Closing the Curtain

“I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together…”

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The words and namesake of the song made famous an entertainment hall of fame icon, Carol Burnett, that truly represents the 2019 season for Vegas Vanguard.

With a newly appointed program director comes many unique and unexpected challenges for any program—especially when a program is seeing its first administrative turnover since its inception in 2004. However, those who earned their place in the Vegas Vanguard family of 2019 were of the best, brightest, and—most astonishingly—the youngest of almost any Vegas Vanguard ensemble in its 15 year history.

The program consisted of an average member age of 17.5 years old with only one official ageout (Michaela Grillo, 15’-19’). The ensemble was, by staff perspective, the most improved group that they had mentored in the last few years. And when it comes to growth, you can’t take yourself too seriously.

A Clown’s Finale

When exploring concepts for the 2019, a concept from “A Long Time Fan from the South” came across Kyle Bissantz’s inbox that was, without question, the answer to a long and stressful search of a show that would fit what was to be one of the most challenging pedagogical journeys the Vegas Vanguard educational staff was going to encounter.

Curtain Call a show, simply put, of a clown’s final performance is a production of bittersweet intangibles that transcend the albeit quirky and zany gimmicks one would expect from a show with, well, clowns. The production embodied that of so many elements, internally, that Vanguard members (and many drummers across the country) embrace: weird rituals, inside jokes, random and bizarre phrases, and so much more. The production itself contained more emotional depth, from a design standpoint, than members may ever had gleaned but will likely strike them much later in life.

A sincere and transparent show, Curtain Call, featured the music of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns,” Julius Fucik’s “Entrance of the Gladiators,” Charlie Chaplin’s “Morning Promenade” and “Theme From Modern Times (‘Smile’),” and Joe Hamilton’s “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.” Music and melody was truly the vehicle for the production and it did not fail. For one of the first instances since the early 2010s, the ensemble’s music sub captions scores broke 90 points.

Director and arranger, Kyle Bissantz, notes that one of his inspirations for the show (amongst many he adds) was the philosophy that comedian and cartoonist, Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy), embraces. MacFarlane notes that one of the facets of his, often crude and gratuitous, cartoon that makes it palatable is the truly amazing and lush underscoring of a live 60-piece orchestra. It was this perspective that Kyle believed an audience could truly enjoy the antics, and (sometimes cringeworthy) effects of clowns by virtue of familiar and phenomenally composed music by the greats of a time gone by but not forgotten.

The music certainly was not forgotten, as judges from various arenas of competitions would recognize and affirm the exceptional musical selections and performance therein. This musical vehicle lead Vegas Vanguard to a first place finish at the SCPA Championships—ten years since the ensemble’s last appearance at this competition and the only Nevada ensemble to be represented.

Not Just The Music

The costuming this season was executed by Entertainment Plus Productions, a Los Angeles-based, entertainment agency with a Vegas team of astounding creatives and generous minds. E+ truly created a wonderful tribute to the “hobo clown” as made famous by so many phenomenal talents such as Buster Keaton, Emmett Kelly, Judy Garland, and more.

Additionally, all drill design was staged “in house” by the educational staff including Erika Hill (alum 13’, 15’, 16’), JR Aguilar (alum 15’-18’), Ryan Perez (alum 17’), and James Cordero (alum 13’, 15’). Props were fabricated in house by our fabulous parent volunteer and equipment truck driver, Jeanette Aguilar, and floor design was done by Kyle Bissantz with help and guidance of Andrew Hoskins at Digital Performance Gear.


Kyle Bissantz