Student to perform with elite drum and bugle corps

May 2, 2017
Cutter performing

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Ever since he was 14, Sam Cutter, a junior music education major at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville from Oregon, Wisconsin, dreamed of playing trumpet with the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps, a World Class performing ensemble in Santa Clara, California. Thanks to years of hard work and his intense dedication and commitment to Drum Corps International and music, he soon will have this opportunity.

This summer, as a member of this elite ensemble, Cutter will perform in competitive field shows and parades throughout the United States.

The corps will celebrate its 50-year anniversary this year. Formed in 1967, the 150-member marching arts group is comprised of marching drums, mallet percussion, brass instruments and a color guard. According to Santa Clara Vanguard’s website, the ensemble has won six Drum Corps International World Class Championship titles. Its members, ranging in age from 18-22 years old, travel from many states and countries to join.

Matthew Gregg, associate director of bands at UW-Platteville, said he was impressed with the commitment Cutter has shown and the sacrifice he has made to be a part of this very special group. “My more than 20-year involvement in drum and bugle corps activity helped to forge me into the musician, teacher and man that I am today,” said Gregg. “Having the opportunity to do it at the very highest level during a 50th anniversary year is something very few are lucky enough to experience.”

Cutter said the education he is receiving at UW-Platteville was instrumental in making the opportunity possible. “I came to UW-Platteville for the faculty and small classes, and without the guidance of the smaller classes and availability of professors for talking, I would never have had a chance for the opportunity to march among some of the best in the world,” Cutter said.

Becoming a member of the ensemble was not easy. The audition process began in October, when those interested in auditioning were able to purchase the audition book and begin preparing for November’s audition.

Hundreds of people auditioned for 72 available spots. Spots were given to members who achieved the highest level of playing and marching – both at the same time – choreography/dance background, and being able to learn necessary skills at a very fast and intense pace. After the November audition, about half of those auditioning were cut; the rest were invited back for a second audition. After this set, the line was narrowed to the members it has now.

When Cutter found out that he had been chosen, he was elated. “It was very exciting to see that the staff noticed my hard work,” Cutter said. “Just being a part of the corps that inspired me to start marching in the first place is a dream come true.”

Since November, he has flown to California each month for rehearsals. On May 21, he will travel to California and remain there for the summer until Santa Clara Vanguard’s finals, a culminating performance held in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Aug. 13.

Cutter has played the trumpet approximately 10 years, and playing music has always been very important to him. “Music allows me to express myself and my emotions in a way that words or pictures could never do,” Cutter said.

While the experience will be very rewarding, it also will have some challenges. The corps rehearses every day from about 8 a.m. until 10-11 p.m. in the hot California summer, with a couple of hours to eat. “The amount of stress put on the body in this four-month period is unlike any activity,” Cutter said.

In the future, he hopes to become a band teacher. He said the experience performing with Santa Clara Vanguard will help prepare him for this career. “Being a part of one of the best elite marching groups in the world really stands out for a school looking for someone with experience,” said Cutter. 

Cutter was thankful for the support he received from UW-Platteville music faculty members.

“David Cooper helped me prepare for the playing side of the audition process; he gave great insight for spots to show musicality and just helped me through playing everything,” said Cutter. “Matthew Gregg really helped me get a better idea for the audition process and just settled my mind going into auditions too.”

To view the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps tour schedule, go to:

For additional information about the corps, go to

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, Communications Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191,


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