Here is Part III for you all! Thanks again to all of you readers who have shared your thoughts and comments about Sal on Facebook, Twitter, etc.. I know Sal appreciates reading and hearing the comments of how great of a young man he is. Yes, he is very well-spoken and a great representative of The Blue Devils organization. Thanks again Sal! Today we are going to get more into the nitty-gritty and underbelly of Drum Corps International: old school vs new school. Sal has some great opinions and insight into what him and other members think of those who laid the foundation for them. There definitely is a devout respect and admiration from Sal and other members for those of us who experienced drum corps it in the past, and who laid the foundation for the activity they have now. Hopefully a lot of those “old school” alumni will read this interview and have a better opinion of where DCI is today, and where it’s headed!
Also, a HUGE thank you to Blue Devils member Marcus Stone for providing and taking some of the great photos of Sal in this interview. Thanks Marcus!
On with Part III of the interview!
Mark: It seems that most, if not all, of The Blue Devils staff has remained intact for years. Now that you are part of the organization, what do you think keeps the staff coming back year after year?
Sal Hernandez: I feel like that the staff continues to come back because they love what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. As a member, you can feel that your best interest is always accounted for; on and off the field. I feel like the consistency in the staff, year after year, has attributed greatly to the corps’ success. I’m pretty sure they know that, too.
Mark: Heck yeah. A solid staff, year after year, is probably the main factor in so many championships for The Blue Devils. What would the staff do specifically to keep you guys motivated and striving for the best? Does The Blue Devils offer the best of everything to its members?
Sal Hernandez: The staff was very honest with us. Being told that we are professionals puts a new perspective on the whole thing. If we were slacking or unmotivated because maybe we didn’t sleep so well the night before, or breakfast was something that we weren’t the biggest fans of, we would get a little push. One instance I remember specifically this summer was something someone from our brass staff said to us. He asked us how we thought he slept the night before, based on his motivational and instructional performance thus far in the block. We were none the wiser when we found out that he had only a few hours of sleep. It was things like that instance that motivated us. Just when we thought we were good, we learned just how much better we could be. How professional were we taught to be? Every time we had a show, we knew someone in the stands would be experiencing their first drum corps show, someone’s first time watching the Blue Devils. First impressions are everything. It didn’t matter if it was the run at the end of the day for the couple of fans that showed up and stayed out late just to watch us rehearse, or if it was a big regional. I feel like with The Blue Devils, we were given the best opportunities. When weird things happened on tour, the staff would be flexible with our schedule to ensure that the performers would be able to perform to the best of their abilities. If any issue came about, the admin team would be on it. They were so good, we sometimes didn’t even know something was wrong to begin with!
Mark: Ha! That’s amazing! What do you think makes The Blue Devils so different from other corps?
Sal Hernandez: The Blue Devils have been an iconic corps since as far as I can remember. The consistency in the work ethic and staff. The willingness to evolve and push the boundaries of the activity and the performers. Every year is a new opportunity. A new corps.
Mark: Some of my favorite Blue Devils shows are from 1988, 1991, 1992, and 1994. Have you seen or heard these shows? What do you think of them?
Sal Hernandez: I have! Man, GREAT shows. Blue Devils ’92 is easily in my top 3 all time favorite. The power of those horn lines is just incredible!
Mark: Yes! That ’92 horn line playing Stan Kenton’s Cuban Fire Suite is AMAZING! Those horn lines put out some amazing music and great jazz that made The Blue Devils so great. Do you think you guys will ever go back to that type of show where you have that big, fat sound of the late 80s and early 90s?
Sal Hernandez: I don’t know if it will ever go back to exactly how it was but I think the iconic sounds will always be embellished into modern Blue Devil shows. Just look at 2012! There were motifs of ’88, ’91, and ’92 in that show, if memory serves me right. Listening to old Blue Devils is really amazing, especially after having marched in the organization. I think it’s ironic and funny, because we’re always being told by alumni that what we are doing is incredible. But all I can think to myself when I listen to old school Blue Devils is MAN! These guys are so awesome!
Mark: I know the old Blue Devils alumni are going to appreciate knowing you guys think that! Especially with the unfortunate separation between old school and new school thinkers when it comes to Drum Corps International. Speaking of which, let’s talk about electronics, narration, amplification and the rule changes that have made the activity so different today. Do you think you could be a part of a drum corps that decided to “strip” themselves down of all those things for a season? What if DCI decided to eliminate all of the things that have been added in this day and age?
Sal Hernandez: I could definitely be a part of it. Electronics have undoubtedly changed the game, but with that being said we did it without them before so I’m sure that one season without them wouldn’t be bad. It might even bring about some innovative new ideas to add to the field in the absence of electronics. If DCI got rid of everything I think we would find a way. The goal remains the same: entertain and connect with the crowd. But most important of all, let it come from the heart and make it special. The activity is not done changing, nor do I think it ever will be. However, if we can strive for the ultimate performance, year after year, it’s only going to get better and better.
Mark: I don’t think evolution will ever cease when it comes to innovation and the progression of drum corps. Looking ahead to the 2015 season, how many “holes” from age-outs will there be? When do you anticipate finding out what the show is for the new season?
Sal Hernandez: I don’t remember an exact number but I think we’re looking at around half the hornline and almost half of the guard gone. It’s a scary thought, but then I remember who we are. There have been numerous Blue Devil corps with large rookie classes who have come out and been awesome! 2012 is a great example! Our staff will put the puzzle pieces together, as they always do. That being said, to anyone who reads this and has been considering auditioning for the Blue Devils or any other corps: Go for it! Don’t doubt your abilities. If you decide to not audition, you have already given yourself a 0% chance of making the corps. As for show announcement, the public will probably know the show before we do! Ha ha! In all seriousness though, if it’s like it has been in the past, members will have an idea based on the music starting in the winter (most likely first camp) with an official announcement sometime in April or around then.
Mark: Wow! That is a lot of holes to fill! It will be definitely be interesting to see how the corps shapes up for the 2015 season. Let’s shift gears a little bit. One thing that us old timers didn’t have while doing drum corps,that you guys have now, is the Internet. You can find out scores instantaneously and you’re able to keep up with what’s going on via social media, etc.. Depending on how you look at it, a “beast” that has emerged is Drum Corps Planet and all of the people who come out of the woodwork to praise and criticize various aspects of DCI. Are you on DCP? While on the road, did you or other members of the corps read what was going on in the forums on Drum Corps Planet?
Sal Hernandez: Every once in a while we would read some of the Drum Corps Planet articles and threads. They end up being, more than anything, a form of entertainment for us. It’s always great to see what people have to say, whether it’s good or bad. It’s unfortunate when some fans get a little too out of hand and forget that there are kids underneath those uniforms.
Mark: Yeah, that seems to be the problem with Drum Corps Planet and such. Going back for a second to the innovations using electronics, amplification, etc: I know you can’t speak for other members, but what do you personally think of the “old school vs. new school” argument when it comes to the advances DCI has made with electronics, narration, etc.?
Sal Hernandez: Evolution is inevitable. Think back to the first computers, first cars, etc. I know it’s not exactly the same, but the idea is the same. Drum corps may not be just “drum and bugle corps” anymore, but is that such a bad thing? The Bluecoats this year had one of the best use of electronics that I’ve ever heard, and you know what? It worked. The audience loved it. The proof is in the applause. The activity is no longer, “I wonder which charts Troopers are going to keep in their show this year”. Instead, it’s “I can’t wait to see what new idea Carolina Crown is going to come up with this year!” All of the modern additions have been tools for generating effect. The activity has been changing since it was started, and someone is always going to disagree, but think about where we would be as a society if we only did things how we did in the old days.
Mark: Absolutely! I agree 100%. There are always going to be those who disagree. As well as knowing that there will be people who scoff at you for saying that “Drum corps may not be ‘drum and bugle corps’ anymore.” What do you think of those who say that they are going to, or have stopped going to DCI shows because the activity is no longer “drum and bugle” corps, and more like Bands of America? Do you think they are stopping in their support of performers like you? Do you think they will be missing out, in the end?
Sal Hernandez: I think that it’s a shame for those who have stopped, and for those who will stop. You can search media archives all day long and reminisce about the old days, but it just doesn’t beat going out to a live drum corps show. It’s exciting, it’s fresh, it’s new, but most of all it keeps the tradition and spirit alive. There is no greater feeling than seeing someone with some Star of Indiana or Anaheim Kingsmen gear and having him or her tell you how great our show was. I did this activity because I saw “X” performance. People who marched in “X” performance did the activity because they saw “Y” performance, and so on and so forth. It all goes back to the roots of the activity. I do think it’s a great loss to not check out a live show, I certainly can’t wait until I can attend a live show again! The last time I saw a live show was 2009 and it won’t be until 2017 that I get to see one again!
That’s it for today! The final part of my interview with Sal Hernandez comes tomorrow! Sal will be talking about what it takes to be a member of The Blue Devils, how being a Blue Devil has influenced his daily life, and a bit more controversy with a certain Snapchat photo from a member of The Cadets that went viral. Stay tuned!
Missed Part I, Part II or Part IV? They can be found here: