Drum Corps International
Taking the reins: Jeff Pearson, the SCV's new director, talks with DCI.org

Taking the reins: Jeff Pearson, the SCV's new director, talks with DCI.org

by Drum Corps International

Jeff Pearson was named the fifth director in Santa Clara Vanguard history back in early November. He recently took the time to answer these up close and personal questions about his background and plans for the corps.

Jeff Pearson
What is your drum corps background? I marched Vanguard from 1981 through 1985. I played euphonium for three years and then lead baritone for a year before aging out as drum major. In 2003 I joined the San Francisco Renegades and was a drum major for two years. I joined the marching staff at Renegades in 2004 and continued in 2005. I have also participated in the Vanguard Alumni Corps performances in 1997 and 2002 as well as the Vanguard combined corps appearance at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. Before drum corps, what has been your occupation? I worked for ADP in payroll for seven years. I started in the customer service department and then moved to new accounts doing implementation. Then I went to work for one of my ADP clients as a human resources manager. In 1999, I opened my first Papa Murphy's Take 'n Bake pizza store. When I accepted the position here, I had two stores. I still own the stores but my brother is running them. What first attracted you to the drum corps activity? I was a competitive swimmer for 10 years starting at the age of 5. I enjoyed the competitive nature of swimming but when I got into marching band in high school, I found that I really liked to team aspect. In my senior year in high school, a couple of my friends encouraged me to join Vanguard, and I finally agreed to go to a rehearsal. It didn't take too long for me to realize that I loved drum corps. I always knew that as soon as I sat down on my seat on the bus, I could let the rest of the world disappear and all I had to focus on was doing drum corps. It's a world of its own. What would you consider your "formative drum corps moment?" A month after I became drum major, I was in a serious car accident. My sister, who was also in SCV at the time, received the call. The first person she called was Gail Royer (Santa Clara's founder and longtime director). Then she called my parents. Just like my sister, when I realized what had happened, my first thoughts were about the corps and I was worried that I would be letting them down. At that time, I had already marched four years with SCV and I had learned a lot about commitment and perseverance. I resolved then, even before I knew the extent of my injuries, that I wouldn't let this interfere with my responsibility to the corps. I drew from all of my drum corps experience to be able to return to the corps and finish the season. There have only been a handful of SCV directors before you. Is this an intimidating legacy? The part that I find most intimidating is the legacy of Vanguard. I have a lot of respect for the directors who have preceded me and I have known all of them, but I put the most pressure on myself to live up to the expectations of everyone who has ever marched in this corps. They will be my greatest critics, and if I do well in this position, they will be my greatest fans. I'm fortunate that Rick Valenzuela and JW Koester are still active in the drum corps community and I will be able to turn to them for help and advice. How closely do you work with the other members of the SCV leadership team? As program manager and Vanguard director, my role requires me to be in frequent contact with the Board of Directors and the general manager. What other corps directors do you admire? In my short tenure as director of SCV, I have gotten just a taste of what goes into putting the corps on the field and on the road. I admire all of them for what they accomplish every year.

Who is your favorite collaborator/partner in crime? My wife, Kathy. She and I have been a team for more than 20 years. Kathy and I have two great friends, Devin and Donna Hammer, with whom we spend a lot of time. They are also drum corps alumni and fans and we have attended many drum corps shows together.

Do you have any favorite road anecdotes from your time in drum corps? In 1981, when DCI was in Montreal, the corps took the scenic route home. We stopped at Niagara Falls, spent an evening with another drum corps in North Tonawanda, N.Y., went to Mt. Rushmore and camped outdoors in Yellowstone. As we were traveling through the Badlands in South Dakota, the buses stopped. After a few moments we were told to get off the bus and grab our horns. Now, this was about three days after DCI finals and we weren't expecting to have a rehearsal. After we had our horns, Mr. Royer directed us onto the side of a hill. We climbed up the slope and assembled ourselves into a reasonable formation and then proceeded to do a performance of the show. The view that we had from that hill was spectacular and the audience was just the other corps members, the support staff and the scenery. After we finished, we loaded the horns back on the truck, got on the busses and continued on our way. When he was asked why he had us do that, Mr. Royer said it was such a spectacular spot that he just wanted to. What has been your favorite corps performance ever? I always loved performing when I marched, and there were many exceptional performances on the field, but the performance that always remains with me happened in the dark, behind the stadium in Madison, in 1985. Our closer that year was "Tender Land," and about a week before finals, our mellophone soloist came to me to ask if he could teach the words to the corps. One of our instructors heard about it and began using the words during rehearsal. When applied to drum corps, the words had very poignant meaning and the effect on the corps was significant. After finals, the corps circled up behind the stands and listened to Mr. Royer give his final words on the season. When he finished, the corps sang "Tender Land." That was my last true performance as a member of Vanguard and it was a special moment for the corps, and for the people who were there to experience it with us. How will you keep yourself musically and visually current? What will you watch for ideas? One of the great things about drum corps is that we can get ideas and inspiration from so many different places. To keep myself current, I will continue to attend any and every type of live performance that I can. I find that there are things that are relevant in just about every live performance that I watch. The greatest difficulty will be in finding the time to go to everything that I would like to watch.

Do you have any ideas for which direction the SCV will head visually or musically in 2006? After a few forays north and south, we will be heading east.

What are you most looking forward to about the summer? Day after day after day of being with the members. The best part about this is working with the members and I'm really looking forward to the things I can learn from them.

Anything you'd like to share with those who might be considering auditioning for a drum corps? Don't be afraid to try. You'll never know if you can make it if you don't try. Remember that everyone around you is just as nervous as you are. Describe what you think an SCV show will look in 2015. I'm still trying to figure out what the SCV show in 2006 will look like. You expect me to know what the 2015 show will look like? Seriously though, Mike McCool's plan only takes us through 2013, so I don't really know what 2015 will be.