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.
Along with winning the 1970 American Legion Championship and 1971 VFW National Championship, the Santa Clara Vanguard is one of the founding members of DCI and a six-time DCI Champion (1973, 1974, 1978, 1981, 1989 and 1999). Vanguard is one of the premier organizations within the activity: it is 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 Sunnyvale 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. In 1970, they finally beat "everyone" in Milwaukee WI, causing several people in the Drum Corps media to ask..."Who are these guys?". Due to budget restraints, the Corps could not afford to go to VFW Nationals in Florida and instead carpooled up to Portland OR for the American Legion Championships where they placed 1st . The following year, the Corps established itself as a truly viable contender and won their first VFW National Championship, the equivilent of DCI today. The corps was a favorite to win the first DCI Championship in 1972, but ended taking third place to the Anaheim Kingsmen and Blue Stars. 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.
1969, The use of a classical piece, "Procession of the Nobles," set the stage for the sound that SCV would use for many successful years.
1973, SCV was the first to incorporate dance within a show with the "Bottle Dance" from Fiddler on the Roof. Also introduced that year was two-meter marching during "Young Person's Guide to Drum Corps". This literally stood the drum corps world on it's head. SCV went on to win 28 out of 29 contests that year along with their first DCI National Championship.
1979, the corps became known for twirling bedposts (Royer had bought them at a hardware store).
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," larger masks lined the field, and the pit wore "masquerade" masks. As both a symbol of unique SCV creativity and an acknowledgment to the show's 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) vanished under a sheet while seated on a chair. The crowd looked up from the soloist's vanishing act to find that all the corps members had 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 it's cadet corps. And the organization 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 Vanguard Cadets director, J.W. Koester, became the 3rd Vanguard 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, resulted in the corps not cleaning the drill until late in the season.
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. 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.
On October 9th, 2006, the Vanguard announced their show themes for the rest of the decade: "'!', The Music of Ravel Respighi" in 2007, "3hree" in 2008, and "Clue" in 2009.
To provide the opportunity for people of all ages to develop an appreciation for the performing arts through participation, thus instilling characteristics of integrity, dedication, excellence and good citizenship.
To continue a tradition of pride, respect, and excellence of a champion.
Send in the Clowns
"Send in the Clowns", originally arranged for the corps 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 certain occasions, most notably at the end of an encore performance as well as at the Vanguard rehearsal site at the end of the season. It is also the corps's way of saying a bittersweet goodbye: the corps performed the song at the funeral for bass drummer Art Velarde, and to console a support staff member regarding the loss of his brother.
The Bottle Dance
1973 was the first year the legendary "Bottle Dance" from “Fiddler on the Roof" was introduced, which went on to become SCV's trademark move. DCI finals was held that year at Warhawk Stadium in Whitewater, WI. The season was one of intense competition: the only corps to beat SCV that season was the Troopers, and then by a mere .1. SCV won 27 contests that year, including their first DCI World Championship. Many still consider the "Bottle Dance" to be the first introduction of dance onto the field.
1979 - Towards the end of the season, 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 the plan: the hornline was not allowed to rehearse the finale outside, and typically played into their pillows to muffle the sound.
The original uniforms of the Vanguard were surplus Filipino army uniforms purchased in the early 1970s. Those classic uniforms got their first major redesign in 1999, and have undergone other changes over the years. The diagonal stripe from the right shoulder to the left hip, along with the color scheme of red, green and white, has become an SCV tradition. Below is a collection of pictures of uniforms donned by SCV (left to right: 1972, 1989, 1984, 2004, 2005)
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 only exception to this is the bass drum line, which leaves their feathers down the whole time because of the "wave" visual that SCV started. Their mallets would keep hitting the feathers if they did it with their feathers up.
All members of the battery and horn line have two genuine ostrich feathers in their aussies - one red and one white. Age-outs also wear a green feather. Age-outs in the pit and color guard (who don't wear aussies with their uniforms) pin a piece of the green feather that they receive in the Green Feather Ceremony to their uniform, to signify their age-out status.
The eight-pointed star, which arrived as part of the Filipino surplus uniforms in 1972, is now a trademark symbol of the Vanguard. It is pinned on the left breast of the tunic of most brass and percussion members. The only exception is the tuba/contra line, which wears the star in the middle of the chest over the sternum: due to the very athletic manner they bring their horns up to play, the stars would be broken if they were worn over the left breast.
Each year, the members keep their stars; when they age out, they affix their stars onto a place made for them on their corps jackets.
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. High-mark-time eight, forward eight; 8 to 5, and repeat. Horns are kept at a manual position at the beginning of every eight except for the first set. It is performed at the gate before every show and as a farewell ritual for the age-outs. After the last rehearsal on finals day (the last day of the season) all the age-outs with their corps jackets, line up on their last rehearsal field, ever, for this very special penultimate performance of "Eights and Eights."
- SCV is the only corps to have made the finals performance every year of DCI's history.
- The corps has won the highest number of DCI championship percussion titles.
- SCV's record-high score of 98.8, set in 1989, remained untouched for 13 years.
- SCV was the first DCI corps to fully incorporate asymmetrical drill (1980).
- The first female musicians were allowed in 1983, when three females performed in the pit.
- Santa Clara Vanguard: Official Website
- DCI Telecast Intro
- DCI Introductory Video from Tour of Champions
- Octupus Road Info on SCV