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Vanguard Music and Performing Arts photoThe Santa Clara Vanguard Drum & Bugle Corps is spending three weeks on the Southern Oregon University campus as it trains for a national tour.

Renowned drum and bugle corps rehearsing in Ashland

There’s been a lot of interesting music coming from the Southern Oregon University football stadium the last couple of weeks, sounds that can be heard in most parts of town. Turns out it’s the sound of one of the most elite drum and bugle corps in the world. The Santa Clara Vanguard (SCV) Drum & Bugle Corps has decided to call Ashland home while they practice for their summer tour.

Haven’t heard enough of them? They’ll be rehearsing until June 8, but will be back for performances July 4-7, according to Ashland High School band director Travis Moddison.

“This group is one of the best in the world and they spend weeks putting together their production and rehearsing it to a very high level,” Moddison said.

Their performances around town July 4 include performing in the parade and at a concert in Lithia Park afterwards. They’ll also perform at the first-ever Rogue Drum Corps International competition July 5 at SOU. (More information for that event can be found at roguedci.com.) A free performance for the community to say “thank you for putting up with the practice noise” will be held at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 7, at SOU Raider Stadium.

SCV has been practicing since May 19 in Ashland for their “spring training,” Corps Director Shaun Gallant said.

“There are 154 performers on the field and 40 support staff (staff, volunteers and administration). The drum corps consists of members from 26 states and 4 countries. These young professionals are the best of their craft,” Gallant said. “There are over 800 people that audition for 154 spots.”

SCV will begin its 15,000-mile, 26-performance tour across the country the last week of June.

According to Moddison, AHS is working alongside SOU, the Medford school district, the Ashland Schools Foundation and the Ashland Chamber of Commerce to bring more than 500 drum and bugle corps performers to Ashland in July.

“I can tell you it will be an AMAZING performance,” Moddison said. “Four of the best drum corps in the world will be here. Tickets will be available online at dci.org. We recommend people get tickets soon to ensure they have the best seats.”

According to SCV’s website, “SCV has the distinction of being the only organization to be a finalist in Drum Corps International (DCI) World Championships since the inception of DCI in 1972.” They were also the first organization in DCI history to have a World Class and Open Class Champion, and the first to have a World Class and Open Class corps in the elite Top 17 Semifinals of DCI World Championship competitions. The SCV comprises two competitive drum and bugle corps, the Vanguard and the Vanguard Cadets, the Vanguard Winter Guard, Winter Percussion and Community Arts Program.

Moddison’s idea to bring DCI to Ashland stemmed from his prior work as a competition judge with the organization.

“There’s a reason DCI is called ‘Marching Music’s Major League,’” Moddison said. “Their performances are like marching band meets Broadway.”

According to event organizer John Williams, a former Ashland School District director, DCI is considered North America’s most elite drum and bugle corps organization. They sponsor the annual World Championship, which aired during halftime in the most recent Super Bowl last February.

He said there are currently 24 DCI corps in their “World Class” division across North America, and even more corps in their second division, called “Open Class.”

The lovely ruckus Ashlanders have the pleasure of experiencing now is created by the proud winners of multiple championships in both divisions.

Gallant stressed that all rehearsals are open to the public. “I would encourage anyone to come down and see what these young professionals are doing at SOU,” Gallant said. “They are absolutely amazing and would love the support. All we ask is no photo or videos for licensing reasons.”

Rehearsals are scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon, 1 to 5 p.m. and at 6 p.m.

Each corps has clinic and sectional practices during winter, then begin practice in late spring to tour over the summer.

“Most of the corps performing in Ashland will play at an event in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena just a few days before playing in Ashland,” according to a press release.

SCV will conduct a clinic for Rogue Valley music students interested in what it’s like to be a part of a world class organization. The clinic is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at AHS and will be open to students who play brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, and those interested in color guard performances. Students must bring their own instruments, and lunch will be provided. The cost to attend is $10. Tickets can be purchased at donate.scvanguard.org/scvxashland.

“The staff of the Vanguard consists of some of the best music and dance educators in the business,” Gallant said.

Gallant said SCV has also leveraged their partnerships in the industry to help AHS gain some new equipment at a great price.

“We researched dozens of possible spring training sites all over the country and chose Ashland, Oregon because of the culture and atmosphere,” Gallant said. “One thing we really strive for is these relationships to be mutually beneficial and that is what we have created with the city of Ashland … Ashland is beautiful and we are so lucky to be here.”

Contact Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at Caitlin.fowlkes@gmail.com.

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