Drum Corps International
Blue Devils, Blue Devils B win it out in Stanford
The Blue Devils perform Sunday night in Stanford, California.Photo by: Drum Corps International

Blue Devils, Blue Devils B win it out in Stanford

by Andrea Neff

In the last nine years, the Blue Devils swept the competition all but two times at DCI West in Stanford, California, and the corps managed to do it again this year.

Presenting the Shakespeare-inspired production “As Dreams Are Made On,” the reigning World Champions from Concord, California took first place Sunday night with a score of 71.400, their highest yet this season.

“We tore down the house tonight,” Blue Devils drum major Harrison Toma said. “[Stanford has] such an amazing crowd and is such a great venue year after year. That helped bring us up to our next level.”

Santa Clara Vanguard brought a taste of all seasons to the California summer with its production “Force of Nature.” Presenting selections from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” retooled by British composer Max Richter, the corps earned a score of 69.250, also its best performance thus far.

Each time the two corps faced off during the 2015 DCI Tour, the Blue Knights came out at least two-and-a-half points ahead of the Madison Scouts, but so far this season it’s been a different story.

The Madison Scouts took third place Sunday night with a score of 65.300. It was the third time in the last three days that the corps bested the Blue Knights (4th, 63.250).

“Really all that you can control is your own performance and not what the judges think,” Madison Scouts fourth-year percussionist Mike Rockwell said about the competition. “We definitely kicked it up a notch from the last show. Our goal is to crescendo through each performance and to be better than the last.”

The Academy’s (5th, 60.450) “Drum Corpse Bride” explores love and marriage and the undead, and takes some of its themes from the Tim Burton animated film “Corpse Bride.” In Stanford, the corps managed to add more than two points to its score from Saturday night in Sacramento.  

“Tonight was our first time in a big stadium,” Academy brass caption head Michael Larkin said. “It was really a great opportunity for us to get really high in the stands and see all of the little details that we need to fix moving forward.”

Pacific Crest rolled its show “The Union” into sixth place with a score of 56.550. The production pays tribute to the great American historical accomplishment of the first transcontinental railroad and is sprinkled with classic locomotive sounds.

Rounding out the World Class competition was the Mandarins (7th, 56.350) with the corps’ production “Forbidden Forest.” Just two tenths of a point behind Pacific Crest, a high point on the score sheets for the Sacramento corps was a fifth-place tie with the Academy in the Visual caption.

Competition between last year’s gold and silver medalist Open Class corps has already proved to be tight in 2016. Vying back and forth the past two nights, Blue Devils B took Fresno by five hundredths of a point while Vanguard Cadets claimed Saturday in Sacramento by the same margin.

“I can imagine the two of us fighting it out to the very end,” Vanguard Cadets director Steve Barnhill said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we went into the Open Class World Championship Finals in Michigan City neck and neck.”

Sunday night it was Blue Devils B who had the edge in the Open Class while performing its production “To the Moon.” With a winning score of 51.800, the corps took first in the Visual caption and tied Vanguard Cadets in total Music.

Vanguard Cadets (2nd, 51.150) finished just 0.65 points behind Blue Devils B while claiming first in the General Effect caption for the second night in a row. The corps’ production, “The One,” focuses on themes of power and leadership.

Golden Empire’s 2016 production titled “Music Matters” received a score of 46.150 for third place. Empire’s director Tim Heasley said the corps came into Sunday’s competition more experienced and prepared since its inaugural trip to Stanford Stadium in 2015.

“We made an effort to remember what [last year] felt like and to make sure that even with our new members in our corps this year that they were ready,” Heasley said. “They came in expecting more adrenaline and more energy, and they worked to be able to tame that and to be mature about it.”

Just before intermission, Blue Devils C moved to the popular theme from “Hawaii Five-O,” the James Bond-inspired “Skyfall,” and Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” in its production “B.D.P.D.” The corps took fourth place with a score of 38.900 to finish out the Open Class portion of the competition.

Contributing: Christina Mavroudis