Bangin' drums with Blue Devils

Pleasanton students join team in first-place finish at world championship

Pleasanton students that participate in music and the performing arts are able to add to that experience by being a part of the internationally recognized drum and bugle corps -- the Blue Devils B.

Based in Concord, the Blue Devils B Drum and Bugle Corps recently won the Drum Corps International Open Class Championship in Michigan City, Ind.

"Countless hours of rehearsal go into preparing for our show for competitions throughout the summer," said Amador Valley High student Matthew Aubel, a member of Blue Devils B corps.

Blue Devils B is made up of 150 local high school and early-college students, with more than 15 of its members hailing from Pleasanton. There are even some members who travel from out of state to be a part of the corps.

Blue Devils B competed against 12 other drum and bugle corps in Indiana, and placed first with a score of 82.650 out of a possible 100.

The group has also won the championship title in 2011, and finished second in 2009 and 2010.

"It was a huge focus to repeat the competitive success," said Ryan Odello, head of percussion for the Blue Devils B corps.

The B corps' 2014 award-winning program was titled "Noir Nuvo" -- based off the 1940s movie genre, film noir, but presented in a modern unique way.

Odello said program designers have been wanting to do something "movie, and specifically film noir-oriented, for a while."

"When choosing a show it is important to pick something that can be communicated effectively in 11 and a half minutes on a football field," he added. "The film noir look and sound is instantly recognizable, and we felt that 'Noir Nuvo' gave us the opportunity to put a great story on the field that would be fun and exciting for the members, fans and judges."

The program included choreography to music from various movies and stage shows that fit into the film noir and neo-noir genres. Some featured artists included Lana Del Rey, Miklos Rozsa, John Ottman, Charles Mingus, John Mackey and Danny Elfman.

"We were confident that if the show was designed effectively, the kids would be able to put all of themselves into their performance and we would likely have great competitive success," Odello said.

Members are required to attend all practices -- usually six days a week starting at the end of the school year.

The average Blue Devils B practice looks like a three-block day, starting at 9 a.m., Aubel said.

The morning block focuses on the visual aspect of the program, marching and technique. After lunch, members enter another practice block that focuses on each of the different musical sections -- bass, drumline and front ensemble. And after dinner, the night block is a "full ensemble" where we piece together the show, Aubel said.

"We were fortunate that, through planning and lots of hard work, our goals were met in the 2014 season," Odello said.

According to Aubel, members go into a competition performing like they had at practice, "no more and no less."

At the end of the day, (after all the practices, competitions and championships), Blue Devils said they receive something more valuable than a championship win.

"I do have one thing that I press upon a lot, and that is commitment," said Steven Drummer, Blue Devils C corps instructor and Foothill High's snare drummer and drum line instructor.

"Commitment to your craft, how you approach your craft, and commitment to your fellow members," added Drummer, a former Blue Devils B member.

Aubel said that he has learned about self-discipline and responsibility by being a part of the Blue Devils. "Drum corps is a large activity with a lot of people, and it is more of a we sport than an I sport."

In addition, Blue Devils members learn about leadership, motivation, trust, humbleness, and humor, Drummer said. "The last characteristic is the thing we all use to make any situation during a 12-hour day in the sun worth it," he added.

About the Blue Devils organization

The organization has two other competitive corps, the A corps and the C corps.

The Blue Devils A corps is made up of college students from across the country and world, whereas the C corps is made up of elementary and junior high students from the local area, as well as Concord.

The A corps has won the DCI World Class championship title for 16 of the past 38 years.

Editor's Note: The two previous photos in the article were deleted because they were photos of A Corps members. A new photo has been uploaded that shows the Blue Devils B Corps members.

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