Since 1967, the Santa Clara Vanguard has energized and entertained audiences who have been blown away by the corps' precision and excellence. This excellence is easy to quantify -- the corps has advanced to every single Drum Corps International finals. They are the only corps in existence to accomplish this, and this week the Vanguard will celebrate their 35th anniversary. "The Santa Clara Vanguard has been an outstanding example of organizational leadership among the Drum Corps International member corps," said Drum Corps International executive director Dan Acheson. "They have amazed audiences throughout their existence with brilliant design and impeccable precision. All one needs to do is talk to a Santa Clara Vanguard alumnus as well as a current member, and you realize you are in the presence of a champion," Acheson said.The corps' winning ways are a tradition that even Vanguard insiders can find intimidating. Mitch Rogers, the Vanguard's 2002 program coordinator, said, "The tradition and history of the Vanguard was somewhat awe-inspiring to me. To get a call to join their team, it gives me a chance to contribute to their long tradition and history, and I see that as a big challenge." Rogers is in his first year with the Santa Clara Vanguard. Previously he worked for the Cavaliers for 10 years. Dan Vannatta, general manager of the Vanguard, marched in the original inception of the corps in 1967. He says that the values that are taught to the corps today are the same values he was taught when he was marching. "A lot of the things that are (taught now) were here when I was marching in the late '60s and early '70s. Those values and traditions drive us -- the tradition and the excellence has been upheld in this organization," Vannatta said. Specifically, he said the values are "about personal satisfaction, and about striving to be the best that you can be," Vannatta said. "I'm extremely proud to be part of another anniversary celebration," said corps director Rick Valenzuela, who has been involved with the Vanguard for 17 years. Valenzuela started teaching the corps in 1990 – he marched with the Vanguard prior to that. Vannatta echoed Valenzuela's assessment. "It gives me a lot of pride to be associated with them," Vannatta said.The Vanguard also draws the respect of fellow drum corps competitors like the Blue Devils. "Santa Clara is our closest drum corps neighbor," said Blue Devils corps director David Gibbs. "The Blue Devils respect their organization. We learned a lot in our early years from Santa Clara. Without Santa Clara, we would not have developed as quickly," Gibbs said, citing the early help and encouragement that the Blue Devils received from Santa Clara staffers like the Vanguard's first director, the late Gail Royer. "They drove us to have that sense of quality, perfection and excellence. They are an excellent organization," Gibbs said.This week, the Vanguard is celebrating with a spaghetti dinner at Vanguard Hall in Santa Clara on Wednesday night. The Madison Scouts of Madison, Wis., will be attending this party. The Vanguard, the Vanguard Cadets and the Vanguard Alumni Corps will perform at the dinner.More than 170 Santa Clara alumni are participating in the Santa Clara Alumni Corps this summer. That group will perform this weekend as part of the "Weekend of Champions" shows, as well as at Drum Corps International World Championships in Madison, Wis., on Aug. 10. Happy 35th anniversary Vanguard!
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