It was a clear, warm night at Middle Tennessee State University's Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn. when the Blue Devils swept the competition Friday, July 30. Now boasting a score of 95.30, the corps has gained strong competitive momentum leading into Saturday's DCI Premier Event at the Atlanta Georgia Dome. "It was a really good vibe," said 19-year-old front ensemble veteran Paige Bartholomew. "The crowd was amazing, sideline to sideline filled with people. It gave us a lot of energy. We definitely nailed it today." As a two-day format featuring all World Class corps in 2009, Drum Corps International re-introduced the popular top eight competitive lineup for the 2010 Masters of the Summer Music Games presented by the Pearl Corporation. Taking advantage of the chance to face all of their toughest competition in one night, members of Blue Devils are continuing to strive for perfection, and their primary obstacle to that goal is the corps itself. "For the pit, our main goal has just been to be as tight together as we can and communicate effectively," said Bartholomew. "I think competitively, we always say that we shoot for a perfect score…as a corps and individually, I think everybody wants to be able to perform to that higher level."
Over the last two days, excitement has grown to a fever pitch over the tight competition from second to fourth place in the standings. For the second night in a row, the Bluecoats (2nd, 93.55) topped the third place Cavaliers (93.10), improving their score by more than 1.5. "It was a good feeling, but I guess I wouldn't say that it necessarily affected how we did tonight," said tuba player Joshua Munoz about winning Thursday night in Gadsden, Ala. "We didn't go in [to Murfreesboro] with any expectations. We did the best we could and laid it out there on the field." What is driving the Bluecoats in competition right now? Munoz says members' energy on the field is high, with the corps getting hungry to improve on past rankings. "Obviously we'd like to keep our standing in the top three, but really we're just trying to build on every performance that we've got so that we can really max this thing out. Come Finals night, we want to make sure there was nowhere left to take this program."
Carolina Crown (4th, 92.35) also improved its score, holding its own amidst the grueling competition in the top five. The Cadets (5th, 90.90) are poised at the edge of the 91-point mark, entertaining the audience with "Toy Souldier." The performances of close competitors Santa Clara Vanguard (6th, 88.75) and Phantom Regiment (7th, 89.50) also wowed the vast Murfreesboro crowd tonight. Though Phantom Regiment's drum line lost its first-place standing, the corps is fighting hard to stay among the top contenders. Finishing out the World Class competition in Murfreesboro were the Boston Crusaders (8th, 84.95). After topping the Blue Stars for the final spot in the Masters and later falling to them in Gadsden on Thursday, the two corps have battled each other not only this season, but in years past. Crusaders bass drummer James Neblett isn't shying away from the friendly competition: "Yeah, we hop and play leap-frog [with the corps], we know it's going to happen, but we're very firm believers that we will overcome at the end. We're coming for them just like always, every night." Neblett said the corps had another great run Friday after a tough few days rehearsing and performing in less than ideal weather conditions. "We haven't even been to this [top eight] show in five years, so it's a great feeling getting on the field and then just throwing down."
Kicking off the beginning of Friday evening's event was local Nashville-based Music City receiving a score of 76.40. Storming into the Open Class scene in 2009, this sophomore group has high hopes for the upcoming World Championships. "Competitively we definitely want to make it to the Finals in August," said rookie drum major Billy Vandelinder. "But beyond that, we want to have the best time that we possibly can—become a stronger family as a corps and entertain the crowd as much as possible." As both Open and World Class corps work to maximize every minute of rehearsals in the season's last weeks, corps members will also continue to strengthen friendships they've been building since the winter. "My favorite part of the season has been making a close connection with all of the members knowing that we've all got that same foundation in music and the want to perform and entertain," said Vandelinder. "We've got so much left to do, and I definitely think it's going to get done." Contributing to this report: Johnny Gilbert, Chris Weber