We’re back again with Part II of my interview with Sal Hernandez of the World Champion Concord Blue Devils. First of all, thanks to all of you readers and viewers who took the time to check out the interview and read about the beginnings of Sal’s drum corps experiences. The response has been OVERWHELMING, and I appreciate all the great comments and amount of viewers in the span of 12 hours. Absolutely amazing! So without further delay, here is Part II of the interview!
Mark: So let’s talk about this past season. Did you know you were going to go back to The Blue Devils this past year? Did you consider going to another corps?
Sal Hernandez: I knew for a fact that I would be coming back. If there was a year to come back it was this one. Only two holes in the euphonium section and an all-veteran contra line. I knew that it was going to be a special year, I just didn’t know to what magnitude!
Mark: Wow. Didn’t know that! What was it about this year’s show that was so different from last year?
Sal Hernandez: It started with the members. There was a fire inside all of us from the first audition camps, especially with the older vets and age-outs. Before we knew the show, before we got any music, we all knew that we were going to go out this year and be undeniable. Felliniesque. The show just had so much room for the performers to express themselves. Not just happy, sad, but more out there things like clownish and ironic. It was just amazing. The amount of style changes was so fun! You never got bored, and as a performer you felt excited to share so much emotion and energy with the audience. I guess at the end of the day it came down to the fans. What can we share with you today? How can we make you feel today? Even the anti-Blue Devils fans: if you didn’t like The Blue Devils but found yourself clapping or even out of your seat by the end of the show then we did our job. If we could do that, then we could prove that it didn’t matter what color was on the field, what mattered was the performance.
Mark: Awesome! Do you think the fans reacted to the show better this year over last year?
Sal Hernandez: Definitely! It was amazing to see fans get out of their seats before the show was even over. Standing ovations all season long. It’s so incredible! As a performer seeing the appreciation for what we are doing on the field just makes us feel amazing. When that connection is made between the performers and the audience, well, that’s when you know you have something really special.
Mark: Ok. A lot of people are saying that a score of 99.65 should never be given to any corps. Obviously that score broke the record held by The Cavaliers and the Cadets. Do you think the score was deserved? Do you think that a score should ever be that high?
Sal Hernandez: Think about how ridiculous a 99.15 sounded before it was achieved, and to top it off having it achieved by two groups. 99.65 – I heard it announced, I saw it on the screen, but it’s just so hard to believe. I think that when taking all things into consideration the score was spot on. Nowadays the way scores are given is so strange anyways. I do feel like the concept of perfection has changed since the roots of the activity. Not just within giving perfect scores to us, but other corps as well. I guess we’re all waiting to see who will be the first to 100. Then maybe 99.65 won’t seem so ridiculous!
Mark: I think a lot of us hope the scoring and judging system changes in the very near future. I’m sure a lot of you current members feel the same way too! Being in a top-tier corps, I know it’s tough to see any shows when you are usually going on last at a show. However, did you get a chance to see any shows live this season?
Sal Hernandez: Unfortunately I wasn’t able to this season. On the days that we went on early (TOC shows), I performed with the “Happy Ensemble” which was an ensemble that would perform an arrangement of the popular tune Happy during intermission and before shows. Which, by the way, was really fun!
Mark: Definitely! I saw that when I met up with you at the show in DeKalb! Since you’ve been home, have you had a chance to see The Bluecoats show? If so, what did you think?
Sal Hernandez: I have! Easily one of the coolest shows I’ve ever seen! I really wish I could have seen it live. I did catch some Bluecoat horn line warm-ups in the parking lot, and I am not surprised with how well they finished this season. They were hot! A great show, with a great concept, with one of the coolest endings I’ve ever seen by far.
Mark: On the field for finals night, when the scores were being announced, what was it like when The Cadets were given third and Bluecoats second?
Sal Hernandez: Man…it’s the kind of “What if” scenario you know everyone is thinking, but you never really expect it to happen. Well it happened. I do feel really bad for The Cadets especially with all of the “Blooing” on the field; especially after marching last year and losing to Carolina Crown. I feel like I can relate to what they were feeling when it was announced that they took third. With that being said, huge congratulations to both corps for a really great finish to the season. I feel like everyone is going to remember 2014, for a long time.
Mark: Yeah, you can probably relate to what The Cadets felt for sure. Have you heard about the so-called “controversy” behind The Cadets leaving the field so quickly? People are saying that The Cadets were mad about taking third, and left as soon as they could, and didn’t congratulate you guys while you, The Bluecoats and other corps were hugging it out on the field. What do you think about that?
Sal Hernandez: I did hear about this. I read one of the posts, which I believe was by George Hopkins (Director of The Cadets) in which he said something along the lines of it being a Cadets tradition and wanting to leave so that the champion can perform their show one last time. I respect the Cadets for being strong in their traditions. That being said I feel like at some point, traditions need to change. It’s really hard to imagine that after a summer full of blood, sweat, and tears, when it’s all finally over you can’t congratulate each other on a great summer. Traditions aside, at the end of the day we are all kids who love being around each other. I know that there was probably a feeling of embarrassment or disappointment, but like I said, when all is said and done, no one cares! That’s the beauty of it! When else will you be surrounded by so many people who love what you do! Who have been doing the same thing as you all summer long? I think it’s a shame, because in the public’s eye The Cadets tradition seems like they are just being bitter. They didn’t do anything ‘wrong’, you know? It just came off as rude to a lot of people and it’s kind of hard to be taken any other way.
Mark: Obviously you guys went undefeated throughout the entire season. That’s a huge feat in itself! However, you were beating everyone by a HUGE margin, even up to Preliminaries on Thursday night of finals week where you finished nearly 2 points ahead of The Cadets.. At what point in the season did you guys know that you were going to win the championship? Was it ever discussed between members and staff that you were going to win?
Sal Hernandez: Personally, as a member I knew that we were going to take it this year. As I mentioned before, during the early camps you could just feel the fire inside everyone who marched in 2013. On July 3rd, we performed at Cedarburg, WI and received a score of 86.2. That same night in Bristol, RI, the Cadets scored an 81.7 and the Bluecoats an 81.3. I feel like that was when as members, we realized just how true it was that we were no longer competing against anyone. We were now on a different task. It was no longer about winning DCI, it was about being the most undeniable corps and about setting the new mark – making DCI history. I don’t remember the staff ever telling us that we were going to win: at least not directly. They would tell us that we were good, that right now it doesn’t seem so big but in ten years we will realize just how special the 2014 corps was. They never let us get complacent. It didn’t matter how far ahead we were, we still had work to do.
Mark: And how was it during finals week this past year? Clearly you guys knew you were going to win. Was there a little bit less pressure compared to last year, when you and Crown were neck and neck in the last week and on finals night?
Sal Hernandez: The approach to finals week was a bit different but not so much in the competitive aspect. Instead of waiting till the last day to say our goodbyes to others in the corps, we did it throughout the entire week. That way when it came to our last day, everything could be as normal as possible. Up until semi-finals last year, I honestly thought we could pull off the win. We had won prelims, by a couple of tenths if I remember correctly, and then all of a sudden we got beat by over half a point. There was a lot of speculation as to what had happened that night. Our scores weren’t the only ones that seemed funny. So that was that. This year though, we had one more day after finding out how big the gap was and what more could we really do. We showed up the next day, did our gig, said goodbyes, and performed the show one last time. I don’t think that there was any more or less pressure. Some years we win and some years we don’t.
You can read Part I, Part III, and Part IV here:
Thanks again Sal for doing the interview! Part III is coming tomorrow, where Sal will be talking about his thoughts on “old school vs new school” drum and bugle corps, electronics/amplification, and Drum Corps Planet. Stay tuned!