Pipeline: Steven Estudillo

In this second edition of Pipeline, Steven Estudillo, drill designer and marching instructor, talks about the visual design of Maze, the collaborative design process, and the challenges of designing.

Pipeline #2

Steven Estudillo

March 3, 2010
With Steven Estudillo
Drill Designer and Marching Instructor

Steven Estudillo is an alum of Pacific Crest, marching euphonium from 2003-2005.  Steven then performed with the Cavaliers from 2006-2008.  He designs drill and teaches marching at several high schools in Southern California.  Steven first joined Pacific Crest as a marching instructor in 2009.  This is first year designing drill for the corps.  

What should audiences expect in the visual design for Maze?

With a show called Maze, the visual program needs to submerge the audience into our situation. We are entering what looks to be a fun and harmless Maze, but little did we know how difficult this would become. The audience member will experience from beginning to end the development of Maze, from simple to incredibly aggressive and complex. The audience will see the moments of tension, frustration, anger, and moments where they just want to give up and give in. Again, running through a labyrinth of changing walls and deceiving traps the audience will feel like they’re running while the ground is crumbling beneath their feet… but, ultimately they should come see for themselves.

With a show title that invokes a visual image, do you feel it makes it easier to design drill?  Harder?  No difference?

Both. Obviously the visual images come clearly and simply, but the hardest part is to develop all those simple ideas logically and consistently, while working within the confines of the musical phrase. The part that is easy is anyone can conceptualize what a maze is, what a maze does, and how a maze works. Now, add flags, drums, and horns, and it suddenly turns into a completely different beast. The walls change, pathways you thought were there surprisingly aren’t, and just when you think you’ve made it, you haven’t. What you think you know about a maze, you don’t.

How do you work with the rest of the staff in creating a cohesive show?

The process of creating a cohesive show is actually much more enjoyable than you would think. Sometimes the staff area is a warzone with ideas flying everywhere. This is a good sign. Everyone on the design team is passionate about what they do and presents great ideas to correlate with the concept of Maze. My personal part in developing the show would be similar to the seamstress. I take the music idea, the drum idea, the guard idea, and try to find a way to fit it into a visual idea that illustrates precisely what we are trying to achieve. This isn’t always easy, and I might not be everyone’s friend along the way as I’m the bearer of bad news when it comes to making slight adjustment, a count here and a count there, but that is the great thing about having a great design team. Everyone is incredibly flexible and have the best interest of the corps in mind. The ideas are interchangeable and can bounce from person to person. The limitations are non-existent.

You've written drill for high schools and this is your first year creating drill for a drum corps.  How much pressure is there to succeed right now?

There is always pressure to succeed. Regardless of the day, the hour, the moment, success isn’t an option that can be skipped. Success to me is creating the best product possible. Success is giving the members an enjoyable life-changing experience. Success is entertaining the audience. And success is being better than we were yesterday. Whether it’s your first year writing or your tenth year writing, the pressure is still the same. Ultimately, success is our only option.


The next installment of Pipeline will feature percussion caption supervisor and arranger, Matt Altmire.