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Vanguard Celebrates 50 Years

In 1967 a disagreement in the artistic direction of the Sparks Drum and Bugle Corps led to the creation of the Santa Clara Vanguard. One week after its inception, the brand new corps marched in and won its first parade. Now named Vanguard Music and Performing Arts, Vanguard continues its history of excellence by being the only corps to have appeared in every Drum Corps International (DCI) Finals since 1972. On June 24, Vanguard, which boasts six World Championship titles, celebrated its golden anniversary with the Blue Devils (Concord), which is celebrating its 60th year.

“Who would have thought that this corps would have survived and still be competing 50 years later,” said Marilyn Modesitt Gill, a Vanguard charter member who performed with the color guard between 1967 and 1973. “Not just surviving but thriving and while this activity has significantly changed over the last 50 years the Santa Clara Vanguard still continues our tradition of excellence with dignity, humility and class.”

Speaker after speaker reflected on Vanguard’s history and commitment to class, including the drum majors for the Vanguard Cadets and Vanguard, Joselyne Grace and Christopher Harper.

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“Earlier this year we were asked to describe what it feels like to a part of the Vanguard organization and tradition especially during the 50th anniversary,” said Grace. “In all honesty, that question left me dumbfounded because describing that feeling is like trying to describe colors to someone who is blind. It truly needs to be experienced … The amount of love and passion behind everything that we did in the past and continue to do now is the key to our success and what keeps our family strong.”

Harper, a Santa Clara native, called the corps members, alumni, staff and supporters his brothers and sisters, saying, “It is with my brothers and sisters in this room today that I know that no matter where I go, no matter what I do, no matter where I am in the world, I am always going to have a home in Santa Clara.”

The evening also served as an opportunity to fundraise for Vanguard’s new food truck and facility upgrades. Once naming rights had been assigned and nearly everyone in the room pledged to donate $50 for Vanguard’s 50 years, the walls separating the two galas came down and Vanguard and the Blue Devils corps combined for a joint performance before fans and friends of both organizations were invited to a dance party with music by the Tommy Igoe Groove Conspiracy.

“We, sincerely from the Blue Devils on behalf of the entire organization and the entire activity, want to congratulate you on an incredible, incredible half century of excellence,” said Blue Devils CEO Justin Heimbecker. “You guys are the epitome of class, the epitome of excellence, the standard to be held to, and I think it’s impossible to believe that any two drum corps could pull of a night like this other than the Blue Devils and the Santa Clara Vanguard.”

Both corps participated in DCI West at Stanford University the following evening with the Blue Devils edging out Vanguard by scoring a 72.000 to Vanguard’s 71.050.

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