Blue Devils are 2003 DCI champions!

by Catherine Thomas, DCW staff

The Blue Devils are the 2003 DCI champions. (Photo by Jeff Sallee)

August 9, 2003 — Orlando, FL . . . The Blue Devils rocketed to their 11th DCI World Championship Division I title with a score of 98.8. Their finals score put the Blue Devils 1.55 ahead of The Cavaliers, the defending champion. In the course of the three-day division I competitions, the Blue Devils dominated the GE, visual and music captions, which resulted in their finals’ caption awards in GE, visual, brass and color guard. In addition, the Blue Devils increased their total score one point from quarterfinals to semifinals and increased their lead over the second place corps to .85 in quarterfinals, 1.25 in semifinals and l.55 in finals.

Just as the Blue Devils’ scores improved each night so too did their performances, culminating in an electrifying finals performance that earned the Devils the ovation of fans as well as competitors. The Blue Devils’ program, “The Phenomenon of Cool,” had just enough emotion and drive for the most jaded fan and just enough complexity for their competitors to recognize that the Blue Devil designers had raised the creative bar another notch.

Being cool was the last thing on Chris Pasteur’s mind as he gazed up into the stands during retreat. This first year Blue Devil euphonium player from Phoenix, AZ, was reveling in the moment.

“It’s absolutely wonderful to be a champion,” Pasteur said. It was so much hard work, and I loved it. But it’s paid off. I wouldn’t do anything different, ever.”

Pasteur has many memories from the Blue Devils’ final performance; however, he recalled one special moment. “The highlight (of the show) was tearing the horn off my face at the end to see everyone standing up for the ovation. That’s the biggest, most incredible chill I’ve ever gotten. I loved it,” sighed Pasteur.

The Cavaliers, who were in second place with a 97.25, proved to be formidable opponents during world championship week. If cool is the adjective for the Blue Devils, mobile is the adjective for The Cavaliers. Rather than using movement to interpret music, The Cavaliers use music to interpret movement. The music was the accompaniment for a series of body movements such as lunges, jetes, plies and kicks, and it is this movement that captured the fans. Loud roars greeted the simultaneous movement of brass players and auxiliary as they mimicked each other’s contortions. The fans also reacted to the athleticism of the auxiliary, whose members are agile enough to jump over their own rifles. By adding speed, agility and precision to the movement, The Cavaliers had the formula that earned the corps the Spirit of Disney Award and a second place sub-caption finish in GE visual and visual ensemble.

Following an intense performance by The Cadets, some fans thought The Cadets might have defeated The Cavaliers. In quarterfinals, The Cavaliers led The Cadets by 1.5, and in semifinals, The Cadets decreased the Cavaliers’ lead to .7. To the fans’ dismay, The Cadets could not close the gap, and The Cavaliers maintained a .15 lead in finals. In their attempt to close the scoring gap, percussion was The Cadets’ forte. For three nights, The Cadets outscored all corps in percussion. In semifinals and finals, The Cadets earned 19.7 in percussion. The Cadets also attained a second place finish in visual.

Phantom Regiment managed to better its position in world championship finals competition, a feat that most corps fail to accomplish. Trailing the Santa Clara Vanguard by .45 in quarterfinals and .5 in semifinals, the Regiment squeaked by the Vanguard by .05. The Regiment placed fourth in the GE and music captions and second in the music ensemble sub-caption. Throughout the Regiment’s program tonight, the audience responded to the music, especially the full-bodied sound of the lower brass voices. During the last section of the Regiment’s closing set, music and movement overwhelmed the crowd as the brass players leaped into the air to the resounding beat of the bass drums.

Phantom Regiment contra bass player Bryan Flick was overwhelmed by his corps, too.

“Tonight’s performance felt great,” he exclaimed. “There was a lot of energy. The crowd was great. It was a really good show for us. I am happy we ended up getting fourth tonight. Some things really paid off that we have done this year. I can’t say that any one thing made it happen. It was really a full effort of the season.”

Santa Clara Vanguard’s fifth place finish with a 94.7 was unexpected. Although the Vanguard gave an energized performance, its score fell .45 from semifinals. The Vanguard’s brass and music ensemble scores were a hindrance, while its second place percussion score and fourth place visual score were its strengths.

Although the Vanguard’s placement may have been a disappointment to some fans, Mike Zerbini, a Vanguard visual instructor, had a different assessment.

“Tonight’s performance shows really good growth coming out of the past two weekends,” he said. “I was really proud of them tonight. I think we all were. We really felt that it was mission accomplished.”

This season Zerbini feels the Vanguard members learned to relate to the audience and to relate to themselves. “It’s a life lesson they learned,” said Zerbini. “It’s something they can take from here, especially the age outs.”

The sixth place Boston Crusaders did not disappoint the audience. The Crusaders’ bold, lunging stance conveyed a daring, can-do attitude, characteristic of a corps that had increased its scoring almost two points from quarterfinals to semifinals. The Crusaders’ “Bravo” contained surefire crowd pleasers. The sight of the snare drummer marching down the 50-yard line, the snappy back kicks of the brass and musical phrases from Bolero and Conquest combined with choreographed chaos brought the fans to their feet and contributed to the Crusaders’ sixth place caption finishes in GE and visual.

Two tenths of a point separated the sixth place Boston Crusaders from the seventh place Bluecoats. Coming into world championship week, the Bluecoats had the scoring edge. Although the Bluecoats outscored the Crusaders in music tonight, they could not overcome deficiencies in their GE and visual programs. As exotic and eye catching as the Bluecoats’ “Capture and Escape” program was, it lacked the grittiness of the Crusaders’ production.

“I thought we had a really good performance, probably the most energetic,” said Scott Burka, a Bluecoats contra player. “We were really happy with how we finished the season. All we can really hope for is to do the best we can and know the numbers fall how they will.”

Ruben Chambers, another Bluecoats contra, shared Burka’s sentiments. “I put out all the emotion I could possibly put out, and I’m sure everyone else with us did the same,” commented Chambers. “I’m happy about it. It wasn’t perfect but it was our best show of the year.

Chambers plans to return to the Bluecoats next season. Burka, however, closed out his marching career. “I’m a rook out,” he explained. “It’s my first year to march anywhere and my last year of eligibility. I know in the next few weeks and months I’ll be wishing I was back here, and I will realize how special this was.”

In 2002, the two-time DCI World Champion Madison Scouts missed finals. The Scouts had been finalists every year from 1973 until 2001. In 2003, they returned to finals in full force, placing eighth. With a bow to tradition, the Scouts’ opening set featured their classic company front and fleur de lis. However, their “Gold, Green and Red” production was more contemporary and balanced. Brass players did more than blow the bells off the horns. They interpreted the music and conveyed its musical nuances in visual forms and dance movements. In addition, the auxiliary played a more integral part in the production, projecting a more confident attitude and sense of purpose. These innovations and an emotional performance contributed to the Scouts placing seventh in the visual caption, seventh in brass and eighth in color guard.

For Madison Scouts color guard member Rick Stellmacher, the corps’ finals performance was amazing. “Just coming our here — wow!” he gasped. “(Making finals) was great. It was good progress for the corps.” As he left the field at the end of the retreat ceremony, Stellmacher mused, “I can’t wait to see what comes up next year.”

The Crossmen finished ninth with an 86.9. Their score, however, did not reflect the ovation they received from the audience.

“The way our corps operates, all we care about is the response of the crowd,” explained Salvador Flores, brass horn captain for the Crossmen. “If the crowd is up on their feet at the end, we had a phenomenal show. That’s all that matters.”

Audience members were on their feet after experiencing the Crossmen’s program of “Color,” which was both musically and visually colorful. In Blue Rondo a la Turk, members of the brass, percussion and auxiliary added color as they challenged each other in interpreting the music. Pinpoint catches, range busting notes and rapid-fire rudiments kept audience members’ heads turning to follow the action.

“We had our best performance of the year in all areas,” Flores said. It was a bittersweet performance since he aged out after three seasons with the Crossmen. As an age out, Flores will continue the strong Crossmen alumni tradition. ” I will attend local shows and be a volunteer for four or five days,” Flores vowed.

Returning to world championships finals after a one-year absence, Carolina Crown finished 10th. After holding on to ninth place by .65 in quarterfinals and by .6 in semifinals, Carolina Crown experienced a let down. The corps’ 12th place finish in the music caption was the deciding factor. Ninth place finishes in GE and visual and a sixth place in color guard could not make up for a nearly 1.5-point decrease in music scores since quarterfinals.

Despite the drop in music, Carolina Crown connected with the audience. The crowd roared as the brass lined surged to the front of the field as it pounded out the opening fanfare and at the close of the second set when the brass formed three wishbone shaped figures.

First year Carolina Crown mellophone Christy Holland was still upbeat after hearing tonight’s results. For Holland, the highlight of the evening occurred “when we finished and everyone stood up and cheered. It was the best feeling in the world. You can’t describe how wonderful it felt to see everyone cheering.”

Holland added, “It feels really great to be a finalist here. This my first year and I plan to come back next year.”

When Magic of Orlando entered the field, the roar of the crowd increased several decibels. The hometown crowd and the diehard Magic fans let their feelings show. “It was very high energy,” said Tony Moretta, Magic’s cymbal section leader. “Everyone was really into it.”

Opening to the tinkling of bells, Magic mesmerized the audience as purple clad marchers dashed across the left side of the field matching the tempo of the bells. In the next set, the marchers focused on the right half of the field as they interpreted the rolling phrases of the music, which the auxiliary simulated with flowing movement of its flags.

Moretta was pleased with Magic’s performance.

“We’ve been working so hard all summer for it. We made it up into finals. It’s what we’ve been pushing for all summer,” he explained. “We were all so happy when we got off the field. It was like the best show for everyone.”

Marking its second consecutive appearance in world championship finals since 1990, Spirit from Jacksonville State University was 12th. It was an emotional moment for all of Spirit ’s members, staff and fans.

George Van Luben, Spirit’s operations manager thought the corps’ performance in finals was excellent.

“They did a great show to open (championship finals). Spirit got the crowd into the show,” Van Luben proclaimed.

He attributed Spirit’s success in winning the crowd to the various impact points in its show.

“(The fans react to) the company front near the end of the show,” he said. “They react to that one a bit more. There’s also a pretty good drum feature in the third song they do quite well. The crowd responds to it as well.”

One high point in the closing moments of Spirit’s show that Van Luben did not mention was the flag paying tribute to the late Jim Ott, arranger and composer for Spirit. When the fans saw the flag, they were ecstatic.

Approximately 30,000 fans draped in plastic approached the Citrus Bowl determined to sit through a steady rainfall. Since late morning, raindrops had fallen over the Orlando area. When the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps began its exhibition, the rain changed to a light drizzle. By the time the Marines began the conclusion of their exhibition with the Marine Hymn, the raindrops magically disappeared. With the rain gods appeased, world championship finals got underway and another competitive season ended.

The 2003 season will be remembered as a year of innovation. According to Marc Sylvester, a designer and instructor of The Cadets, 2003 was a banner year.

“I think the first through 15th (place corps) are the best first to 15th I’ve seen in years. The greatest innovation this year has been the total integration of all the elements — the color guard with the horns and the drums, the music with the visual,” Sylvester reflected. “Drum corps have really learned how to put a package together as opposed to separate ensembles and it is very impressive all the way through.”

Sylvester added that drum corps will continue to make strides if each group focuses what’s special about itself. He endorsed the idea that “corps should be real clear about not being like everyone else. They should get their own little identity and expand that. I think we’ve seen that this year, and I think it’s going to grow in the next few years.”

Was a week in the rain and heat of Orlando worth it? Tim Cole, a Blue Devil tuba player thinks so. “It was incredible,” he exclaimed. “To win four captions — horns, color guard, visual, GE — it’s great.”

Cole confessed that he doesn’t remember much of the night’s performance, but he said, “I do remember the end when twenty-some-thousand people stood up and let me know we are the best in the world.”

The Madison Scouts returned to finals after a one-year absence.
(Photo by Richard Wersinger)