As a prelude to the Aug. 5 Drums Along the Waterfront Tour of Champions competition taking place at New Era Field in Orchard Park, the Blue Stars Drum & Bugle Corps from La Crosse, Wisc., will be making a tour stop in West Seneca July 31 through Aug. 1. Arriving in preparation for a competition in Rome, N.Y., the Blue Stars will be utilizing the West Seneca West Senior High School facilities for their rehearsals.
With musical-athlete membership 154 strong, the Blue Stars compete in Drum Corps International’s (DCI) World Class level. Founded in 1964, the Blue Stars were the silver medalist at the1972 Drum Corps International World Championship, finishing just over half a point away from winning the inaugural event. Competing as an Open Class unit for much of the late 1980s, ’90s and early ’00s, the corps won the World Championship title in its class in 1989, 1993, 2001 and 2003. The Blue Stars began competing among DCI’s World Class ranks again in 2006. The corps is currently ranked 10th in the world in the prestigious World Class, known as “Marching Music’s Major League.”
“When the corps come to town they live a life of luxury sleeping on gym floors for several hours after getting the majority of their sleep on buses as they travel through the night,” quipped Jack Gaylord Jr., president of Drums Along the Waterfront. “Upon waking they will rehearse up to 10 hours a day. While the corps will divide into sections to rehearse throughout the day, they will come together as one ensemble in the evening utilizing the football stadium. Their final rehearsal block of the day should end at approximately 8 p.m., with the corps performing a full run through of their show at the end of the rehearsal.”
All rehearsals during the two-day stay are free and open to the public. “The Blue Star’s visit provides a great educational opportunity,” stated Gaylord. “Those in attendance will witness the dedication, discipline and talent of the performing membership, and they are being instructed by some of the top music educators in the country, including West Seneca’s own John Blickwedehl. The instructional staff is always willing to answer any questions the public might have, and the performing members love to talk about their drum corps experience.”
The West Seneca Central School District is no stranger to hosting drum corps, in large part due to drum corps advocate Blickwedehl, a music teacher at West Seneca West. Blickwedehl, who was a drum corps participant in his youth, now is a brass instructor with the Blue Stars over the summer months.
“We are appreciative of the West Seneca Central School District and the West Seneca community for being such gracious hosts,” Gaylord stated. “From West Seneca Superintendent of Schools Matthew Bystrak, to Principal Jay Brinker to the school’s custodial staff, all have been tremendous to work with. We would not be able to bring the world class youth activity with its economic impact to the WNY area without the cooperation of WNY school districts such as West Seneca.”
The top 10 corps in the world will be competing in the 21st anniversary edition of Drums Along the Waterfront Tour of Champions at 6 p.m. Aug. 5 at New Era Field. With 41 world titles among the 10 competing corps, included in the field along with the Blue Stars are the reigning and 18-time world champion Blue Devils (Concord, Calif.) and the 2016 world champion Bluecoats (Canton, Ohio). Tickets for the event can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745-3000. Kids 12 and under are half price, and there are senior and military discounts. For group discounts, please call Dave Robbins at 949-1262.
To learn more about the Blue Stars visit or the Drums Along the Waterfront Tour of Champions event, please visit www.DrumsAlongTheWaterfront.org or follow Drums Along the Waterfront on Facebook for frequent updates.