved it. He also put me in charge of making the masks for the entire horn line and drum line for the rest of the year. I made close to 400 masks that summer, including the full mask used at the end of the show. Ask any member how hot that water was. LOL! Many lost much of their right eyebrows to the sticky mesh that season. Sorry guys (kinda). The Final curtain The night of 1989 DCI Finals was an emotional rollercoaster. The bus ride to the stadium was silent except for the soundtrack to "Phantom of the Opera" playing in the bus. There's nothing like Michael Crawford at the end of the CD to raise your intensity and emotional level. Our warmup session was also quieter than usual. When we entered the tunnel and heard the huge roar that Phantom Regiment received, we knew we were in for a test of character that night. We completed our show and left every ounce of emotion on the field. The crowd loved it and so did we. It is always Vanguard's mission to perform for the audience and let the scores "take care of themselves," but we were still curious. And the winner is? The awards ceremony and retreat felt like it took forever. No pressure. Vanguard had just taken second place the last four years in a row, two third-place finishes before that, and another second place prior to that. We had been dominant throughout the season, similar to 1987. We knew anything could happen with the scoring and we had seen it all. They finally announced the Cavaliers in third place. We knew it would be between us and the Phantom Regiment, who had a stellar finals performance. We prepared for the next corps to be announced and the crowd got silent, then it came over the loud speaker after a long pause. "For the first time in drum corps history ..." What? A tie? No. It was a new drum major award, and it went to the Phantom Regiment drum major. The crowd let out big sighs, covering our own collective sigh on the field. Then, the moment of truth: "And in second place ... the Ssssantom Regiment ..." I know I heard the announcer mispronounce the word "Phantom." Ask anyone there. I'm sure it must have been the cheap microphone the announcer had, but I thought they were calling Santa Clara in second (again). So did many in the crowd. It took an extra minute to sink in that we had actually won, and with a record score of 98.8. Gail Royer Personally, 1989 was such an emotional win because I knew how it meant to Gail and our recent alumni to bring home the championship. It would turn out to be Gail Royer's last legacy moment to an activity that he dedicated his life to and ultimately could not live without. The memory of Gail conducting "Send in the Clowns" at the victory concert is a moment few were lucky to witness. For me, the memory of Gail conducting a private rehearsal of "Music of the Night" will be my fondest memory with a horn in my hand. With Gail conducting, you couldn't always find (beat) "one," but time didn't matter when your heart and soul was into it. Santa Clara Vanguard: "You alone can make my song take flight ..." Rafael "Maskmaker" Rodriguez
irafael@yahoo.com address
Santa Clara Vanguard, Lead Soprano
B-Corps 1985
A-Corps 1988, 1989, 1990
Visual staff 1992
Alumni corps 1997, 2002 Rafael Rodriguez lives in Santa Clara, Calif., and will be attending the DCI Classic Countdown in Dublin, Calif.

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