Homegrown Santa Clara talent is leading the Vanguard Music and Performing Arts drum corps, as Christopher Harper, a 2014 graduate of Santa Clara High School and native Santa Claran, will spend his final season with Vanguard as its drum major.
Throughout high school Harper was involved in numerous music-related activities including marching band, concert band, symphony orchestra, orchestra pit during theatrical performances, winterguard, winter percussion and the Déjà vu Jazz ensemble. After a friend told him about a “summer marching program,” Harper looked into joining Vanguard, landing a spot with the Vanguard Cadets in 2012. Due to conflicts, he was unable to march in 2012 but re-auditioned for the 2013 season, receiving a flugelhorn contract in the process.
Since his first encounter with the corps, Harper has “been hooked on the excellence, passion and pageantry that is the Santa Clara Vanguard.” Knowing he wanted to continue being part of an organization he respected, Harper began taking lessons with current Executive Director Charles Frost in 2014, something he credits as helping him prepare for his 2015 A-Corps audition.
After spending three years with Vanguard, Harper decided to take a more active role within the organization, auditioning for the assistant drum major position for the 2016 season.
“When I auditioned for the assistant drum major position, it was a requirement to be at least a second year member in the corps,” he said. “An email was sent out to all of the eligible candidates … We were required to send back a paragraph on why we would be good for the position, as well as what [if any] experience we had in conducting.”
Harper submitted his qualifications and participated in the second part of the process–conducting a show movement and meeting with the director, tour manager and current drum major. He also began volunteering at the Vanguard Bingo Hall.
Crediting his volunteer hours and positive attitude toward hard times and long hours, Harper obtained the position, served as the corps’ assistant drum major in 2016 and moved into his current role at the beginning of this year.
Although it’s early in the season, Harper is passionate about creating a unified corps by meeting every member individually, learning their names, where they’re from, their role in the corps and why they picked their section, how long they’ve been playing and why they decided to join the corps. It’s quite the task, given there are over 100 members, but one he has enjoyed. He also keeps open lines of communication between himself and every member, letting them know he’s available to assist with concerns or issues as they arise throughout the season.
Other than the hopes of bringing a DCI championship back to Santa Clara, Harper plans “to make sure that everyone can work in an environment that they can learn and grow effectively in,” he said. “The most important part for me is keeping a sort of fire going in their hearts, so they remain passionate and have that drive to always go to the next level, regardless of what time of the season it is.”
When not with Vanguard, Harper majors in music education at West Valley and Mission colleges and enjoys karate, landscaping, exercise, gaming, reading, playing trumpet and airsofting. He hopes, once the season ends, he will leave a legacy of motivation–“for people to be able to find within themselves the drive, a flame of passion–to know that good will forever be the enemy of great and [to] always push to be not only the best performer but the best person they can be through hard work… Vanguard has taught me that no matter how long you have been removed from the activity, no matter where you go, you will always have a home in Santa Clara.”