Originally published on The Windy City Epicurean by Mark Reyes, August 18, 2014.
Today's post is a bit of a departure from what I normally write about: food, wine, restaurants, and men's fashion. It's about Drum Corps International, drum and bugle corps, and the incredible activity that I was a part of (with The Velvet Knights) back in the early 90's. Yes, I'm old! More than that, this will be a 4-part interview with a young man who is a member of the 2014 World Champion Concord Blue Devils from Concord, CA. Last year, through the power of Facebook, I discovered that this young man who went to my high school, and was a member of the 15-time World Champion Blue Devils from Concord, CA. the Blue Devils are widely considered to be the most successful drum corps in history, and usually attract the best players and musicians from all over the world. Finding out about Sal Hernandez, and the fact that he went to my high school, was both thrilling and exciting. We immediately connected and talked about our experiences with music at our shared high school, university (UCLA) and drum corps.
I finally got the opportunity to meet this young man, Sal Hernandez, at a drum corps show this past summer in DeKalb, IL. It was great seeing someone who went to my high school doing the activity that I loved so much. I was the first from our high school to do drum corps, and Sal was essentially following in my footsteps! the Blue Devils went on to win their 16th DCI World Championship on Saturday, August 9th, with a record-breaking score of 99.65. Sal was a World Champion, and I found myself extremely proud of this young man. He truly is a representative of a fantastic musician and young adult.
I had the idea to interview Sal on the blog here, and use this as a vehicle for people (in and out of the activity) to get to know Sal and his experiences. Not only that, I wanted to interview him and get his perspective on the things that thousands of us fans and former members love so much - drum and bugle corps. Finally, I wanted to expose my readers to something deeply personal about me and my love for this activity. No, it's not marching band. It's marching music at its finest! I challenge you all to visit YouTube and type in "DCI" to see what I'm talking about.
I sat down with Sal this past week, shortly after he arrived back in Los Angeles from finals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Sal is getting ready to go back to school at UCLA, so I am gracious for him taking the time to sit down with me and do this interview. Hopefully you all enjoy this as much as I enjoyed talking with Sal!
Mark: Thanks Sal so much for agreeing to do this interview! How long has it been since you've been back home?
Sal Hernandez: Yeah! No problem. I am definitely exciting to be doing an interview with you! This is my third full day being back home. I landed in Los Angeles on Sunday night just after 11:00pm.
Mark: Wow. So you are still getting used to being back in the real world huh? How is it adjusting to being away from the road?
Sal Hernandez: DEFINITELY still adjusting to the real world! I keep waking up expecting to see all of my friends right next to me. I think I've been doing fairly well with getting back into the swing of things. I don't start school until October so I have some time to adjust to reality.
Mark: Yeah. That was always the hard part for me when coming back from tour! It's good you have some time to adjust before going back to UCLA! Go Bruins! How did you get into drum corps, and how old were you when you started?
Sal Hernandez: My freshmen year of high school, one of the graduating seniors had what I thought was the coolest jacket ever. It was his Impulse Drum and Bugle Corps member jacket. I remember thinking to myself how awesome it looked, and how much I wanted to march in the summer. At the time I was a saxophone player and never played anything but sax. I knew that it was something that I wanted to do, so the summer going into my sophomore year I learned baritone so that I could march baritone for fall season as well as what would eventually be my first season of drum corps. I was only fifteen and had no idea what to expect, but I loved it!
Mark: Nice! That's awesome! How many years were you with Impulse?
Sal Hernandez: I marched a total of three years at Impulse. My rookie year I was 3rd baritone, and then I came back the following year as a lead trumpet. I finished my last year as drum major for the 2012 season.
Mark: Wow. That's great! So you marched from the 2010 - 2012 season? How old are you now?
Sal Hernandez: Yeah, I marched with Impulse for the '10-'12 seasons and just recently turned 20 years old.
Mark: So how many more seasons do you have left before you age out?
Sal Hernandez: I have two more seasons before I age out, if my body lets me!
Mark: Ha! The way you guys were moving this past season, that is a legitimate concern! So why the Blue Devils? What led you up north to Concord and not audition for any other corps?
Sal Hernandez: I never really thought that I would end up with the Blue Devils. I remember in high school I was so set on one day marching with The Cavaliers or Santa Clara Vanguard. I made the decision to audition at Vanguard for the 2013 season. However, a few days before Blue Devils auditions I met a member of the Blue Devils (who would eventually become my roommate). I had seen him at band rehearsals at UCLA but I never approached him. I told him I was going to audition for Vanguard in December to which he replied "Why not the Blue Devils?" I don't know what it was about it, but at that moment I made the decision to audition for the Blue Devils. I ran back to my dorm after the meeting, paid the audition fee and downloaded the audition materials. The rest is history!
Mark: That's great! So was there any Blue Devils show that inspired you to want to join the Blue Devils?
Sal Hernandez: Definitely the Blue Devils 2011 show! There was something about that show. I remember watching it in theaters for the Big, Loud, and Live event and just feeling the energy from the performers. When the camera zoomed in on the member's faces I could see how much they wanted it. How hard they were fighting to prove something. The music was so lively, so driven. To this day it stands as my favorite Blue Devil show.
Mark: Great! So the 2013 show, The re:Rite of Spring, was your first season with the Blue Devils. What did you personally think of the show?
Sal Hernandez: Oh man. What a year to march! It was tough. The music was challenging. Not just from a technical standpoint, but from a harmonic standpoint as well. To top it off, the drill was ridiculous! Immediately after the first low brass hit, I had to run to the other side of the field at 210 beats per minute. When I got there, I got one count to breathe, and had to make another statement with one of the loudest, most dense chords I've ever had to play. I remember coming to a camp and someone telling me that I was the end of one of the gate turns. I nearly cried. All in all I loved that year. How could I not? It was my rookie year! Everything was new, the people were great, and the staff was amazing! I wouldn't trade my rookie year for anything in the world.
Mark: I personally loved the show, but obviously a lot of people didn't like it. Was it pretty evident while on the road that the fans didn't like the show? What was crowd reaction like for the show?
Sal Hernandez: The fans made it very clear how they felt about the show, but we never really let it phase us. We knew that once we got off the busses, we had a job to do. Be the best. It was that simple. Of all my experiences, the one that I remember getting to me the most was on finals night. We had just performed our show for the last time, and to be honest we kind of already knew it would be the last time. What hurt most wasn't the booing from the fans. It was their reaction as soon as they saw Carolina Crown entering the field. We weren't even close to getting off the field but as soon as the fans saw Crown they exploded in applause. I don't know what it was about that moment, but I'll never forget that feeling.
Mark: Unreal. Do you think they reacted that way because Carolina Crown had one show left to do to win the title? Or because they didn't want Blue Devils to win?
Sal Hernandez: I think it was a combination of both. I feel like the true fans, the ones who have loved the Crown organization since it's roots and the proud alumni, are the ones who were overwhelmed with excitement knowing that they were inches away from finally achieving such a tremendous accomplishment. On the other side I do feel like there were fans that didn't want the Blue Devils to win AGAIN. Especially with how the corps has been performing since 2007. If you want to win DCI you have to beat the Blue Devils. That is speaking from looking at winners and the runner-up since 2007. For how much longer? Who knows? Only time will tell.
Mark: Speaking of Crown's show last year, what did you personally think of the show? The horn line?
Sal Hernandez: The show was great! It did what it needed to do. It captured the audience. It made you feel something. Once you started you couldn't look away! The Crown horn line is absolutely amazing. Those kids are crazy talented. Last year we were fortunate enough to have them join us on the West Coast. Meeting members from another corps is my favorite thing about this activity. At the end of the day, when the super-suit is off, we're all just kids. We're all brought together by the power of music, and we are all here because we love doing it. That to me, is something really special.
Mark: That's so awesome to hear! Now do you think the Crown show from last year deserved to beat you guys and win the Championship?
Sal Hernandez: When I take off my Blue Devil glasses and watch both shows as an unbiased fan it's so tough to compare the two shows. There are just completely different shows. That being said I remember watching the Crown show for the first time after tour and thinking to myself, "Yup." Those kids have had a title coming to them for the longest time and I'm really glad that they won. With the Blue Devil show, you just have to watch it. The more you watch it, the more you fall in love with it.
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.
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!
Mark: Back in my day, we had very close relationships with Vanguard and Blue Devils - especially the drum line. Did you guys have any close relationships with other corps that stand out in your mind?
Sal Hernandez: It felt like everyone knew everyone! You would see members of the Blue Devils hanging out with members of The Troopers, The Crossmen, The Cavaliers, The Bluecoats, The Cadets, and just about everyone else. It was really neat! The coolest part was that if you didn't know someone from another corps, it wouldn't be very long until you did!
Mark: Amazing. Seems like there was some awesome friendships going on this summer! If the Blue Devils ceased to exist today, where would you go to perform next year?
Sal Hernandez: I don't know if I could march anywhere else! Ha ha ha! However, if I had to pick and money wasn't a factor I would definitely not mind being a part of Carolina Crown. Their brass program is really great!
Mark: Definitely. Nothing against you guys, but one of the best horn lines Ive heard since Star of Indiana! Ok, so back to a bit of controversy. Did you guys hear about the Snapchat photo that went viral? Of The Cadets members who wrote "F*ck You Blue Devils" on the bottom of their shoes? If so, when did you hear about it? How did you guys take that?
Sal Hernandez: Funny story. I woke up on quarterfinals day to my best buddy showing me his phone and saying "check it out". It was a Snapchat that he had received from one of his friends at The Cadets. Never would I have thought that the same image would become viral. He took a screenshot because he thought it was a funny picture. The picture was never meant to be hurtful or negative and we didn't take it that way. My buddy decided to share it on our sections private page, if for anything just for a good laugh. Well, people started talking about it, and people who weren't in the group got their hands on the photo. It's a shame that it was shared outside of the group. It was posted with the mentality that this was our group and it was a private thing. Other members who didn't know who sent it or where the image came from, took it upon themselves to share it with the world. I think this was unfortunate. Should The Cadets member have written it on his shoes? Probably not. But just the same, the image shouldn't have been shared. What good does it do to the Blue Devils if The Cadets look silly on the Internet? My feelings toward the incident are very personal since it was my best friend who took the screenshot of the Snapchat photo, and I was with him for a large part of the day as it was all developing. It stressed him out, and it made me kind of mad that some members saw this as the perfect opportunity to expose some dirt on The Cadets. But, nonetheless, it happened. Twenty years from now that image will be floating around cyberspace waiting for someone to bring it up again. Unfortunate, but it happened.
Mark: So wait, the picture was in good fun between the member of The Cadets and your buddy, who are friends? Or?
Sal Hernandez: The persons in the photo were unfamiliar, however the person who sent the Snapchat was a friend of my buddy. All season long we would be exchanging playful snaps in which we would make fun of each other or praise how good we each had it. Between us friends who were in different organizations. It was never meant to be negative, since we were all good sports about it. That Snapchat in particular was sent to my buddy in the same manor.
Mark: Well, I would imagine that most of the Internet doesn't know this side of the story! It seems like it was taken out of context for sure!
Sal Hernandez: It was definitely taken out of context - which is unfortunate. But we all learned from it.
Mark: Unfortunately, that is the bad side of the drum corps and the Internet becoming intertwined. But, I'm glad you all were able to move on. Now, I know there are people out there who have kids who are getting to the age of being able to do drum corps. I think they want to send their kids to do drum corps, but are unsure of the costs. Can you share with us the costs for this past season? Maybe you can break it down with costs for tour fees, costs for traveling to get to camps, camp fees, money for the summer while on the road? Any details you can share would be great!
Sal Hernandez: Certainly! This year our Tour Fee was $2200 for early pay, which meant you paid the full amount by a certain deadline. If you went with the payment plan fee, it ended up being $2600, if I remember correctly. Along with this there was a $100 registration fee as well as a $100 audition fee payed by the new members that was paid at the time of auditions. Being from Southern California, my travel expenses weren't too bad. I would carpool with other members from the area to monthly camps, and a round trip was usually between $30-$40.
On average I would spend anywhere from $25-$35 for food costs during the weekend. I was a weekend warrior so I was only "moved in" for a couple days. That being said, I was driving up every weekend once all days had started. I believe after all of the camps and weekends combined, it was $450 in travel expenses. I only brought $120 on tour. I knew that it would be really easy to spend money so I only brought just enough to get me through free days and laundry days. As I mentioned, it's really easy to spend money on tour! You're overwhelmed by all of the cool new places that aren't California, or wherever home is for you. SO much great food to try!
In the end, it was an approximate grand total of about $2870. Although this might seem like a lot of money to some, there are so many wonderful opportunities to get financial assistance. This year I was extremely fortunate and was selected for one of the Blue Devils brass alumni scholarships. I was nearly in tears when John Meehan announced that I was one of the few recipients of the $750 scholarships. This along with my online campaign via GoFundMe, which raised just over $1000, made reaching my financial obligations for the 2014 season extremely achievable. There are so many great people in the drum corps community and I can't wait for it to be my turn and help someone who was in my shoes, to have the summer of a lifetime!
Mark: Yes! You can certainly count on me to help you out this coming season! I'm sure after this interview, you will have plenty of other people willing to help you out as well! What has drum corps, and the things you've learned from being a part of Impulse and The Blue Devils, taught you that you can apply to everyday life? Any life lessons that you've applied to your own personal life that you've learned from drum corps?
Sal Hernandez: The lessons really are invaluable. I feel like I have a really strong work ethic thanks to drum corps. I remember getting my first job and just wanting to learn everything I could. I didn't care that I was just a kid in a pizza shop, I wanted to be the best employee possible. Not just for my managers but also for the customers. As silly as it sounds, seeing a customers smile after checking their pizzas really was awesome! For my managers, I always tried my best to keep the highest sales possible. Anytime that I came to work I was always in competition, wanting to keep my average sales as high as possible. I think that there were only a few times that I didn't come out with the highest sales for the day.
I've learned to demand more of myself, especially after marching with the Blue Devils. I try my best to take the same approach that I would during the summer to everyday life, whether it by studying for a test, working out at the gym, or practicing my horn. It's the little things that get beaten into you all summer and once you're in the real world you don't even realize that you're doing them. Always give your best effort in everything that you do, because you never know who might be watching you. But above all, enjoy what you're doing! As cheesy as it sounds it's so true!
Mark: It's not cheesy at all! And yes, achieving excellence in everything that you do. It sounds like you've learned a lot of great lessons through drum corps. With that being said, why do you think parents should send their talented son or daughter off to drum corps?
Sal Hernandez: I feel like drum corps provides a really great social environment for young adults. It gives members an opportunity to work with some of the most talented educators in the world. It really is just such an incredible experience. Words can't do it justice. You just have to let them go out there and see for themselves.
Mark: Is there a drum corps out there presently, aside from Blue Devils, that makes you think "Wow" every time you see them or hear them? Maybe while on the road or at a show, and you are in the lot and see that other drum corps there as well? What about a drum corps from the past?
Sal Hernandez: To be completely honest, not really. Don't get me wrong, Carolina Crown's hornline is absolutely amazing. The Bluecoats and Santa Clara Vanguards percussion is incredible! But when it comes down to it, I've always been so focused on what we were doing in the parking lot, that I never really payed much attention to other corps until after the show. I remember how incredible I thought Phantom Regiment was when I first started doing drum corps. In 2011 when they did their westcoast tour and I was with Impulse, I remember running around after performing just to find them. The same with Blue Devils 2012 in the lot in Walnut, CA. They were just awesome. So in your face. I guess I'll have to wait a couple of summers before I can soak up all of the amazing talent and let myself be wowed again!
Mark: Being on the road for the past 4 summers now, it's safe to say that you spent a lot of time in busses traveling from place to place. What did you do on the busses to occupy your time, other than sleeping? Do you guys listen to a lot of drum corps from the past? Do you guys appreciate all the "old school" drum corps and listen to it regularly?
Sal Hernandez: Everyone had their own thing, and that was kind of the cool thing about it. For those who preferred to just sleep, they could easily do that. We would play all kinds of movies on the bus. Anything to give us a little break from all of the drum corps that we were doing. Some people would read or play video games on their Nintendo DS. Some people just liked talking. We would play a lot of music and occasionally we would listen to shows from the past. It was really great. A bunch of Blue Devils listening to the Blue Devil corps that made us want to be here. We definitely respected all of the older stuff. After all they were once us.
Mark: Yes! Absolutely! I think if it wasn't for the great Blue Devils shows of the past, you wouldn't be a part of the organization! If the Blue Devils have a "rival", someone that you guys are worried about coming out and giving you a fight for the title, who would you say that rival is?
Sal Hernandez: In this day and age I would say it can be anyone. Just look at recent history and you'll see. In '08 it was the Blue Devils and Phantom Regiment. In 2010 it was the Cavaliers, with The Cadets in 2011. In 2012 and 2013, it was Carolina Crown. This year it was The Bluecoats, The Cadets, and Carolina Crown for a while! It's just so unpredictable. Everyone wants it that much more every year. If I had to take a guess about who our main rival would be for the 2015 season, I would probably put it on Carolina Crown. I feel like they are going to make a real statement this upcoming season! With that, I look forward to seeing all of the show announcements! One by one they will bring us one step closer to starting this thing up all over again!
Mark: Awesome! You are going on record and saying that Carolina Crown will be your main competitor! One final question for you Sal. What's in store for the Blue Devils for 2015? Are you guys going to win again? Ha! If you don't win, who would you like to see win it all?
Sal Hernandez: the Blue Devils are going to go out and be absolutely incredible next year, regardless of score or placement. Whatever happens on finals night, I would like to see whoever deserves it the most take the prize. Whether it is us, The Cadets, Carolina Crown, or whoever else is in the running for it!
Mark: Thanks Sal! I really appreciate all the time you've taken to sit down and talk with me about your thoughts and experiences! Congrats again on winning this past season, and I hope you continue to pursue your dreams next year and beyond! Is there anything you would like to say to the readers out there before you leave?
Sal Hernandez: Yes! Absolutely! This activity is something truly special. It brings together kids from all over the country and the world. The opportunities that present themselves to students every year are just incredible, including working with some of the most amazing staff. They really are the best at what they do. It's remarkable! This activity is made possible by the fans and the alumni. They truly are the fuel to this crazy thing that we all call drum corps. It's a special place. Regardless of what color we wear on the field, we are all here because we love it. I just hope that in the future we can be a little more cautious when down talking other corps, and that we can remember what it was like to be there on the field, however long ago it may have been. I would like to thank you Mark and the readers for taking the time to listen to a members perspective! It truly was an honor. I hope that this interview has been insightful for fans everywhere. Thank you!
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