Blue Devils B secured their second Open Class Champion title in a row Saturday, Aug. 14 in Lucas Oil Stadium, leaping above the competition by more than three points with a score of 97.55. "It feels just as great as last year, honestly," said Drum Major Eddie Pineda, who also won the Open Class Jim Jones Leadership Award. "We worked just as hard, if not harder, and it paid off once again. I'm savoring this moment." The Blue Devils B received many other accolades besides a back-to-back Open Class victory. Their program, "Space," earned the Fan Network Fan Favorite Award, proving that a technically advanced show can still win over the hearts of audiences. The corps also swept the Percussion, Brass, Visual and General Effect captions, losing only the Color Guard caption, which went to the third place Spartans. Blue Devils B Director Rick Odello also won the title of Director of the Year. Odello's main source of pride, however, came not from the titles, but from the achievements of the members themselves.
Blue Devils B
Blue Devils B celebrate their win during the Open Class Finals Finale.
"The corps was fabulous today – they have been all year. And consistent," Odello said. "The activity is so challenging, you can never let yourself down. We wanted to have the best performance of the year. We wanted to keep walking up that ladder, improving our performances every time. They've been motivated and driven all year toward perfection. I'm so proud of them. They never let down one bit." Although no other corps could close the gap in scores, plenty of excitement set this year's Open Class Finals event apart: the Oregon Crusaders' highest placement in its history, the re-emergence of Spartans, Colt Cadets' and Music City's first forays into Finals, and Finals appearances by three new corps, each in their first seasons of Open Class competition. The Oregon Crusaders (2nd, 94.00) have been members of Open Class since 2004. Until this year, the corps had placed as high as 4th and achieved its highest score of 93.025 in 2008. But in 2010, the Pacific Northwest corps shattered expectations with the best record in their history.
Blue Devils B
"This is definitely the best placement, maybe the best drum corps we've put together, and the best staff. I couldn't be happier about how well we've done on the Championship road," said Oregon Crusaders Corps Director Mike Quillen. "I feel the corps members had the best show in the corps' history. I want to thank them for persevering through all the trials we have had this season." First year drum major Kaleigh Hull, 18, enjoyed watching corps members in different sections slowly bond and become close over the course of the season. "We had a lot of different levels of skill at first, but everybody really pushed through. Toward the end, everybody was on the same page and really just gave it everything they had." An exciting development for the Open Class was the return of the Spartans (3rd, 93.60). Rather than easing their way back into the tour after a year of inactivity in 2009, the corps surged to the Top 3 and won the Color Guard caption.
"It's been pretty emotional for the LaFlamme family who started the corps, and for all of us who taught there for a very long time beforehand," said Spartans Director Rich Rigolini of the corps' return to Open Class. "It's kind of like coming home. It's a good feeling." Drill Designer Gilles Ouellette was equally proud of the corps members' ability to start anew and prove they could maintain in Open Class. "We weren't sure what we were going to be at the end of the year because it was re-grouping with new kids. Things started to happen in June, you could feel it. Once we got on tour, we knew we had something special. They applied all the things that we taught them. They grew and became great human beings, giving their best." Revolution (4th, 92.20) improved their score by more than four points from Semifinals, elevating the corps to a new level of achievement for the season. "Overall we did a great job," said second-year baritone Crhistian Salina. "I talked to the horn line members beforehand and told them don't worry about the scores and just go out there and have your best performance ever. Have no regrets whatsoever. Just go out there and have fun, and that's what we did."
"It's been a wild ride. The old saying that it's not the destination but the journey really holds true this year," said Revolution Director Johnny Rodriguez. "From [rehearsal] camp season to all-days to being on tour, I've never seen a closer group. I've never seen a group that's come so far from where we started to where we're ending. They just amazed me everyday. There was not a moment that I walked out on the field that they weren't pushing and striving for success and their ultimate performance. That's all you can ask." In another flip-flop in the Open Class standings, the Raiders (5th, 89.15) topped Music City who had beaten them on Friday. Bass drum rookie Casey McCrea confirmed that the performance was much better than the previous day and even called it the best of the season. "I think there was a lot of hype," said McCrea of the corps' mindset before the Finals performance. "We did the corps song, and we got in all these huddles. They're our little hype things [that] just got everyone in a good mood." But he also stressed the importance of avoiding drastic changes in the corps' mental preparation before the season's last performance: "I actually tried to make sure my mindset wasn't much different, you know because you perform how you practice. Just do it the same way."
Music City (6th, 88.50) improved by more than two points Saturday in their first Open Class Finals appearance in corps history. Director Jamie Blackburn said the corps began touring in the blistering heat of Southern and Southwestern states. Prior to their show at Lucas Oil Stadium, Blackburn motivated Music City members with an early-season flashback. "I reminded them of the days on the asphalt parking lot at our rehearsal space in Nashville when it was 100 degrees there, and how they got to perform in Lucas Oil Stadium in a nice controlled environment to a wonderful crowd that enjoyed and loved what we did." The corps philosophy? "Our first goal is to do something we enjoy doing and then doing something that the crowd enjoys watching us do," Blackburn said. Another switch in the standings occurred when 7th Regiment (7th, 86.90) retook the 7th-place spot after dropping to 8th below Legends on Friday. "It was the best run of the season and a great way to end my marching career," said tenor drummer age-out Jeff Langan. "It all just 'clicked' at the right times."
7th Regiment also made the Open Class Finals last season, finishing in 11th place. This year, a strong core of veteran members, such as Langan himself, helped bring the corps to a stronger finish in 2010. "Definitely the vets have helped a lot. We've been through a lot as a corps through our history, and being able to bring that [veteran base] with us pushed the rookies to greater heights." Though Legends (8th, 86.20) fell by one placement, the corps improved its score by almost a full point and improved from its 10th place position at the Finals in 2009. Since its start in 2006, this relatively new corps has improved steadily in competition, building a core of returning members and inspiring new members to persevere. "I thought we had a very good rehearsal week," said first year tuba player Dylan Mullen. "The staff was telling us, 'This is your last week, you need to make the best of it and put forth everything you have.'" As a new member, Mullen predicted that he'd have to work hard, but he picked up several life lessons during his season with Legends. "It taught me discipline and not to give up on something. Though sometimes you're holding your horn for five minutes and it weighs 40 pounds it doesn't matter, you still have to hold it for five minutes. You can't let go; you have to keep pushing or else you just let your own self down."
"My heart is in drum corps now; I've watched drum corps for four or five years and I thought, you know what, I'm going to do it. I graduated high school, I'm going to do it. So I did it, and it was the best decision I've ever made." Two new Open Class corps from Texas, Genesis (9th, 84.00) and Forte (10th, 82.90) made their way into Finals in their inaugural seasons. Rick Mendoza of Genesis' educational staff was amazed at how much members improved throughout the summer, especially during the last weeks. "I had to go home and work [for a week], and I came back right after the Quarterfinals; everything was completely different, for the better," Mendoza said. Many Genesis members, according to Mendoza, were only 15 or 16 years old and hadn't been more than a few hours away from home before becoming involved with the corps. Others were woodwind players who converted themselves to brass instrumentalists. "We have a lot of very young members, and just seeing them mature as players and as people has been something else," Mendoza said. "I think [the members] just finding each other's strengths, drawing from each other's strengths, and all the time they spent together made the difference. We're so proud of these kids."
"This season has been unreal," said trumpet player Samantha Ortega. "I don't know how we got this far – it wasn't even a thought in our minds when we started it. We just wanted to have a show. It's like a Cinderella story. The minute I put my horn down, I started crying, because we put so much work into it. This has been way more than we expected. It has been a roller coaster ride – but it was so worth it in the end. I had an amazing experience – this is my family." For Forte (10th, 82.90), another first-year corps from Texas, this was a brand-new experience with a corps comprised almost entirely of new members. Program Coordinator Carl Diefenbech said members had adjusted to the conditions of performing indoors after Semifinals. "They were a little nervous [Friday] being in the stadium, since only two or three members have performed here. They are all brand new." Yesterday they were tentative and nervous. And today was a lot more emotional, which we needed, and technical. I think they maxed the show which is all we could ask for." As for the culmination of the season in the Finals competition, Diefenbech said Forte members bounced back from an early but slow start. "Maybe before the season started, I may not have envisioned them in Finals. But when I first got with them in June, I knew they had a chance. I saw the talent level and the strong staff – younger, but committed."
Founded in 1967, the Colt Cadets (11th, 82.30) achieved a milestone by making the Finals for the first time in their long history. According to Director Vicki Schaffer, Colt Cadets members were in awe of the chance to perform on the final day of competition. "It's all new and super exciting, yet many of them have never known what it is to be a finalist. The corps members especially don't know the process, the routine. Every step of the way has been a shock-and-awe experience for them and a momentous moment for us." With the average age of 15, Colt Cadets had no age-outs this season. "Our objective is to move them up if that is what they want to do," Schaffer explained. Rounding out the Finals competition were the Velvet Knights (12th, 76.15), concluding another successful season with their second Finals appearance in a row. The corps kicked off the morning's Open Class competition with the 2010 edition of "Magical Mystery Tour." Trumpet soloist and age-out James Tubner, who has been with the corps since Velvet Knights returned in 2007, didn't want his marching career to end. "I wish I could go back to 2007 and have four more years with this amazing corps. I could have gone anywhere and there is no place I'd have rather been than with my fellow Knights." Visual Caption Head and Program Coordinator John Murray related the corps' progress throughout the season. "It started slow, but these performers really pushed at the end. Even before we got onto the field, we told them it's not about the judges, the scores or the placements – this performance is just about them." View scores from this event. Contributing to this report: Ryan Cain, Amy Fallon, Johnny Gilbert, Jeff Hartowicz, Christina Mavroudis, Sid & Linda Unser, Chris Weber.