The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps claims its 15th World Championship out of 40 years in Drum Corps International competition while Oregon Crusaders captures gold in Open Class for the first time. Read about gold and silver medalists in both classes.
Photos by Ken Martinson and and Ryan Cain, Marching.com
Blue Devils Clinch 15th
Show: “Cabaret Voltaire”
Director: David Gibbs
Though sometimes misunderstood by audiences, the 2012 performance— “Cabaret Voltaire”—by The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps received critical acclaim from judges. Winning an unprecedented 15th Drum Corps International (DCI) World Championship in an undefeated season, The Blue Devils also took home caption awards in General Effect, Percussion, Color Guard and Visual Performance, which was tied with Carolina Crown.
Named after a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland, “Cabaret Voltaire” is about the Dada movement, conceived from Europe’s negative response toward World War 1. “The show is based upon a movement of art and performing art that is actually picking normal up and turning it on its ear, making it surprising, unique, different and exciting in its own way,” says Executive Director David Gibbs.
Perry Reid, upper lead trumpet soloist, says that the style of the show sets it apart. “It’s not a story, but more of the exploration of a theme, which differentiates The Blue Devils from many other corps,” he says.
Because of the unique subject matter, the show received mixed reviews from different audiences around the country. “The crowds’ reaction to Blue Devils’ shows is always a topic of debate,” Reid says. “There are some people that don’t like what we do, and other people that love our approach to show design and execution. As a member, I perform to and for the audience, and let them decide if they like it. If they do, fantastic! And if they don’t, then I hope they can at least respect the performance level and content that is being performed.”
However, even the perfect season is not without its challenges. “There were a lot of challenges facing this year’s corps, and one of those was the corps being more than half rookies,” Reid says. “And in true Blue Devil fashion, both the rookies and returning members stepped up to the challenge, and the corps will be stronger in years to come because of their efforts and achievement in 2012.”
The Business Side
Along with its long tradition of competitive excellence, The Blue Devils organization upholds its reputation off the field, running its business operations with several profit centers.
“We have 500 to 600 kids involved in our program every year, so we have a lot of programs to fund,” Gibbs says. “We do the System Blue Initiative, which is basically three elements: products, the educational line and the delivery of our music online.”
In addition, members and alums of The Blue Devils take part in paid entertainment. “We are the drumline of the Colts [football team] now,” Gibbs says. “We’ve done a lot of NBA teams. We do corporate and special events. We have a lot of people who have aged out of The Blue Devils that we employ to go out to all these events on a professional level. We are very proud of the diversity we have.”
Last but not least, The Blue Devils strive to make an impact through music in the lives of kids not only at home but internationally as well. “We have responsibilities to people around the world, and even for groups like the Field Band Foundation in South Africa who are really in horrible conditions and terrible plights,” Gibbs says. “They have a great organization that uses music and marching and drumming to help kids out of oppression. We’re involved there; we’re sending staff and instruments there … helping bring them corporate sponsors any way we can.”
Gibbs recognizes the importance of everyone that made it possible for The Blue Devils to take home its 15th World Championship in 40 years of DCI.
“We are proud of our success as an organization—our staff, our members, all the people it takes to do this from the volunteers, to the board of directors, the cooks, the drivers and all the staff for all the programs,” Gibbs says. “We’re really proud of the consistent level of excellence that we have maintained. Beyond what the world championships are, I am proud that we can retain a level of excellence that challenges the kids, that excites the fans, and that we can deliver it at that high level. I’m extremely proud of that.”
Nothing “Common” About Crown
Show: “For the Common Good”
Director: Jim Coates
For the second time in its history, Carolina Crown received its highest finish in second place. Its show, “For the Common Good,” is based on Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Bertrand Moren’s “Dreams.”
“The theme was to show the incredible things people can do, both individually and united together,” says Christopher Martin, a member of the trumpet section. “My favorite part of our show was ‘Fanfare for the Common Man.’ It was basically the turning point of the performance. Beforehand, a lot of the show was fast-paced and focused on quick bursts of energy. When we start playing ‘Fanfare,’ however, everything is directed toward working together to create something greater than any of us could have done on our own. In a way, that piece is very reflective of drum corps, sacrificing your personal agenda to work together for a better whole.”
The message of the show connected not only with the current members who preformed it but also with past members who admire the high level of proficiency within the 2012 corps.
“The content of the show and the performers’ level of execution truly brought out one message for me: With a unified, common focus, any goal is achievable,” says Jordan Walker, former Carolina Crown brass member. “All facets of the drum corps were very, very strong, and only thanks to many hours on the practice field and a high level of effort on the part of everyone involved.”
Crown’s high level of excellence was recognized when they were presented with caption awards for Brass and tying with The Blue Devils for Best Visual Performance. The coveted Jim Ott Best Brass Performance Award is a source of great pride for the brass caption, both for current and past members as Crown received the award for the third time in four years.
“I think winning the Jim Ott award this year was a testament to how hard the brass line worked all summer,” Martin says. “Since day one we were told that all 80 of us had to be in the same boat, working as a team. It was a great feeling walking away from finals knowing that our determination and perseverance paid off.”
As a Crown alumnus, Walker takes pride in the success of Crown’s brass as well.
“I consider the Jim Ott the icing on the cake to what has been a great group of performers to listen to for the three summers since I aged out,” Walker says. “It is great to see a tradition of excellence in the caption that I was involved with and to see that the years of work put in continue to reward the members. The brass program’s excellence could not have been possible without nearly a decade’s worth of work by hundreds of individuals dating back to 2003 when the current brass staff took over.”
After scores were announced following finals, members of Carolina Crown and the Blue Devils congratulated one another on their successful seasons.
“It felt great to congratulate the other corps on their season and to hear how much respect they have for us and us for them,” Martin says.
Oregon Crusaders Dream Big
Show: “Dreaming in Color”
Director: Michael Quillen
For the first time in corps history, the Oregon Crusaders stepped off the field as DCI Open Class Champions. After winning the silver medal behind Blue Devils B for the past two years, the Crusaders finally came out on top. Winning Best Brass Performance, Best Visual Performance and Best General Effect, the corps stopped Blue Devils B from earning its fourth championship title in a row.
In Living Color
The show, “Dreaming in Color” explores the interpretation of dreams through colors. “We wanted to do something unique and accessible,” says director Michael Quillen. “The dreaming part was definitely a key factor and how colors are used for interpreting your dreams. We went through different styles and emotions … such as angry, happy and a little bit of sexy.”
Overall, the show proved to be intellectual as well as fun. “The show is brilliantly designed, and aside from being fun for us as performers and being fun for audiences to watch, the intellectual aspect of the show is just fantastic,” says Elizabeth Veldhuisen, a member of the mellophone section. “I think our show is really representative of the Oregon Crusaders as performers. It was quirky and silly at times, but it had a lot of heart, which is definitely how I would describe the members and staff here.”
The Crusaders earned a final score of 95.25, the corps’ highest score ever. On top of the pride of reaching a new high score, Quillen also had a personal connection with the number. “The first thing that came to my mind, honestly, was the score as 95.25, and that was the same score 30 years earlier when I aged out with The Blue Devils in 1982,” he says. “That was our final score and the highest they had ever achieved until then.”
The corps experienced another emotional highlight off the field. “During our ‘traditions,’ one of our age-outs proposed to his girlfriend in front of the whole corps!” exclaims color guard member Hannah Davidson.
Center snare and battery section leader, Josh Smith, expresses how special this season was to him, not just because they won, but also because of the effort they put forth and trials they surged through. “This summer was the best summer of my life, and I loved every second of it,” Smith says. “Knowing that everyday we got up with a fire and a passion for excellence, pushing each other to become more consistent, is special in itself. We had quite a few curve balls thrown at us throughout the season. Whether it be the bus breaking down, having to stop in the middle of a run-through because of lightning and tornado warnings, or the equipment truck being stuck in a ditch 10 miles from the housing site, we never stopped pushing through.”
With only eight age-outs this year, the Crusaders plan to excel into the 2013 season. What kind of impact has winning their first championship had on the members? “It taught me that championships are not won on finals night,” Veldhuisen says. “They are won in everything we do leading up to it: at camps, at all-days, during shows, at rehearsals, everything. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t know that already, but more that I finally got to experience it.”
Blue Devils B Take Silver
Show: “Ecstatic Waters”
Director: Rick Odello
Blue Devils B’s second-place finish behind the Oregon Crusaders broke the corps’ three-year winning streak; however, the members are not any less proud of what they accomplished this season.
“We felt great about the performance we put out and felt proud of what we took on to get it there,” says John Shoemaker, euphonium co-section leader. “Breaking a streak isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t change how we felt about ourselves and our show.”
BDB received the Best Percussion caption. In addition, corps director Rick Odello received the Open Class Director of the Year award for the third time in five years.
BDB’s show, “Ecstatic Waters,” depicts “water in various states you would encounter on a journey down a river,” explains brass co-caption head Eric Weingartner. “From a calm, stoic opening, to an exhilarating rush of the rapids, followed by the tumultuous descent over the edge of the falls, and finally ending with the ecstasy of surviving the journey after splashdown.”
The corps used the theme of water to bond throughout the season. Weingartner recalls how the brass section came together one day in the middle of a rainstorm. “We could see some dark clouds quickly approaching, then it started to drizzle in the middle of an exercise, but we continued playing. By the end of the exercise, it was pouring rain, but I decided to have the brass play through our tuning progression before we ran inside. The power of sound the brass played with was very intense. That afternoon was when I felt that the brass section finally figured out how to rehearse like a mature ensemble.”
Along with adverse weather conditions, the corps faced the challenge of fielding a young corps this season.
“We had a young corps with lots of rookies this year; we couldn’t just assume everyone knew their role like in years past,” drum major Eddie Pineda explains. “By the end of the season, we had a completely different corps. They grew up to become not only great performers, but fine individuals as well.”
Pineda gave some insight into what we can expect for the future of the corps. “Blue Devils B will continue to grow as an organization,” Pineda says. “They raise their own expectations each season, and it’s amazing to see them achieve their goals year after year. I am honored to have aged out of Blue Devils B.”