It’s Loud, It’s Colorful and It’s Returning to Denair: Championship Drum and Bugle Corps Arrives Saturday

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

The national champion  Vanguard Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps of Santa Clara will return to Denair later this week with all its brass instruments, drums and colorful flags.

This is the 10th year in a row that the Santa Clara contingent has kicked off its competition season in Denair. Essentially, the week in the valley is the equivalent of spring training in baseball or summer camp in football.

The formula appears to be working. Last year, the Bay Area group captured the Drum Corps International Open Class Championship for the sixth time (and fourth since it has been training in the valley).

Longtime director Steve Barnhill and his 150-member crew – plus about 30 adults and chaperones – will arrive Saturday. They will rehearse each day starting Sunday, ending the week with a free public performance July 11 at Jack Lytton Stadium.

The next day, they will head to Bakersfield for one of the competitions that eventually will lead to the national championships in Indianapolis next month.

Denair opens up its middle school campus for the week. The cadets – ages 14 to 21 – sleep in the Coyote Center while the adults use air mattresses and sleeping bags in various classrooms. Meals are prepared in the high school cafeteria.

“They really take care of us,” Barnhill said. “It’s a great set-up.”

Days are spent in small groups refining techniques, practicing music and perfecting the choreography. Practice starts at 8:30 a.m. and doesn’t finish until after dark. There is no TV and limited time for social media.

“We’re working on all details,” Barnhill said. “And then in the evening, it’s about putting it all together in the stadium.”

For those not familiar with competition drum and bugle corps, there’s one thing to know – it’s loud.

Vanguard features about 70 horns in its brass section (trumpets, mellophones, trombones and tubas) and about three dozen percussionists playing snares, quads, xylophones and marimbas. When they start making music, the notes can be heard a mile away.

There also are another 37 teens in the color guard waving flags, twirling rifles and dancing as well as four drum majors.

About half the corps is back from last year, when Vanguard won its sixth national title since 2000. In the word of drum and bugle corps, Vanguard is something of a dynasty.

As always, on the final night in Denair (July 11), there is a dress rehearsal of this year’s performance – entitled “Vox Eversio!” It’s free starting at 8 p.m. for anyone who’s curious about what all the noise is about.

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