Check out the Division II & III Grand Finals photo gallery.
Teal Sound
By Chris Weber After five long years with Teal Sound, Evan Machnic, a 21-year-old contra player was excited to put their season to a close this morning, after coming off the field speechless and out of breath. "It was the most incredible thing being out there this morning," said Machnic. "It's just so neat being out there and performing for all these people and them loving it. Just looking at how much work we've put in all season and it's finally paying off and we are getting credit for that work." If there is one point that Machnic wants to stress to the DCI public, he would want people to break down the difference between Division I and Division II and III competition. "Our show shows that Division III can still be as fun a show as Division I and sometimes even more competitive . We like to go out there and work as hard as everyone else does." Yamato
By Christina Mavroudis This year Yamato presented "Clock Works" – a theme based on timepieces. Yamato's home base is shared by two cities – Osaka, Japan, and Riverside, Calif., – so it is a pleasure to hear that the drum majors are from those two areas, sharing the international duties of a corps. For Eddie Linnett, 19, a first-year trumpet, some of his favorite memories are sharing the bicultural experience. "First time we got together as a whole corps, we went to the airport to pick up the rest of the corps coming in from Japan. It was weird that the rest of the corps didn't speak the same language. When we first moved in it was Japanese here and Americans there. But after a week, we started getting together and integrated. That was July 14th." 19-year-old snare section leader Gabe Dulek agrees about the cultural experiences. "I'm the only American in my section – that's kind of interesting and I learned a little Japanese. Their sense of humor is different. It's unique. Americans are always telling jokes and a drum tech told a stupid joke – and translated just didn't work in Japanese. Japanese have a much better work ethic. Up earlier to shower. Motivates you to work harder." Linnett agrees. "I marched Division I two years ago, but this is my first time in Divison III. Didn't expect this. The way rehearsals are run and the language barrier was tough the first couple of days." Dulek, a second- year member who got involved with the corps by sharing the same caption head (Matt Altmire), says the corps is younger this year with an average age of about 17. However, he says they had a very positive year. "Coming off the field, we knew we had done the best we possibly could. Our best was better than what other Division 1 corps have done in the past. We actually won drums at our second show. This was the first time since Yamato started in 97 that we won a caption." Learning how to speak Japanese was one of Linnett's best memory. "Chocalete dyske!" he said, which means, "I love chocolate!" For Dulek, ending the season today "Felt pretty good. It's been a fun long season where it all paid off today. It was a lot easier being my second year. Still, the weather was nicer so that was good. Being in Yamato is harder than most because our season is condensed into three weeks. You have to learn it fast." Jersey Surf
By Christina Mavroudis It's all about entertainment and educating its members. Jersey Surf's show today was a lounge lizard adventure from Edie to Elvis. Changed from all their shows this season? A large roulette wheel that the DM spun at the end of their show. With the audience cheering on, the choices were two: Finish the show or take the penalty. Though it landed on "Finish the Show," and the audience groaned, the DM shrugged his shoulders and placed the arrow on "take the penalty." Amid the zaniness, the musicians pushed up to the fence and played their hearts out. They took the penalty. During the age-out ceremony after semifinals yesterday, 22-year-old Peggy Smires, a five-year cymbal player with Jersey Surf, left a nine-page letter detailing her feelings about moving on. Discovered by the clean up crew, it fell into the hands of this reporter who was touched by her obvious love of the activity. After coming off the field at the Grand Finals, Smires was keeping her emotions in check, but just for a bit. The realization hitting her as she pulled her thoughts together. Wearing a white flower sprig like all four age-outs in JS, Smires loved her performance today with a caveat. "It was a surreal time on the field." Last night in addition to the letter, she left cymbals straps – perfect for the section leader. "Any regrets, there are none. There are times you think you could have done something differently or taken a different path. But I know now there isn't anything I could have done I aged out with people I should have aged out with. It's an incredible family and staff." Smires has plenty of good things to say about her corps. "Jersey Surf is the most incredible organization focused on making members better people. Made me think about things I do. Our goal is not about being the best marcher but really not wasting opportunities. You've wasted an amazing opportunity to learn from other people if you just concentrate on marching. You find out about yourself." She was shocked that someone actually read her letter. "I sat down and just started writing in the gym – basically a flow of thoughts - but had to move into the girls locker room when they had lights out," Does she have a specific memory after five years? "How do you pick one after five years?" she asked rhetorically. One hype she did explain is the necklace around her neck. "Everyone in our line wears necklaces with a piece of cymbal. For the past four years we've made them for the line out from one cymbal with pieces from the logo. If you put all the pieces together, they form a cymbal." Recalling her career, she is philosophical. "From first to last year – over time you learn to appreciate things. First year was just hard work. I didn't appreciate it at all. It was more work than enjoyable. After a number of years, you're more mature. You soak in the things that you used hate. It's part of the journey that's so important. They tell you [championships] are the moment – but I do it for the journey. The bus rides, cheese sandwiches. That's the biggest difference." And in youthful candor came the profound: "First year it's the destination and at the end its for the journey." On the sidelines, Smires' mother hovered. Mother's point of view? "I didn't think she'd make it that first year. But she stuck it out and I'm so proud of her." With that, the two hugged. It was a wonderful journey for all. Impulse
By Christina Mavroudis Soloists do a fake out. There are duts from the guard while the drums do work. And amid the zaniness is a corps that is working on a combination of entertaining but clean work. Age-out drum major Luke Armstrong conducted the ballad from the hip – pushing the fun, but never leaving his duties. Armstrong is charter member who has devoted six years to this corps. "I did one year of cymbals (03 – wrote music and was section leader) and the rest as drum major." How does it feel to age out? "It's intense. I can't describe the feeling. It's become a part of my life and now I have to go on. It's good but kinda sad." In the opening moments, Armstrong pulls a baton from behind his back – a la Phantom Regiment. In a blaze of parody, he snaps it over his knee and begins the production. "Actually, for the last five years we've been trying to think of a fun way to incorporate something with a baton. One of our rookies came up with idea." Also during the show, during a four-count pause, there is another corps parady with a shout out of "Impulse!" from fans during a four count pause. "|We put that in this year," said Armstrong. For his personal favorite moment, "It's during the last 16 count of the show. Everyone's coming in and I see their look – so intense, not giving it up. Everything for that one moment has so much energy and I'm able to throw it back at them." Talking about the age-out experience, Armstrong has one of the more clever items ever left on a field. "Physically, I left a PB&J sandwich! All the age-outs took a bite and we left the rest on the field. I also left my first pair of white gloves. "Emotionally? I'm taking the memories with me but leaving behind all the growing up. In his final thoughts, he wants people to know, "It's great. No one knows how good we're going to be. People love us. Look out for next year!" Vanguard Cadets
By Christina Mavroudis Coming off the field, 18-year \-old Julianna Mandler, a third-year trumpet section leader with Vanguard Cadets, is exhausted. "I am very tired. It's been a very long tour. But there are no regrets." Her performance was a high-energy show."I think it was good technically too. We definitely left it on the field." Recalling the early part of the preseason, Mandler recalls, "The season was pretty slow in the beginning because we were trying to fill horn spots. It started clicking around Memorial Day camp." Her biggest memory is the Vanguard Cadets instructors telling the members, "We're one of the best Santa Clara corps because of the way we handle changes, musically and/or visually. Our show wasn't designed as a Division II show. It was created for a higher level. Mandler says she first became interested in the Vanguard back in 2001. "My first show was 2001 Pacific Procession. My sister was marching the Cadet corps and I saw the A corps come on. I was amazed by the power of their show. I wanted to be part of that and being in the Vanguard Cadet corps is the way to get there." Though this is her third year, this season has been a little different. "It was really an adventure getting here!" said Mandler. East Coast Jazz
By Christina Mavroudis With the staff going nuts on the sidelines and the audience on their feet, East Coast Jazz pushed the end of their show with a renewed energy. They were going to leave it on the field. For Sandra Labbe, a 21-year-old age out who has been with ECJ for five years in the front ensemble, "It was amazing today. We had a really good warm up ahead of time. The pit sings a song. I'm tearing up thinking about it. It was "Lean on me." We sang it our very first show and now we do that before every show. We knew this was our last chance, so we gave it all." Tonight during retreat, all the ECJ age-outs will be leaving a single rose. "Actually it's more than that," she said quietly. "You are really leaving your family. Every since I was there in 2000, we've been a corps that doesn't stop trying. We have always given our all." Memphis Sound
By Stefanie Kressaty Matt Verrette was going to skip his ageout year. The 21-year-old had already marched one year with Memphis Sound and figured he was done. Part way through the season, he got a call from Sean Fudge on the Memphis staff. After hearing the story of how Sean, too, had given up his age out season, he was convinced to finish what he started. As he marched off the field today, clutching his trumpet and wiping the sweat from his brow, Matt sighed. "I'll miss the competition. There's nothing like this." To someone thinking of marching, he says, "The summer is what you make of it. You'll get out of it what you put into it." And then some. Oregon Crusaders
By Stefanie Kressaty For Kyle Thompson of the Oregon Crusaders, this year has been full of surprises. He chose the corps' first season of DCI Championship competition as his rookie year and was rewarded with a shiny gold medal. "When I came to the corps, I knew they were young so I didn't expect a very high level of talent among them." His opinion changed, however, when he joined the horn arc. "The first time I played with this outstanding group of musicians, I was just blown away." Where does this 18-year-old go from here? "I go right back to Oregon Crusaders. Our goal is always to be at the top of our game. We'll come back next year to try and do it all again." Blue Devils B
By Stefanie Kressaty "We're all grateful every day to Rick Odello that we even have a corps today." Some people may not know that the Blue Devils B corps is the corps that almost wasn't this year. 16-year-old trumpet soloist Chelsea Strong feels strongly about this corps. "After one year, I was hooked. We entered the field today in tears together. This is the best B corps in the history of Blue Devils. We aren't 'just the B corps,' we are the Blue Devils." Considering the challenges they faced at the beginning of the year, Chels is confident when she speaks of the talent of her corps. "Our rookies were very young this year, a lot of 13- and 14-year-olds. The vets had to work hard with them and we accomplished what we did together." Blue Devils Board Member Jeff DeMello agreed. "This corps has really shown their mettle." Blue Stars
By Stefanie Kressaty For the Blue Stars' Jake Coon and Justin Soenksen, this is an emotional day. Both are 21 and aging out as drum captain and bass drum section leader, respectively. "This is a really young corps but we felt a lot of raw emotion and raw energy," says Jake. "It was a little unsettling waiting to go onto the field but when we were called to attention a calm came over us." "We put out all that we had," Justin adds. "Today was not about the scores or the points, just putting it out there with our best." Fever
By Stefanie Kressaty John and Peter Varga are Renaissance men. Peter plays tenors and John is center snare for Fever from Sacramento. The 21-year-old twins are also the guitarist and drummer for the metal band Hybrid Soul. They teach several high schools and still find time to play ice hockey. As twins often do, the brothers finish each other's sentences. Peter began, "This has given me such pride and motivation to be successful in life," and John finished, "We can transfer what we've learned and done to the real world. We know how to focus our energy and emotion to reach people." With an average age of 16 ½ in the corps, John admits the brothers found themselves the focus of much admiration from their younger counterparts. Even though this is their first and last year in the corps, corps director Lewie Wilhelm agreed with John and took it a step further. "John was really the heart of this corps. He may not have had the best hands but he has such great energy and it just propelled the rest of the corps. Where else does a kid like that belong but center snare?" The brothers have no regrets. According to Peter, "we said in the beginning, 'leave nothing – no regrets." "Yeah," John continued, "why give only 80 percent when you can give 150 percent?"
By Stefanie Kressaty Nineteen-year-old Anthony Montesion found himself at a loss for words. "Awesome – just awesome," were the words he used to sum up this season for himself and the corps. "We spent 10 long months working together, we had a lot of rookies and we have just come to the culmination of all that focus." As a third-year vet, he says he'll miss the people in this corps a lot. "The entire organization, top to bottom, members to bus drivers is just amazing. We work together towards a common goal and it brings us results." After being crowned champion already this week, the show today was like a victory run through. "This was our 'real' end to the season. Our last opportunity to perform for all these people," he smiled broadly here, "and hopefully find another medal around our necks."