Jacob Stillwell was on a plane to Oakland just hours after playing his euphonium (a baritone horn) in the Wind Ensemble at the Desert Vista High School graduation in May. And just hours after landing, he joined the other 149 members of the Blue Devils B drum and bugle corps in rehearsing their 2014 show, titled “Noir Nuveau.” The drum corps, known as “BDB” for short, competes all summer against other groups from around the nation in the Open Class of Drum Corps International (DCI). During the second week of August, all of the competing corps converge on Indiana for Championships Week, with the Open Class Finals in Michigan City. The World Class Finals are at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Stillwell was spending his second summer marching with BDB, but a week into rehearsals, he learned that they were short one euphonium player. He made a call to his Desert Vista Thunder Marching Band section-mate, Roman Sandoval, and a few days later BDB had two DV marching musicians.
In addition to Stillwell and Sandoval, BDB’s show was designed by Jacob’s brother, Zak Stillwell, also a graduate of Desert Vista. As BDB’s “Visual Caption Head,” Stillwell was responsible for designing the movement on the field, and training the performers on how to all do it the right way.
The corps alternated between 12-hour days of rehearsal, days spent traveling between competitions, and of course, “show days,” which always included morning rehearsals followed by a contest against six or more other Open Class corps. The schedule took them from the Bay Area to San Diego, then they flew to Chicago and toured the Midwest before ending their season at Finals.
At the DCI Open Class Championship on Aug. 5, BDB came in seeded first, ahead of the defending champion Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets. They not only held onto their lead, but they won by an even greater margin, and they were awarded the gold medal with a score of 82.65. The Cadets won the silver with an 81.65. Genesis, from Austin, Texas, took the bronze with a 77.90.
Later in the week, Desert Vista alumnus and current ASU music student David Willers, a member of the Blue Devils “A corps,” also achieved success, winning gold at the DCI World Class Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Not only did his Blue Devils corps win their 16th championship, but they also were awarded the highest score in the history of Drum Corps International, a 99.650 (out of 100.) The previous record was 99.15.