When Donna Batchelor joined the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps board of directors in 2003, she didn’t really know anyone in that organization. And then she met Gail Schultz.
“I felt like a family member immediately, and it was because of Gail,” said Batchelor, now the board president for the internationally known and successful Blue Devils Performing Arts. “That’s how she was with everybody; she wrapped her arms around people.”
Those who worked in the Blue Devils with Gail Schultz — who died Aug. 9 in Florida at age 78 — said Schultz had, in many ways, become the face of the accomplished Blue Devils organization, which since its founding in 1957 has evolved from a 50-member drumming boys/marching girls group to a diverse enterprise of almost 500 members from ages 8 to 22 that encompasses musicianship, marching, dancing and other performing arts.
“She had the personality, and the love and the passion for the kids and the program. She was the face of our organization, and connected the world to us.”David Gibbs, Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps
“She had the personality, and the love and the passion for the kids and the program,” said David Gibbs, the Blue Devils’ senior executive advisor. “She was the face of our organization, and connected the world to us.”
That connection, Gibbs said, was both figurative and literal. She knew people in many countries, he said, and when she accompanied the Blue Devils team at international competitions, she often had local contacts.
Added Batchelor, “People opened their doors to her.”
Schultz began her involvement with the Blue Devils in 1971 when her daughter Christine joined the group’s “Twirlers” baton team. Her son Steven also participated in the Blue Devils’ Drum and Bell Corps.
Involved at every level
From 1971 until her retirement from the Blue Devils in 2016, Schultz filled myriad roles for the organization, from manner of the merchandise table to managing the organization’s Junior and Senior Twirling Corps to coordinating special events and recruitment drives, serving as marketing and development director and promotions manager to joining the board of directors, serving as the Blue Devils Performing Arts board president in 1977-78 and from 1985 into 1987.
“She loved it, and her personality allowed her to become someone to help connect others with what we do,” Gibbs said.
Pete Emmons, who spent 30 years with the Blue Devils as a corps manager and teams director, said Schultz was able to show her affection for the kids despite the highly competitive nature of the program.
“Everything that Gail experienced, she was delighted by, and she was always so excited by the kids and what they were doing,” Emmons said. “And that went far beyond Concord; she had friends all over the world.”
Batchelor said that when Schultz retired in 2016 and moved to Florida, she was stunned.
“It wasn’t so much about the tasks … you can find other people to do tasks,” Batchelor said.
“But when she left, it was like we lost part of our soul.”
A celebration of Schultz’s life, planned by the Blue Devils and the Schultz family, will probably take place in 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.