Santa Clara Vanguard
Santa Clara Vanguard is a member of Drum Corps International and the Drum Corps competes within DCI Division I. The Vanguard organization also sponsors an additional corps, Vanguard Cadets, who compete in DCI Division II.
One of the founding members of DCI, the six-time DCI Champion (1973, 1974, 1978, 1981, 1989 and 1999) Santa Clara Vanguard is one of the premier organizations within the activity. They are the only corps to have made the top 12 every year of DCI's history, and the only organization in DCI history to have two drum and bugle corps as open class member corps in the elite Top 17 of DCI.
SCV started in 1967 when the parents of the Sunnydale Sparks voted to disband as a drum corps and return to their original status as a drum and bell corps with majorettes. In response, a booster club was quickly formed to organize a drum and bugle corps. Local elementary school teacher and American Legion judge Gail Royer was brought on as corps director.
While the organization got off to a slow start as funding issues were worked out, the corps really took off by the early 1970s. The corps was a favorite to win the first DCI Championship in 1972, but ended taking third place as the Anaheim Kingsmen won. The corps would come back to take the prize the following year, along with championship wins in 1974 and 1978.
The corps quickly became known for highly creative and beautiful shows. SCV was the first to incorporate dance within a show (1974); in 1979, the corps became known for twirling bedposts (Royer had bought them at a hardware store). The corps's trademark Bottle Dance was born in the mid-70s as SCV used music from Fiddler on the Roof to win their first championship in 1973.
1981 was a challenging year going into finals. Throughout the season, the staff found that whenever SCV performed after the Blue Devils, they usually came in second. At finals, it was SCV's option to perform last, since they had won semifinals. However, in a strategic move, they opted to perform next to last in order to go before the Blue Devils. The strategy worked, and they ended up taking the championship.
The corps's reputation for creative flair continued to grow throughout the 1980s. SCV pushed the envelope with drill design by filling the 1980 show with asymmetrical forms. In 1985, the corps began using magic tricks in shows: two groups of horns marched into a tunnel wearing green pants and--continuing to play throughout--emerged wearing white pants. Competitively, the corps was tremendously strong, finishing lower than third only once (1980).
Arguably, 1989 remains SCV's most legendary year. In a second year of performing selections from Andrew Lloyd Weber's Phantom of the Opera, the show was visually much more fleshed out: the horn line and battery wore Phantom masks (huge masks lined the field), and the pit wore "masquerade" masks. As both a symbol of unique SCV creativity and an acknowledgement to their source material (Phantom is known for its reliance on spectacle), the corps did what may be the most memorable magic trick in DCI history by making the corps "disappear." In a move blatantly lifted from the original stage show, the baritone soloist (dressed as the Phantom) vanishes from under a sheet as he sits on a chair. When the crowd looks up from the soloist's vanishing act, all the corps members have stepped behind the huge Phantom masks lining the field or under a huge sheet in the middle of the field. The corps beat out the Phantom Regiment that night with a score of 98.8, which was for years the highest score ever achieved in DCI history.
1990 saw the Vanguard stumble a bit competitively with a show based on music from Bizet's Carmen. With a much more stripped-down show than SCV was usually known for, the corps only got 6th place at finals. There was also some degree of friction between Royer and percussion caption head Ralph Hardimon, who left mid-season and went on to work with the Blue Knights. (He has since gone on to teach Capital Regiment.)
In 1991 SCV pulled out all the stops with music from the Broadway musical Miss Saigon. Two memorable moments from finals were the famed "helicopter roll" (drums played so fast and clean that the resulting sound resembled a helicopter flying overhead) and a Communist flag unfurled at the end to symbolize the fall of Saigon. It was also the first year of a major uniform change: sashes and belts were worn in place of the waist-level and shoulder-to-waist stripes). The corps got fourth place at finals, but won high percussion.
1992, the corps's 25th anniversary, was the first of many difficult years for the Vanguard. As Royer's final year as director (he announced at the beginning of the season that he would be retiring), the corps performed music from Fiddler on the Roof, which had brought them their first DCI championship in 1973. While the show was a piece of SCV excellence (the corps dressed in Jewish prayer cloths and "Tevye" hats), critics suggested the corps was trying to win a 1990s competition with a 1970s show. In the interest of making a statement, the show was stripped down to almost nothing towards the end of the season (the guard's peasant clothing was switched to plain black dresses and the show was rewritten for just one flag). The corps made 7th place at finals, but is remembered for a rip-roaring, in-your-face finals performance.
As mentioned above, SCV fell on hard times in the early 1990s. 1993 very nearly saw the end of the organization. The corps management underwent a number of changes, and many veterans--including some from the legendary 1989 show--didn't return. The corps ended up moving around 50 members up from the cadet corps, resulting in a lot of 12- and 13-year-old members marching some very difficult drill. And the corps mourned the passing of Gail Royer, who died of throat cancer halfway through the season. The corps ended up again in 7th place, but won field percussion in quarterfinals.
The Vanguard spent the next few years in the proverbial wilderness competitively, placing no higher than fifth. However, one major change was made that would produce future results: in 1996 the cadet corps director, J.W. Koester, became the A Corps main director.
1997 saw the beginning of the renaissance of the Santa Clara Vanguard. The corps got the first major uniform change in its history. The new uniform was a more contemporary style, while still retaining the felt hats, eight-pointed star, and the classic Vanguard color scheme of red, white and green. The horn line acquired a new, unique timbre and sound. And the drum line was tweaked, with the snare drums being angled slightly. It was an old look with a new approach and style, one that other corps would come to emulate. That year, the corps won quarterfinals and stayed in the top three. In the words of DCI commentator Michael Cesario, "They're back!"
In 1998, the corps's show was titled "Copland, The Modernist". SCV went into finals in third place, and then beat the Blue Devils for second place.
1999 was Vanguard's year to shine. With the show theme of "Inventions for a New Millennium," the corps's new definition of outdoor pageantry was fully developed. The corps tied the Blue Devils for first place, and were named DCI Co-Champions.
Koester's achievements--bringing the Vanguard from the middle of the pack to a championship in the space of just four years--made the organization's next decision a shock: in October 1999, just a few months after winning in Madison, Koester was fired as director. In an official announcement, the SCV Booster Board said only that it had decided to "implement a restructuring of the administrative section of the organization." In an e-mail to 1999 corps members, Koester himself offered little else in the way of an explanation, only saying that the SCV board of directors decided a change was needed after he received poor marks in several areas on his yearly review. To this date, no specific reasons have been given publicly for Koester's dismissal.
Rick Valenzuela was tapped to replace Koester as corps director. Under his leadership, the Santa Clara Vanguard remained in the forefront of DCI competition; from 2000 to 2004, the corps placed no lower than fifth. In 2002, the uniform was again updated; a slightly lighter shade of green was used, and the shoulder blades so familiar from uniforms like the Cavaliers, Glassmen and Phantom Regiment were introduced.
In 2004, the corps again broke into the top 3, and won high percussion. With such a strong finish, it looked like the Vanguard might be poised to make another run for the title; going into 2005, there was a lot of buzz around the organization. The corps again changed to a new uniform: while retaining the overall style of the 2002-2004 uniform, the Vanguard switched back to the old color scheme of red jackets and white pants, with green accents. The show repertoire also held tremendous promise, bringing back "Russian Christmas Music", an old Vanguard classic.
All that potential and promise made 2005 such an unfortunate year for the organization. Ranked 9th for much of the season, the corps managed to pull ahead of the Boston Crusaders for an 8th place finish in finals, the organization's lowest placement in DCI history. Among other challenges: a number of drill and visual changes early in the season, resulting in a pretty rough-looking drill by August. It was also a relatively young corps, with the average age corps members younger than in the past.
Shortly after the end of the 2005 season, Rick Valenzuela announced his resignation as corps director. After a search, Jeff Pearson was selected as the new corps director. So far, reaction from alumni has been positive: while Pearson doesn't have a career in music, he marched with the Vanguard for five years, becoming drum major his age-out year in 1985. His wife Kathy also marched for nine years, was the color guard captain her last three years, and was on the color guard staff from 1989 through 1992. The 2006 show theme, "Moto Perpetuo," has been announced.
There's also been word of a number of resignations of Vanguard staff members and appears that the organization is going through a major shake-up in leadership.
To provide the opportunity for young adults to perform in a highly competitive performing arts activity.
To continue a tradition of pride, respect, and excellence of a champion.
Send in the Clowns
Any time SCV plays Send in the Clowns, they move people to tears, guaranteed. If every single person listening isn't misty-eyed, many of the members themselves are. "Send in the Clowns", originally arranged by founding director, Gail Royer, and included in the 1974 repertoire, has since become the so-called "corps song", which the hornline only plays on occasions of special significance. "Send in the Clowns" is the corps's way of saying a bittersweet goodbye. They have played the song at the funeral for bass drummer, Art Velarde; to console a support staff member regarding the loss of his brother; and they play it at the end of each encore performance as well as at their rehearsal site one last time at the end of the season.
The Bottle Dance
In 1974 the corps distinguished itself with the first incorporation of dance by a drum corps, the legendary "Bottle Dance" from “Fiddler on the Roof.” DCI was held that year at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The top contenders for first place were Madison Scouts, Anaheim Kingsmen, and the Vanguard. Since the Vanguard had placed first in 1973, they had the option of performing last in 1974. They decided to go on first in order for the show to receive the full appreciation of the fans and judges. That proved to be a wise decision: the crowd ate the show up. The finale brought the awe-struck crowd to its feet. SCV finished number one again with a score of 89.5, the highest score thus far recorded in DCI's existence. In addition, they took High M&M, High Drums, and tied Madison for High GE.
1979 - 3/4 through second tour, Gail Royer announced, behind closed doors, that the finals show would have a "Surprise" ending. This was considered so "top secret" that only marching members and staff were in on it. The hornline was not allowed to rehearse the finale outside, they typically played into their pillows to muffle the sound.
The original uniforms of the Vanguard were surplus uniforms, purchased from the Filipino army in the early 1970s. But was soon adapted to the modern style seen today. The separating stripe from the right sholder to the left thigh and the red or green on either side has become an SCV tradition. Below is a collection of Pictures of Uniforms dawned by SCV(Right to Left: 1970s, 1989, 1992, 1999, 2005)
The Aussie They're not hats; they're SCV Aussies. Introduced in 1972, the sixth season of the corps' existence, the Aussie has been a part of the uniform almost every year since. Before entering the performance field, the members put their feathers up; they put them down after they march off.
The Feather All members of the battery and horn line have two colors of feathers in their aussies - red and white. Age-outs also wear a green feather. Age-outs in the pit and color guard (who don't wear hats with their uniforms) wear something green as part of their uniform, such as a small feather, to signify their age-out status.
The Star Another key part of the uniform that has been around since 1972 is the Vanguard star. It is pinned on the tunic over each brass and percussion member's heart. Each year, the members keep their stars, and when they age out, they affix their stars onto a place made for them on their corps jackets. The eight-pointed star, which arrived as part of the Filipino uniform, is now a trademark symbol of the Vanguard. All corps members wear the eight-pointed star on the left breast, except for the tuba/contra line, whose members wear the star in the middle of the chest. The reason for this isn't to set the contras apart, but is born of necessity: due to the militaristic style unique to the Vanguard, contra players kept breaking their stars when they would snap their horns up to play.
Eights and Eights
Eights and eights is to the marching aspect what "Send in the Clowns" is to the music. The corps does it with the same style of high-mark-time that the corps did in the early years, and they perform it with unrestrained passion. On the last day of the season, the age-outs perform it alone as a farewell ritual.
- Santa Clara Vanguard: Official Website
- DCI Telecast Intro
- DCI Introductory Video from Tour of Champions
- Octupus Road Info on SCV