The Chaotic Episodes of the 1995 SCV Drum Staff


Rehearsal 1Yes, the 1995 SCV drum staff was belligerent and crazy. Yes, the food fights in the restaurants happened, yes, we used a matched grip snare line and Ed Teleky genius Juilliard pit technique when everybody hated ‘different’, and yes, we got banned from judges critiques for life because of the Arizona incident. Which to this day, I blame on sleep deprivation, a Sharpie, and the 1995 Cincinnati Bengals defense. And for the record, to this day, I regret sending an apology letter to head judge Mike Rubino on behalf of the SCV drum staff. Based on his poor attitude and behavior, I should have sent Mike a whoopee cushion and red clown nose. Beep-beep.

But with all of that chaos that went down, it is a little known fact that the 1995 SCV drum staff also played a significant role behind the scenes getting a drum corps, and a show, on the field for the Vanguard organization that year. Very few people know how close the SCV organization truly came to meltdown, both on and off the field.

We survived, but it was a hard summer, like being in a movie about the 1985 Crossmen, but with better music, better uniforms, and ten times the misery.

The bright spots for me were the amazing dedication and talent of the kids in the corps, and a few staff members who brought a relentless drive to succeed and never quit, who kept a positive attitude despite some difficult circumstances and getting little credit, money or cooperation for their time, and they continue to inspire me to this day – they include Mark Alan, Dave Gary, Kent Cater and Ed Teleky … the wisdom and guidance of Shirley Dorritie is probably the only reason we all stayed sane. There are others who stepped up to the plate too,  but when I think back about how I got through it all, those are the people who spring to mind first for me. Everyone’s list would be different.

FYI – Ed personally brought a business deal to life at the end of the 94 and 95 season that made over $ 10,000 for the Vanguard and our creative staff – after DCI Finals, an East Coast high school band picked up our flags, guard uniforms, props, and custom arranged music of our show (which are typically thrown out). Ed basically figured out how to recycle a drum corps show when the season is over – stuff that would be thrown away, with a little band customization, resulted in nothing getting thrown away, and thousands of dollars coming into SCV and creative staff after the season was over – money for free, basically. We did this twice – 94 and 95. No one cared.

Post of fact, the 1995 season with the Vanguard was so difficult and crazy, including spectacular incidents like getting shot at in Santa Clara, a guy getting electrocuted near the SCV drum line as we rehearsed, and a bizarre show that the designers were ordered to create, but nobody understood at any time. You see, our show was called “Not the Nutcracker” simply because we had no fucking idea what it was when it came time to give the show a name in the press. But we knew one thing – it was definitely NOT Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, which is what we started out the year allegedly trying to produce. Voila. 1995 SCV had a show. Or an anti-show, to be more precise. And the creative freedom to turn it into anything. Or nothing. To this day, no one can tell you what the 1995 SCV show is about. I was a key member of the design team, I still don’t know.

One incident that sums up the SCV 95 chaos … once upon a time in San Diego. Due to a lack of light and space, a chunk of the show ended up being written on first tour by the drum staff, in a locker room as the corps slept. The music that came out of that late night creative session was awesome, but had nothing whatsoever to do with the Nutcracker. Perfect, right?  This all ended in dramatic fashion when one of our genius arrangers found a ‘hair’ on his music and almost threw up … leaving the rest of the drum staff staff to laugh hysterically for over an hour. Creative session over, and the perfect performance art microcosm of the entire 1995 season.

For the record – I blame no one for anything in 1995 Vanguard. Not even Len.

I think sometimes, you can simply have the perfect storm chemistry of people thrown together on a team. For mysterious reasons only known to the universe, all at once – we had the wrong director, the wrong show, the wrong horn staff, the wrong drum staff, the wrong visual staff, and certainly the wrong board of directors. The only thing we had right in 95 Vanguard were the kids in the corps, and a tradition of excellence. That’s why the Santa Clara Vanguard ended the 1995 season in DCI Finals, and not at a rest stop in Nevada.

When all was said and done on that ugly 95 season, I vowed never to go to another drum corps show again. I went to law school, intending to never look back.

But then, in 1999, out of the blue, came the the San Francisco Renegades, and the “fun” of drumming found its way back into my life. The Renegades were horrible drummers, but they loved drum corps, and they were having a blast.

Meanwhile, the Vanguard was doing fine, the ship had righted itself, and a new landscape had appeared.

Off we all went, and a new story began…


Tale of a Drum Line.



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