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History for Blue Devils Concord, CA
Active Junior Corps (World Class) founded in 1970 Did you march Blue Devils?
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homepage: http://www.bluedevils.org
Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Devils_Drum_and_Bugle_Corps
Ann and Tony Odello and the Concord, California, branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) acquired the defunct Martinettes drum corps and drill team in 1957. On that foundation they created the Blue Devils (named "Blue" for the VFW color and "Devils" after Concord's local landmark, Mt. Diablo). Starting with fewer than 50 young members, the organization was an all-boy drum corps unit using only percussion instruments, with a separate all-girl marching team.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s the Blue Devils organization oversaw several drum and bell and twirling corps. The drum and bell corps won many major competitions and held the California state championships for a number of years. The junior and senior twirling corps won every state, regional, and national competition they entered. The senior twirling team, the Devil's Advocates, was also very successful during the 1980s. The team won seven national championships as well as the world championships in 1983 and 1984.

Tony Odello resigned as manager of the bell corps in 1964, and Jerry Seawright assumed the position, with Erlene Shaffer as manager of the majorettes. In 1965 the twirlers fielded a group with twelve members to compete in field shows and parades.

In 1968, a third unit was added to the Blue Devils when a new junior corps was established after the original junior drum and bell corps elected to compete as a senior unit. All of these units did so well that in the late 1960s the senior drum and bell corps decided to make the transition to a full drum and bugle corps.

In 1970, the Blue Devils recruited ten brass players to join the talented percussion line and color guard from the bell corps, and on February 14, 1971, the Blue Devils attended their first standstill competition in Downey, California. By the spring of 1972 the drum and bugle corps had grown in size to more than 70 members and traveled on their first summer tour to compete with groups in the Pacific Northwest. The corps did very well on this tour and changed their category from B to A status that same year.

The new Blue Devils toured on a national level for the first time in 1973 and gained associate membership in Drum Corps International by placing 23rd at the DCI Championships in Whitewater, Wisconsin. Also during 1973, the junior drum and bell corps was converted to a "B" bugle corps, and an even younger-aged "C" bugle corps was established.

In 1974 the corps earned a full DCI membership by virtue of their ninth place finish in Ithaca, New York. In 1975 the Blue Devils placed third, and in 1976 they won their first Drum Corps International Championship, topping every caption.

Since 1975 the Blue Devils have never placed out of the top five at Championships and have won the DCI World Championship title in 1976, '77, '79, '80, '82, '86, '94, '96, '97 '99, and 2003, more than any other corps in history. The Blue Devils is the only corps to have scored in the 90s every year since 1975.

One unique aspects of the 1994 championship program was the use of scuba tanks as percussion instruments in the pit.

Two segments of the Blue Devils' 2003 show, 'The Phenomenon of Cool,' were in 5/4 time, Dave Brubeck's "Unsquare Dance" and "Take Five." They are the only corps in memory to march more than half their show in odd time. That extraordinary show was the vehicle for a season-long slow-motion race as the surging Blue Devils finally caught and passed the streaking Cavaliers to capture their 11th DCI championship, after a three-year hiatus, with a finals score of 98.8.

Blue Devils founder Jerry Seawright died in early 2004. That year, BD ran a nearly perfect string of wins right up to DCI Championships in Denver on the strength of a muscular jazz show entitled 'SummerTrain Blues Mix.' This railroad-themed show featured train-like vocal sound effects from the guard, as well as tuned railroad rails in the pit. On Finals night, the corps captured high guard and high brass before yielding the championship back to the Cavaliers by a mere 0.075 point.

Along with the DCI Championships, the Blue Devils Winter Guard won the Winter Guard International Championship in 1995, in 1996 with a record score of 99.45, in 1997 and again in 1998.

In the fall of 1989, the organization moved into its current building complex in the North Concord Business Park. There the Blue Devils Music School was established and began enrolling students as young as four years old. The music program, teaching piano, percussion and basic music theory to youth aged four to nine, currently involves over 150 students. In 1996 the organization added yet another program, The Diablo Wind Symphony. The Symphony serves 60 to 80 students ages 14 to 18.

Today the Blue Devils organization encompasses a wide spectrum of programs. The Blue Devils family includes the A, B, and C drum and bugle corps, three winter guard programs, and a world-class twirling program, in addition to the music school and the wind symphony. Over 500 young people, ages seven to twenty-one, are currently members of the Blue Devils performing units. More than 6000 young people have been served by the Blue Devils in its 47-year history.

Apart from their competitive performances, the Blue Devils are committed to offering the educational and cultural experience of international travel to their members. In 1983 the Blue Devils drum corps attended the 21st Century Celebration in Osaka, Japan. Teams from the Blue Devils twirling programs have traveled to Tokyo in 1982, Milan in 1983 (gold medal team winners), Calgary in 1984 (gold medal team winners), Turin, Italy in 1986 and Lyon, France in 1998. The percussion section was featured in 1988 as the centerpiece of a week-long schedule of performances at Japan Greenland. In the spring of 1988, the Blue Devils Winter Guard traveled to the Netherlands for clinics and performances. The drum corps returned to Japan in the fall of 1996 for a ten-day tour that included field show, parades, and indoor theatre performances, as well as clinics. The 2000, the Diablo Wind Symphony had a very successful fourteen-day Australian tour with performances in major Australian schools.

The Blue Devils have offered performances and clinics with great artists in the musical world. They have in concert with Maynard Ferguson, Bobby Shew and Chuck Mangione, as well as the late Stan Kenton and Buddy Rich. Clinics sponsored by the Blue Devils have featured Ralph Humphrey, Dave Weckl, Steve Houghton, Peter Erskine, Bob Montgomery and many others. The Blue Devils have highlighted musical selections from these great bands and artists in their repertoires over the years.

For an opportunity to entertain and perform in an intimate theater environment, the 1997 Blue Devils created 'Exhaltation,' combining the intimacy of the theater with the exhilarating power of field performances. 1998 saw an expansion of these performance opportunities with the creation of 'Exubero,' which traveled throughout the U.S. In 1999 audiences across the midwest and in Europe were treated to the exciting '{Jazz} Man in the Moon,' utilizing the talents of all sections to create a study of the ever present mystery of the effects of the moon on the cycles of life. The 2000 On-Stage production thrilled fans throughout Europe and was the centerpiece of the European tour.

Backed by a strong administrative program, The Blue Devils from Concord, California, rank unquestionably as the highest ranking and most consistent corps in the history of DCI, and one of the best drum corps ever.

[www.bluedevils.org; DCW, 6/17/88, p.2; DCW, 1/03, p.3; Dave Strickler; DCW, 8/6/04, p.3]

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