An interview with Myron Rosander, the sage of Santa Clara Vanguard

by Christina Mavroudis, DCW staff

As Santa Clara Vanguard celebrates its 37th year with an honored position in the prestigious Tournament of Roses Parade, among their ranks a man is quietly observing his 25th anniversary with the organization. Such dedication is not only rare in the activity, but in real world scenarios.

Myron Rosander, 43, has spent more than half his life embodying the spirit of the Vanguard by living the dream as a performer, instructor, administrator and designer. Not one to flaunt achievements or take center stage in public, Myron, like SCV, holds a mystique among the drum corps community.

Quietly setting the vision down, he has never pursued the spotlight, content to let the work speak for itself. Combined with longevity, it is Myron’s work as visual designer that, year after year, becomes the topic of corps discussion. After a quarter century, it is an opportune time to discover insight into the man, visual designer and motivational speaker.

Christina Mavroudis: How did you first become aware of drum corps and what were your initial feelings upon viewing?

Myron Rosander: My dad’s boss in the early 1970s was named Tom Smith. Tom and his son Dan were very much into the pageantry scene. Dan was a charter member of SCV and later a DCI judge and an extremely successful band director. Tom always said to my dad, “If you like marching band, you’ll love drum corps!”

So, in July 1974, my parents and I went to SCV’s home show, “Pacific Procession,” at San Jose State University’s Spartan Stadium. I was just 13 years old. It was here that we saw our first live drum corps performance. Our collective response was, “Oh my God!” I’d never seen anything like it in my life.

To say I was blown away would be a vast understatement. Watching SCV, the Anaheim Kingsmen, Troopers, Blue Rock, Stockton Commodores and the Blue Devils for the first time was beyond amazing and obviously a life- changing experience for me.

In 1976, I became a French horn player for SCV and marched consecutively through the 1980 season. I enjoyed my time as a member and learned a great deal in the process.

CM: How did you become an SCV instructor?

MR: I came on board with SCV in 1985 after teaching Valley Fever from Modesto, CA, in 1983 and 1984. As a marching tech with Valley Fever, I worked with instructors and designers like David Gibbs, Bobby Hoffman and Mike Anderson and realized very quickly the power of becoming better by surrounding yourself with exceptional instructors. I was pretty much in awe. Prior to that, I worked with marching bands in the northern California area.

All of this was great experience and my jumping off point to the Vanguard. After that, Gail Royer (SCV’s director) approached me in the early fall of 1984 to be on Vanguard’s visual staff. I almost fainted, barely gasping out the word “YES.”

During the 1985 season, I began my experience at SCV working as a visual tech while mastering the design process. Walking into that season as a new guy was intimidating. Our show was on an entirely different level to anything I’d experienced since my marching days. The performance level and maturity of the group was so high that many times I wondered what the hell I was doing there? What contribution could I possibly make? And what was Gail thinking in hiring the likes of me?! I just did the best I could early on and waited for further inspiration.

Well, when I saw our visual designer, Dave Owens, come up with the pant change in 1985, I knew we were on to something very special. Inspiration and motivation was instantaneous. His creative ideas helped me come into my own. I really miss Dave, as he brought so much to SCV and never seemed to get much credit. He was instrumental in creating “SCV magic,” an approach I adopted myself.

Via Dave Owens’ inspiration, I was able to effectively bring magic to the “Phantom of the Opera” and the “Red Poppies” (Russian-Cossacks-to-Chinese-ladies) shows. Of course, I had an incredible amount of help from our staff in those years, including Karl Lowe, Wes Cartwright, Sheri Aquilina, Shirley Dorritie to name a few.

I’ll tell you, pulling that kind of magic off is very difficult and there are many secrets behind it all. Again, I must credit Dave for this particular SCV persona, as he was the true motivation behind the concept. With that said, I do believe you’ll see a bit of magic once again in our 2004 production, “Scheherazade.”

CM: Can you tell me about Dave Owens?

MR: Dave Owens was SCV’s primary visual designer from 1981 through 1986. Dave and I co-designed in 1987-1988 before I became the principal designer in 1989. Dave was originally from Chicago and a member of the Cavies prior to marching SCV in the late 1970s. Sadly, he died in March 1995.

CM: What have been your positions within the corps?

MR: I was a SCV marching tech in 1985/1986 and the visual caption head from 1987 through 2002. I’ve been the visual designer from 1987 to the present and staff coordinator off and on throughout the 1990s. I was also the SCV assistant director in 2000 and 2001.

CM: Has there been any break in the last 20 years as an instructor? Can you even believe it’s been that many years?

MR: There’s never been a break for me with SCV in the past 20 years. It’s my passion and I do try to do the full tour each summer. There are a few days off here and there, but my approach has been pretty consistent. I truly enjoy being around to teach and talk with the corps on whatever level I can.

As for 20 years being an instructor and marching for five years prior, no, I can’t believe it’s been that long. Time really does fly and makes me realize more and more each day that it’s so important to be involved with something you’re passionate about. I try to encourage the corps members to not fear following their dreams in life, whatever they may be. The motivation is simple — time waits for no one.

CM: What meaning does the uniform have for you?

MR: The uniform has obviously undergone major change over the years. We’ve often modified it to fit the theme of the show (i.e., “Miss Saigon,” etc.). Since the uniform itself has really not been a constant (except for the aussie, SCV star and some element of red and green), I’ve learned over the years that the members definitely “make” the uniform or guard costume, not the other way around.

The collective spirit of the performers creates the SCV persona and nothing will ever be more important than that. You know the SCV star on the uniform is made of plastic . . . that’s it. It’s what the star represents to the members that makes it come to life.

Our members often arrive with the anticipation of putting on the uniform and expecting magical things to happen. Of course, the designed image and human desire function in tandem, but the performers ultimately define SCV and its iconic nature in the activity.

It goes so much deeper than symbolism and image, though. It’s literally a way of life and belief that keeps SCV strong. Simply put, the members wear the uniform, it doesn’t wear them. Once they fully understand this experience, SCV magic truly happens.

CM: What does the corps song, Send in the Clowns, mean to you? What feelings or memories does it evoke?

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