DCI.org's Michael Boo had the opportunity to chat with Blue Devils brass arranger Wayne Downey during the corps' 50th anniversary banquet Aug. 3.
Wayne Downey, one of the best known arrangers and instructors in the drum corps activity, has been with the Blue Devils since 1973. Prior to that, he marched as a member of the Santa Clara Vanguard in 1969, "aging out" in 1972 with the group not just marching as a corps member, but also teaching the brass section as an instructor. According to Downey, who is a Drum Corps International Hall of Fame member, what has evolved greatly over his decades of drum corps experience is the technical information that instructors are able to provide to the corps members. "The members come to us better prepared because the entire drum corps and marching band activity has evolved, [especially in] what we ask them to do from a physical point of view," he said. Downey says these demands on the performers have trickled down to high school marching bands so that now the performers are coming out of high schools and other programs with more competencies. "Now we have to develop new techniques to take their level of excellence to new places." As for what Blue Devils as an organization have stood for over the decades, Downey believes that, "The Blue Devils have been about reinventing the wheel including looking at what we can do better than we've never done before and setting new standards. The students have gotten better, the activity has evolved and we have evolved our techniques and curriculum to approach new standards as we've moved forward." Seeing so many of his students at the corps' 50th anniversary celebration brought back a lot of good memories for Downey. "What really touched me was watching the past years' students watching this year's students succeed. I could see the thrill and tears in their eyes reliving their past and the joy of the experience they had being members of the Blue Devils."