Byos playing snare with The Blue Devils

Episode 1: Journey of Champions

The Blue Devils redefine the concept of being a champion. They transcend trophies and accolades through personal growth, collaboration, and inspiring performances. They demonstrate that true champions aim to be the best versions of themselves -- embracing discipline, sacrifice, and persistence.

״It takes vulnerability and mistakes and having to clear away all that wreckage and being able to come back and be humble. To really leave a stamp of inspiration and to allow that dream to thrive.Art Cruz

To Be A Champion

Scott Johnson (Blue Devils)
The word champion, it’s associated with us a lot. We’ve won the world championships 20 times, but it’s not about that.
Brian Dinkle (Blue Devils)
It's not the hundredth blow of the axe that knocked down the tree. It's the 99 that came before it.
Chip Crotts (Blue Devils)
It's aiming to be the best that you can be. Being kinder to each other, being a better person out in the world. We may start selfish, but if we can develop to be selfless, then the champion aspect takes care of itself.
Scott Johnson
We've been going to everyday rehearsal for over three weeks now. And you know, this week, we're very fortunate to have some Conn Selmer artists come in and hang out with us a little bit. Even the artists, they're pretty excited about it. Some of them probably have never seen drum corps at this level before and so they're checking it out going, “What is happening?” The collaboration is awesome when you bring in pros from the other musical world, bring them into our world and we are going to do a performance tomorrow night with everybody and I'm looking forward to it.

Brian Dinkle
The collaboration between the performers and the staff and the designers is a huge core part of what we do at the Blue Devils. Getting to do that on a different scale with these guest artists and bringing their professionalism and doing it in the timeframe that is so compressed to do this performance on Saturday night is a really amazing thing to witness.

Chip Crotts
Having these artists here that have different backgrounds and different skill sets further enhances what we're trying to do here from an educational standpoint. It kind of shows them that you can do music the way you want to do it. There's not really one cookie-cutter approach to being a musician.

Scott Johnson
It's so refreshing to see the members of the Blue Devils get so excited about hanging out and playing with these pros. We're very fortunate that one of the Conn Selmer artists, Ralph Nader, marched Blue Devils. He's a celebrity snare drummer now, and it's so good to see him still do what he loves to do, and the fact that, uh, it breaks my heart, the fact that he's still doing drumming.

Ralph Nader (BYOS): Ludwig – Musser Artist
Oh man, sorry. I was getting a little emotional over here because it's good to be back and to see family. As marching snare artists, we’re basically making history.

Art Cruz: Ludwig Drums
This is for me, a blast from the past. I was excited when I was in high school first doing drumline. We all wanted to be a Blue Devil – like that's what we looked up to. This is some stuff that I never thought I'd ever be a part of.

Dani Markham: Ludwig – Musser Artist
Well, I found it so impressive to see all the different moving parts and how much of a team the Blue Devils are. Like, they're not just performing, they're doing moving and the loading of equipment. They're helping each other. They're constantly working in groups. That's really impressive to me.

Kellin Hanas: Bach Trumpet Artist
I've never been able to hear a DCI group in person before, so this was a really, really great experience because I've been watching videos of Blue Devils for years and years and years. They have that sound and it's all just put together and so technically proficient. It's just a really beautiful experience. I was trying to hold back tears because it was such a beautiful sound.

Cisco Dimas: Bach Trumpet Artist
Everybody comes from a different background. Everybody comes from a different style of music and it's just amazing how much comradery we have, how much we can kind of get out of each other. It's really amazing to learn from each other – learn from the Blue Devils, learn from the instructors, learn from the other artists. It's just an infinite amount of knowledge.

Kellin Hanas
So, we're playing two pieces tonight with the Blue Devils and one is When a Man Loves a Woman, which the Blue Devils have been playing for years. I think they first performed it in 1993. Then the second thing that we're playing is an excerpt from their 2023 show.

Gary Gopar: Bach Trumpet Artist
At the beginning, we were learning as much as we can with the score, trumpet solo parts, and it's not until we get done on the field, like “hey, we're gonna do this.” Okay, so you gotta keep adjusting, but we gotta be good enough to just do whatever's asked of us and do it great because we're representing Bach, we’re representing ourselves

Cisco Dimas
And because the kids sound so great too. The Blue Devils are just the top of the top. So, you know, when we're there, we're like, “All right, what are we gonna add to that?” You know...

Gary Gopar
There is an anxious nervousness to nail things. Seeing the excitement in the students that they get to talk with us and learn from us. It's equally as beneficial to us just to be able to give back because of all the people that have helped us along the way.

Cisco Dimas
That's what music's all about, is everybody coming together and finding the music that we can all play together without an ego, without, “all right, I'm gonna do this, and you know, your background” or whatever, you know, there's none of that here. 

Gary Gopar
Art, Danny, Harvey and Ralph, you think, damn, they’ve got chops, just chops for days. All of them do. But you also see the personality in their playing by getting to know them.

Ralph Nader
It's a good experience for us and the students to come together and just meet in the middle.

Harvey Thompson (BYOS): Ludwig – Musser Artist
You never could completely understand what it’s going to be until it's happening. Working with Scott, it's like, “Go, go, go!” Today, the confidence level of the group and the staff was like, yeah, “we know y'all got it,” because they see that we just need to get it in our hands.

Dani Markham
So, one of the pieces I'm playing is an original composition by Mario, the guitarist, and Mikey the drummer. They just got together and created this awesome piece. It starts out with like a soft intro where I can do some vibraphone and some bells and then it goes right into like some heavy metal, like really syncopated and like technical hits and stuff. That's the first piece. 

Then the second piece I get to play is very percussive. It has these elements of Brazilian or like New Orleans-style grooves. There's a lot of percussion, there's a lot of space in there to have a voice and get creative and do embellishments. I was like super excited about the selections because they're amazing pieces.
Art Cruz
The first time I sat with the front ensemble with you and working on stuff, it kind of like shook me, man, it scared me. And I was like, what am I doing here? Like, why am I here? 

That piece that we added with the drum breaks and each of us having our own flavor and having a piece, it had become so fun. And I'm looking and she goes first and then I rip and then Mikey rips and it's like, “Whoa.” That's a moment. And then they learned Lamb of God songs like nothing. I think we rehearsed it one time. So, I'm stoked to just do it. 

The confidence that they give me and like,” Yeah! That's a good idea.” I felt so much better communicating with my peers and the kids. We're Blue Devils now. I'm like, it's so exciting and it's a dream come true for real.

Gary Gopar
This journey of being a champion is about being the best version of yourself.

Ralph Nader
It's self-discipline, it's sacrifice, it's persistence.

Kellin Hanas
Somebody who's able to fulfill themselves and also positively affect others.

Dani Markham
So being a champion is having the desire to be great, the desire to be the best at something that you can be.

Art Cruz
To be a champion. It takes vulnerability and mistakes and having to like clear away all that wreckage and being able to come back and be humble. To really leave a stamp of inspiration and to allow that dream to thrive.

Featured Artists

Featured Products

Preview the featured instruments selected by our artist in this season of the Connections Sessions. All proudly manufactured in the USA.

Get To Know Our Featured Products