Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Andrew Guillén, a 2016 Madera High School graduate, is a member of the award winning Blue Devils drum and bugle corps ensemble. Guillén and the Blue Devils practiced in his hometown stadium last week before competing in Clovis last Friday night.
Andrew Guillén, a 20-year-old, 2016 Madera High School graduate, is living his dream of performing with the highest-ranking drum and bugle corps ensemble in the world.
The Blue Devils, based in Concord, have placed in the top five every year for more than 40 years in the annual Drum Corps International (DCI) competition, and won the championship title an unprecedented 18 times over that span.
The Blue Devils marching ensemble consists of brass and percussion instruments and a color guard, totaling about 150 members who must be between the ages of 17-21. Members come from all over the United States, and this year, even as far as Japan and the Netherlands.
According to David Gibbs, senior executive advisor, more than 1,000 people auditioned for only 80 spots this year, and the other 70 spots are returning members who do not need to audition again.
Once selected in January, they rehearse once a month until May, when all of the members must move to Concord and train six days a week from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. until the competition tour begins. The DCI competition runs 52 days from June until August, traveling across 37 states to the finals in Indianapolis.
There, the highest-ranking 12 corps will compete for the World Champion title on Aug. 11.
Guillén started playing piano and guitar at age 5, and later learned to play cymbals, bass drum and clarinet. He graduated from MHS in 2016, where he performed with the marching band, winter percussion and jazz band. He was recruited by Golden Empire, a drum corps based in Bakersfield, specifically for his marching abilities when he was a sophomore. He won the Most Visually Outstanding award that year because of his marching talent, and learned to play the mellophone along the way.
He then marched with the Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets B Corps for three years, when he again received the outstanding marcher visual performance award, known as The Golden Foot. This is his first year with the Blue Devils, and will continue with them next year until he reaches the age limit of 21.
“It’s amazing to be around all of these incredible musicians. I love the people, the experience and the performances. It’s exhausting, but so worth it,” said Guillén, still smiling at 10 p.m. after a grueling day rehearsing in the heat at Madera’s Memorial Stadium. The Blue Devils have been coming to Madera High for several years to use the stadium for their final three rehearsal days before the competition started in Clovis at Buchanan High School on June 22.
Guillén’s parents, siblings and grandmother were all in the stands last Thursday watching the dress rehearsal. Jose Guillén, an EMT with Pistoresi Ambulance, and Nora Guillén, an English learner coordinator with Madera Unified School District, are extremely proud and supportive of their son, and attend as many performances that they can and follow online by live-streaming the competitions they can’t attend.
“This is his school, where he graduated from, so to have an 18-time world champion drum and bugle corps at our little Madera High School field is pretty amazing,” said Nora.
In the West Coast kickoff competition held in Clovis on June 22, the Blue Devils placed first. To see more about the schedule or scores, go to bluedevils.org, or dci.org.