Drum Corps International
It was a very good year: A first-person account of the 1980 27th Lancers

It was a very good year: A first-person account of the 1980 27th Lancers

by Drum Corps International

Each weekday before the DCI 2005 Classic Countdown, we'll be running first-person accounts of the seasons and the shows that will be featured in that event. Here's the eighth installment: By Nancy Vetrano Dedicated to Darlene (Bonfiglio) Stannard -- member and co-director, 27th Lancers, 1958-2004. I was never prouder to be a 27th Lancer and in the 27th Lancers than I was in 1980. Each and every person, from corps members, to teaching staff, to support staff, to directors, made every year -- but particularly that year -- come together so beautifully. But they just seemed to be more in touch with each other, on a level that cannot be described, in 1980. Each member, whether it was their first or sixth year, had his or her own pride. As a member of the guard, I may be able to explain this to make better sense of it. I was lucky enough to follow that very special person as guard captain who I had known since about 1964.

The 27th Lancers in 1980
It is unexplainable and is one of those intangibles. You can't quite put your finger on it. She could instill in each and every person in the guard and whole corps a feeling that if you are selfless, humble, dig deep, work as hard as humanly possible, you could and would be the best you could possibly be. I had seen her year after year do that herself. The concept that year seemed very simple: Work to be at the top of your particular game and together you can be unstoppable. We went into the 1980 year with that feeling and those thoughts in mind. Be the best you can be, then add 110 percent to that and you may very well be the best in the world! We came out of the box that year literally on fire. It seemed, in my mind, that we were and would be unstoppable. It was such a prideful feeling. Certain things never needed to be said, but were done by each and every individual because each had his or her own pride, and each knew what was possible. Things that might need discussion in other years came without saying. For instance, polishing boots or shoes was just understood and done. It went without saying. We had the show, we had the talent, we had the staff, and had so much in place that items that used to need to be talked about, would simply be accomplished without discussion this year. Running back to begin the show began to be a race, a happy race, not against each other, but against your own self. Each time you ran back, you strove to make it faster than the last time. We all seemed to have that special pride that year, no competitive spirit between members within the corps, but competition against one's self. We strove to be more than we were and felt the day before. Our competitive spirit helped us become a more cohesive group, and we began to feel unstoppable. I never felt that feeling more than a weekend we were practicing in Foxboro at Schaffer Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots. Every corps member was either early or on time returning from lunch break; however, the staff were, let's say, "caught in traffic." We simply lined up, the drum major gave the dress center, and we were off, doing a run-through. I'll never forget that look on each and every one of the staff's faces, not shock, and more than pride, as the instructors started into the stadium and down the hill. I truly believe that at that point in time those 10 minutes may have defined what we might accomplish with a clear vision. Those 10 minutes reinforced the fact that a clear individual pride within each of us was telling us that we can do this, we can do this, we just did this, and we may be able to do "it all." I'm still not sure if this had been a test, but George Zingali and team had that "cat that swallowed the canary" smile -- although I believe they had that look and feeling many, many times that year.
Part 2 As far as the competition against the other corps, it was apparent early on that many corps had fantastic shows, I mean unbelievable shows, shows that could take your breath away at so many points. There were so many WOW moments during the 1980 season. I believe we did feel we had the goods, but watching and listening to the likes of the Blue Devils, Spirit of Atlanta, the Bridgemen, and so many other corps, it was very hard to believe that we would get through such competition. In Allentown that year we finally reached our stride, it was so electrifying. But this show was one week from finals, and I believe in our minds, prelims and finals of DCI East would be defining moments for us. The execution, the horn lines, drum lines, guard and general effect was astounding. Back then, during the tick system, it could go any way on any given night, which made it very interesting, but at the same time very nail-biting. It could also make it devastating, in how little you could lose by. Although it was a fabulous year, what can be said that isn't already part of history? The Blue Devils gave the performance of the year in Birmingham. They were fabulous and their show was so beautiful, and they were right on stride. They certainly had the total package, and oh what a package it was! There has been nothing in my life, after the whole experience of 1980, that has made me feel that warmth and camaraderie amongst and between all sections and areas within the organization. One mission; one focus; one year in a season of seasons that culminated in marching off the field that night in Birmingham in second place. I cried for a long time, but not on the field. I told people that were about to cry, "Not here, not on the field, there'll be plenty or time to cry later," and boy did we! As hard-core as we may have looked and acted, the heartbreak was too much to hold in. It was also one of the most difficult seasons. To have beaten the Blue Devils just one week before, then to lose by so little, was so heartbreaking.    When I got to my home in Revere, Mass., my Dad said to me, "It was a great season, you almost did it. Don't ever look back and feel sorry for yourself, think about the company you kept both on and off the field this and every year. Everyone is a winner!" He knew how difficult aging out would be, and what he said did help, and what he said was true! And oh what company I was in, and how lucky I was to have lived it!