It was also the last year that Gail Royer would serve as the director of the corps. The summer began with great energy knowing that the corps would be performing Fiddler on the Roof, which had an intense emotional link to the corps’ early history. Excitement bubbled from both performers and staff as they anticipated being a part of the 25th anniversary and performing the iconic bottle dance! This anticipatory excitement attracted incredible talent to join the ranks of the corps. As talented as the performers and staff were, it was clear very early in the season that the show was not meeting the expectations of the judges. The drum corps activity had matured over the past 25 years and was pushing the boundaries of what innovation looked and sounded like. The 1992 show attempted to blend the history of the activity with current DCI expectations but struggled to find that path. Santa Clara gambled with a show of nostalgia and lost due to the dated design. Unfortunately, a show that had one foot rooted in the activity’s past with nostalgic uniforms, arrangements and visual elements, was not innovative enough for 1992. So while tour came with the honor of performing the crowd-loving bottle dance, it also came with constant design changes in an effort to create a show that would be competitive in the current drum corps arena.
SCV’s 1992 story prophetically aligned with the storyline of Fiddler on the Roof. In Fiddler, Tevia struggles to accept changes in his family and community that contradict his traditional way of life. As life was changing around him, his culture was being redefined. He had to make the decision to embrace the change and redefine his purpose. If he did not, he would surely be left behind. These themes mirror what the Santa Clara Vanguard experienced in 1992. Tradition has long been a foundational source of pride for the Santa Clara Vanguard. However, depending on a tradition alone to celebrate the 25th anniversary led the designers to shortchange another of the corps’ foundational values for which the group was named: Vanguard … a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas. The corps had to accept that while tradition was at the heart of SCV’s identity, it had to be more innovative if it was to meet the progressive expectations of the activity.
The season culminated in what alumni consistently recall as being the most emotional event of the summer. After retreat, the corps members gathered in the parking lot and Gail Royer conducted Send in the Clowns for the last time. At the time, the members did not know they would lose him by the next summer and that this moment would mark the last time the corps’ founding director would conduct the corps song: a piece of music that has come to mean so much to so many. To this day, those who marched the 1992 season continue to share how blessed they feel to have been a part of Gail’s last tour: a summer of tradition that threw down the gauntlet for a future of innovation. Both are possible and Vanguard has shown time and again that when they honor both, they remain a force to be reckoned with.