Drum Corps International
Blue Devils return to roots [06.20.2002]

Blue Devils return to roots [06.20.2002]

by Drum Corps International

This past Tuesday morning, the Blue Devils embarked on a 2,500-mile, 12-city tour that will bring them from their home base of Concord, Calif., through Atlanta to Orlando, Fla., and then north to points in Massachusetts and Rhode Island."It's a logistical nightmare moving the equipment across the country," Blue Devils corps director David Gibbs said of preparing a full corps and staff (and all their equipment) to fly across the country.That's right, they're flying. Ignoring the typical drum corps precedent of piling into buses and trucking to shows, the Blue Devils are saving time by flying for parts of their season this year. It's a trend that more and more corps are sure to follow as time goes on.Yet while the Blue Devils are paving the way for corps to take to the sky, their program this summer is taking a curious look at the past. "It's almost 'retro,' but the percussion writing -- among other elements -- makes it contemporary," said Sean Vega, a five-year Blue Devils percussion instruction veteran. "But you'll be able to hum it when you leave the stands. It's definitely a drum corps fan's show."This show represents a return to the Blue Devils' jazz roots. "We're doing some very popular jazz charts," Gibbs said. "The audience should be very accustomed to the music. The music is "very fun and uplifting, and the show is coming along well." "I think this year the Blue Devils are going back to their roots," added Jeff Lynn, 21, a sixth-year soprano player from the Devils' hometown of Concord, Calif. Lynn has marched in the Blue Devils organization for 16 years, beginning as a youngster in their B and C corps.Entitled "Jazz, Music Made in America," the set includes Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," Stephen Flaherty's "Ragtime," George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" and "Fascinating Rhythm," and the bluesy traditional "House of the Rising Sun." They're also performing a Blue Devil crowd favorite from their repertoire, Buddy Rich's "Channel One Suite."Todd Ryan, a Blue Devils marching instructor for the past eight years, called the show "Excellent. It's a blast from the past. Channel One is magical. It's just like bringing back the powerhouse Blue Devils of the past." "The music is amazing -- the music is something else," said color guard captain (and member) Jessica Allen, 21, of Hayward, Calif. Allen is marching fifth year and will be aging out after this summer."This is the strongest show in my six years with the Blue Devils A corps. The horn line has the best talent I've seen in a couple years. It's a very strong group," Lynn said. So why are the Blue Devils so confident of their program this year? Two reasons: Winter practice and athletic conditioning. "The Blue Devils are more athletic than they used to be. It makes it easier," said instructor Todd Ryan. "Half of the battle I used to run into was that kids couldn't march that fast. Now they are better specimens. They can march faster and longer."The Blue Devils have been aided by physical training specialist John Bradford this season. "He has given them complete awareness of how the body moves. Their posture is awesome," Ryan said.Meanwhile, instructor Vega cites winter conditioning as another reason why the Blue Devils are so strong this early in the season. Many of the drum line's members participate in indoor drum lines during the winter, Vega said, which "breaks down performance boundaries and makes it easier to teach them."Speaking in retro terms once again, director Gibbs cited an old-school reason why the Blue Devils are sure to be a threat this season: "They're a great group with great chemistry," Gibbs added.For more information, check out http://www.bluedevils.org

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