A large number of age-outs in 2001 brought a difference in the membership. Along with that, a change in the visual staff brought a new perspective in how the corps looked at the way in which members experienced the “philosophy” of being in Vanguard. Some members said 2002 was a year that Vanguard didn’t seem like Vanguard, and the rookies may have noticed the tension but had their plates full simply trying to survive.
For returning members, this change in philosophy made clear to them the values that they wanted to preserve. It also made them realize that it was their responsibility to see it through and guide newer members along the journey.
The staff tossed many ideas around, some of which were very complex. Back and forth discussions weren’t producing results, and finally someone said, “Complex isn’t working, so let’s go simple. The simplest concept can be the most beautiful.” Another responded, “Let’s go with the basics of what we do: Sound, Shape and Color.” That became the genesis of the 2002 production.
Ideas were bounced around about how to match shapes to sounds. “The opener is angular, so let’s go triangles. The next piece is smooth and flowing so let’s go circles. After that let’s go squares. And the end is where we put everything together.” – Rob Jett, Instructional Staff SCV 1992 1993 2000-2002.
Triangles for the opener spawned the “Elastiflag”, a flagpole with a large elastic band connected to the ends so that the elastic could be stretched out to form a triangle. This brought many challenges, as it was a new piece of equipment requiring a new technique.
The opener was initially going to be a piece by Stravinsky. The corps learned the music and drill before discovering there was an issue with copyrights; and the opener had to be scrapped. Gordon Henderson created an original composition based on the Stravinsky; but he kept as much of the counts the same so that it would still work with the existing drill. It was, perhaps, not the best method of show design; but it worked.
Kevin Murray, Instructional Staff, SCV 1992-1993, returned to the percussion staff in 2002 and introduced a new way of playing, letting the sound drive the technique more than the visual elements. “This opened up the sound and made it more fun to play” – Patrick Haedtler, snare SCVC 1999, SCV 2000-2004. At the same time, this was a major adjustment for the drum line.
Vanguard has always been a repository of traditions. Over the years the sheer amount of seemingly minuscule traditions became weighty, to say the least. 2002 brought the inception of the Rookie Rule Book, a work written by a few veteran members of the color guard who wanted to catalog many of the Vanguard traditions they felt rookies should know. They ranged from the major ones, such as the green feather, to traditions that appeared to have no origin or reason to exist, such as walking around versus through the field to put your flag down. “Why? It’s the Vanguard way.” – Alexis (Velez) Gonzalez, color guard SCV 2001-2004, SCVWG 2006 2007, Instructional Staff SCVC 2006-2008, SCV 2009-2014, SCVWG 2009-2013.
Jim Casella, Crime Fighter
By far the most common story among Vanguard 2002 members involves a fugitive with a gun, a police chase, and Jim Casella, bass SCV 1989-1991, Instructional Staff SCVC 1992-1994, SCV 1994, 1996-2004. During rehearsal in the Dick Force Stadium of Gonzales, CA, a man with a gun entered the field as he was being chased by the local police. Jim lent his assistance with a voice from above, directing the police to apprehend the perpetrator: “He’s jumped over the fence! He’s in the McDonald’s parking lot!”. The horn line, in their infinite wisdom, hid behind a chain link fence, somehow believing it would protect them. Later, the city of Gonzales gave Jim an award for his help, and the corps received Gonzales Irrigation System (GIS) hats for their bravery withstanding the adventure.
The visual staff changed during the early part of the year. Dylan Thompson, Brass SCVC 1991, SCV 1993-1996, Instructional Staff SCV 1997-2001 left, a new visual team entered. This was a major blow to the veteran members, especially in the horn line. Dylan had been a source of emotional and philosophical leadership, building confidence in the members not only through technical expertise, but by empowering the members to believe they were capable of great things. Whether by design or not, the visual staff had been mentors, imparting those lessons and instilling those qualities, transforming individuals into a collective spirit of achievement. Losing Dylan was like losing a family member; and the horn line, while able to perform, missed that feeling of connection to Vanguard they had experienced in the past.
Finding our Stride
The many transitions in 2002 were difficult for returning members. Even so, Vanguard moved forward. Rob Jett said, “…2002 was the year that we found our stride, and a lot of things that might have been a struggle the year or two before were a lot easier in the process that year.” Jen Cunningham, color guard SCV 2001-2003 said, “Those of us who could come back still did. It was still Vanguard.”