Steve Rondinaro (center) with members of the Bridgemen Alumni Corps.
Drum Corps International personality Steve Rondinaro, a regular host on DCI World Championship television and movie theater broadcasts since the 1970s, recently had the opportunity to return to his East Coast roots, meeting up with fellow broadcaster and DCI Hall of Fame member Dennis DeLucia at a rehearsal of the Bridgemen Alumni Corps in New Jersey.
A freelance TV reporting job took me to Staten Island and the Jersey Shore in early December. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was still very much in evidence as Christmas approached. Our stories on the rebuilding and the spirit of the people were uplifting. It was a good shoot.
We finished our work early on Sunday. There was enough time before my flight out of Newark to meet up with my DCI TV buddy Dennis DeLucia for lunch. Fortuitous timing, indeed. The Bridgemen Alumni Corps was rehearsing that weekend. After dining on the self-proclaimed “world’s finest pancakes” at the Bayonne diner, we set off for hallowed ground. On the drive Dennis recounted the days when Saint Vincent’s was going strong on the other end of town. Add Saint Lucy’s, Blessed Sacrament, and the Holy Name Cadets, and you get a sense of how important a role the Catholic Church played in the New Jersey drum corps scene back in the day.
So it was pretty cool pulling up in front of venerable Saint Andrew’s church and walking up the steps to the hall where the Bridgemen were born. Even better, there was a horn line inside making a glorious noise—on G-keyed bugles! I didn’t know quite what to expect but these people can play. Men and women of all ages, sizes and descriptions having fun making music.
Bridgemen Alumni performance at the DCI Eastern Classic, Aug. 4, 2012.
Dennis had arranged for me to “say a few words” to the corps. Why exactly, I wasn’t sure. I’m not that interesting. So I said a few uninspiring words and then said, “Let’s just talk drum corps.” We had a great give and take. Some of the Bridgemen Alumni Corps members aren’t Bridgemen alums at all. I even found a former Watkins Glen Squire and a few Avant Garde and Mello Dear folks in the bunch. What they are is universally passionate about drum corps and yes, some of them are Jersey through and through.
They love drum corps. They enjoy doing it the “old fashioned way.” They worry about the health of today’s competitive scene. They’re happy that the alumni corps movement has provided a way to keep doing their thing. It’s still fun for them. Actually it’s extra fun being part of the crazy Bridgemen lineage.
There’s no moral to this story. Just a great visit with some fun drum corps people in it for the long haul in a place steeped in drum corps history. They made me want to get the horn out again and find a long yellow jacket.