Fanfare: “If It’s To Be, It’s Up To Me”: A tribute to Colonel Truman Crawford
Col. Truman Crawford
If God did not love drum corps, he would not have sent us Col. Truman Crawford. Seldom does one person come along who makes such an impact among such a large number of people throughout an entire activity. For some reason known but to himself and God, Truman Crawford decided to make his impact on the activity we all love. We were -- and are -- blessed that he did so. The entire activity was saddened at the passing of Col. Truman Crawford this past Monday, March 3, at the Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa.
Col. Crawford was synonymous with drum corps. He had instructed and written for a multitude of corps, a list that seems practically endless, but he was best known as the commander of the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the “Commandant’s Own,” for a remarkable 32 years until his retirement in 1998.
The Royal Airs Reunion Corps, which had given us a valued history lesson during the summer of 2002, made plans to return this year for a command performance at the request of the Colonel, who knew that due to illness, his time on earth to enjoy drum corps was limited.
Plans were made for a special banquet (www.trucrawfordreunion.com) to be held on March 22 in Hershey in honor and tribute to Col. Crawford’s sizeable contribution to the activity. (More on this event is listed below.)
Both the Royal Airs and banquet projects will go on, but the honoree will not be present in the same physical context that everyone else witnessing both glorious undertakings will be present.
But he will be present.
(Please also note that “Taps Across America” will occur at noon EST this Saturday. More information on this can be found below.)
Col. Crawford was only 68 years old, meaning he still had many corps seasons left in him. The disease ALS (commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) had other ideas. There is still so much we don’t know about this disease, but we can all agree it had no right to come along and strike down our beloved Colonel To this end, the family has requested that memorial contributions may be made to the ALS Association National Office, 27001 Agoura Road, Suite 150, Calabasas Hills, CA 91301.
Perhaps, by making a contribution, we might be able to help prevent ALS from striking down a future Truman Crawford -- that is, if God ever decides to bless another person with the same characteristics, ambition, and love of drum corps that He bestowed upon the Colonel. While it is unlikely another person will ever make the same contributions, in the same context, in the same degree, we can always hope that others are inspired to try.
Many of us try to achieve greatness, but fate doesn’t always travel the same path as our desires. In Truman Crawford’s case, there must have been a magnificent convergence of fate and desire, not to mention perseverance. But none of that would have amounted to quite so much had it not also been for his undying love and passion for drum corps.
We could all be so lucky as to be blessed with a fraction of that same love and passion.
Sixty years ago, he joined his first corps, a fife and drum corps. In 1952, he joined the United States Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps as an instrumentalist and was appointed musical director in 1954. He stayed with the Air Force unit for ten years and rose to the rank of Master Sgt., Noncommissioned Officer in Charge. During that time he took the corps to Europe six times and the Far East twice.
He then operated a music store and arranged for and instructed several corps. After considerable success, in 1967, he was selected by the commandant of the United States Marine Corps to instruct and arrange for the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps, entering as a staff sergeant. He soon became a master sergeant and then a captain and eventually a major, followed by his becoming a lieutenant colonel and then colonel. He held the position of commander of the corps until 1998.
Amazingly -- and this fact was not well-known in the activity -- when he retired, he was the oldest Marine on active duty.
During his tenure with the Marine Corps, he picked up many awards and commendations for his work. But many never knew that he also worked with underprivileged children in the music program of a Boys Club, coached youth basketball and hockey, served as a hockey official and even competed in a senior hockey league.
There is an adage that if you want something to get done, give the task to a busy person. Col. Crawford was living proof of the validity of this.
The 1965 season was the year the Royal Airs stunned the activity with a jazz-flavored show written by and taught by Col. Crawford, winning the V.F.W. National Championship (he wrote for and instructed the corps from 1963 through 1968). That show is still mentioned by countless fans as the show that elevated drum corps to a higher plane of music making. Also, according to a couple obituaries, he either wrote for or instructed every major drum corps titleholder that year.
Perhaps now would be a good time to take a look at the list of all the corps Col. Crawford either taught or wrote for, or who played his arrangements. Nothing was beneath him -- one reader wrote in to say that Col. Crawford wrote the glockenspiel parts for his unit.
The list was submitted by Linda Walmsley, a member of the Yankee Rebels (mellophone) and Hawthorne Caballeros (honor guard). She received it from Col. Crawford’s son, Bob Crawford. It’s truly an amazing testament to the lives he touched. Readers of RAMD and Drum Corps Planet helped fill in some gaps. Undoubtedly, there are corps that should be on the list, but aren’t.
Altoona Mainliners, Amboy Dukes, Archer-Epler Musketeers, Becker-Chapman AL Post #138, Belleville Cardinals, Black Eagles, Blue Notes, Boys of 76, Brockport Grenadiers, Canadian Commanders, Cheverly Cavaliers, Chicago Diplomats, Chicago Royal Airs Alumni, Commonwealth Edison, Cortland Matadors, Crusaders Sr., Duquesne Dukes, Empire State Grenadiers, Empire Statesmen, Erie Cadets, Erie Thunderbirds, Freestatesmen, Gardener Guards, Garfield Cadets Alumni Corps, Gloversville Yellow Jackets, Grey Knight Crusaders, Hamilton Viscounts, Hanover Lancers, Hanover Lancers Alumni, Harvey Seed's Rebels, Hawthorne Caballeros, Interstatesmen (Troy, NY), Interstatesmen (Pittsfield, MA) , Joaquin Caballeros, Jolly Jesters, Keesler A.F.B. Blue Knights, Kentucky Colonels, Kilties Senior Corps, Latrobe Colonials, Les Diplomates, Marching Ambassadors , Marion Cavaliers, Massachusetts Legends of Drum Corps, Memorial Lancers, Men of Brass. Midshipmen, New Bedford Whalers, Pittsburgh Rockets, Presidents, Preston Scout House, Privateers, Red Devils, Red Raiders, Rochester Crusaders, Royalaires Seniors, Santa Clara Alumni, Scott AFB Jetnotes, Sharpsburg Cadets, Skokie Indians, Southern Tier Vagabonds, Spirit of '76, Steel City Ambassadors, Syracuse Brigadiers, Southern Tier Vagabonds, Syracuse Brigadiers, Toronto Signals, Townson Raiders, Tyrone Guards, US Air Force Academy, US Marines, US Naval Academy, USAF Drum and Bugle Corps, Westmoreland Esquires, Westshoremen, White Roses, Yankee Rebels, Yankee Rebels Alumni.
1st Canadian Regiment, 2nd Signals, 76ers, Alouette, Anaheim Kingsmen, Andrew Johnson Presidents, Angels, Angels of Ohio, Argonne Rebels, Arnprior Lions, Auburn Purple Lancers, Bleu Raeders, Blue Devils, Blue Notes, Blue Saints, Blue Star Cadets, Bluecoats, Cambria Cadets, Canadaires, Cavaliers (MD), Chevaliers, Colts, Commodores, DeLaSalle Oaklands, Diplomat Juniors, Dundalk Cadets, Dutch Boy, Emerald Cadets, Emerald Knights (NY), Florida Vanguards, Garfield Cadets, General Butler Vagabonds, Gladiateurs de Montreal, Grenadiers of Broome County, Imperial Dragons, Kankakee Blackhawks, Kenwood Cadets, Kiltie Kadets, Kingsmen (NY), Lancers (DC), Lancers (MD), Les Cadets, Little Flower, The Men of Brass, Menonimee Northernaires, Millstadt Crusaders, New Orleans Cadets, New York Lancers, Nisei Ambassadors, Norwood Park Imperials, Oakland Crusaders, Ottawa Cadet (ONT), Pinole Princemen, Police Boys and Girls Club (DC), Racine Scouts, Rebel Devils, Royal Airs, Royalaires (MI), Royal Lancers, Santa Clara Vanguard, Seneca Optimists, Shamrocks, Sharpsburg Cadets, Silhouettes, Southwind, Spartans (IL), Squires of Ontario, St. Joseph's of Batavia, Stardusters, Starlighters, Toronto Optimists, Vaqueros, Velvet Knights, Velvet Viking Cadets, VIPs, Virginia Lancers, Washington Royal Sabers, Weimei, White Knights, Wynn Center Toppers, York White Roses.
Truly amazing, huh?
Despite all the corps listed above, it was one corps that really brought Col. Crawford’s name and work to the general public. Under his leadership, the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps became world-renowned for its impeccable musicianship. It was absolutely haunting to hear the unit in performance, proving, as one brass judge once stated, that it all comes down to personal execution.
How did the Colonel end up dedicating 32 years of his life to making the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps such a premier musical unit, one to which all other corps would measure their standard of musical excellence? It may come down to one saying, something that guided him for decades.
There is going to be a tribute reunion/banquet for Col. Crawford soon, on March 22 in Hershey, Pa. Check out www.trucrawfordreunion.com for details. Originally planned to let Col. Crawford know how many people loved him, it will now be a memorial tribute tinged with sadness, but it will ultimately be a joyous affirmation of his life.
The theme of the banquet is, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Bob Crawford contacted Linda Walmsley and asked that the saying be used as the theme for the event.
According to Linda, as told by Bob, “There is a story that goes with that saying. As Truman told it, he was becoming frustrated with trying to juggle his military career, family and his drum corps activity. During that time, he was handed a sealed envelope by his commanding officer with instructions to wait a couple of days to open it, and after reading the contents, he was to meet with his commander again.
“He complied and after several days he opened the envelope and found a piece of paper with just the words, ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me.’ He went back to speak with his commander, after which he decided to adjust his priorities. He turned his focus on his military career and backed off of his drum corps involvement until his career goals were achieved.”
Ultimately, the achievement of his career goals helped make him an even greater force for good throughout the entire drum corps activity.
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” What great words to live by. How about if we all consider writing those words down on a slip of paper and putting them in our wallets and pocketbooks? Discover it on occasion and think about the meaning. That’s every self-help book ever written, compressed into one tiny, powerful sentence.
The saying unlocks so many questions one might have about the depth of his accomplishments and how he was so successful in his quest to make music and impart his knowledge upon others.
However, the mark of his humanity had far less to do with his genius in making music and imparting his knowledge and far more to do with the impression he had on others in the process.
The following are some memories from people who were touched by the colonel. Many simply knew him as “Tru,” but all knew him as someone who earned a great deal of respect from his admirers.
Jack Gillen marched with the Young Americans and Yankee Rebels. He remembers Col. Crawford’s efficiency and impact, stating, “I had the privilege of marching with the Yankee Rebels for the 1975 and 1976 seasons. In the last three weeks of the 1975 season, Truman Crawford taught me more about playing a brass horn, and about what it meant to be in drum corps, than I had learned in the previous ten years.”
Jeff Ream remembers Col. Crawford’s remarkable memory. “My dad marched under Truman in the Yankee Rebels. When I was maybe 4, (about 1972), he pulled my dad and I aside and told my dad that he needed to get me drum lessons. He could tell I would be better than my dad.
“In 1996, when I was marching with the Westshoremen, Truman pulled my dad and I aside at a show -- Hershey, I think -- and told us he was glad to see he was right.
“He remembered that after 24 years. That’s the way he was -- he remembered everything.
“What a class act.”
Jeff remembers that the Col. also had a great sense of humor. He didn’t want me to print it as originally submitted, so it’s been cleaned up a bit. According to Jeff, “In 1982, when Larry Hershman was Westshoremen’s director, both he and Truman were at a show in New Jersey.
“While waiting for the critique, Larry called Truman a bad name for the brass score he gave the corps. He didn’t hold back, as they were good friends. Truman looked at him and said, ‘Hey, the President called me that this week. You agree on one thing!’”
Jeff remembers, “Even Larry couldn’t stay mad.”
But the colonel could mean business when he felt the need to. One Marine (name not submitted) found that out the hard way. “I will never forget in 1975 at the Bridgeport show in Connecticut, I just got out of the shower and had my pants on my jacket slung over my shoulder and my cover under my arm. I got to the ramp just outside the gate trying to find our car and there he was -- and there I was, a Marine out of uniform. It did not matter that I was marching in Skyliners -- the dressing down he gave me in front of the main gate was better than anything you would see or hear in any boot camp or war movie. He really put the fear of God in me. I’m still marching in Sky and will always remember. Semper Fi.”
Donald Kosmal first met Col. Crawford as a member of Norwood Park Imperials in 1973, when “Truman was brought in to write our book and conduct a few rehearsals. We were just kids with long hair and an attitude. Truman had a crew cut and was all business. My buddy and I joked about asking Truman for his comb. Pretty lame, eh? But, we though it was funny because obviously Truman didn’t need a comb.
“However, it didn’t take long to realize that this guy knew his stuff, was able to communicate what he wanted musically and arranged some awesome music. We played [everything from] ‘John Brown’s Body’ to ‘Shaft’ (which might have been our favorite song, although we didn’t take it to the field).
“My point is that Truman arranged music that was interesting, enjoyable and fun to play. He had our respect because of his talent, his demeanor, and his love of music. He just had to be himself and you loved him for it.
“So, 28 years later, I hear about this Royal Air reunion gig. I wasn’t even going to consider it, but I didn’t forget about it. I found the Royal Air Web site, mentioned the idea to my wife and she gave the ‘go ahead.’ I joined up right after that and the only thing I wanted to happen was to have Truman come and conduct rehearsals.
“I guess he was already having problems with ALS, as he couldn’t make many of the start-up rehearsals. But, he was in constant contact and was sending musical arrangements for us to play. Finally, he made a weekend camp. We were pulling over 60 horns at rehearsal and had just obtained a matched set of three-valve bugles. Truman was everything I remembered, plus he was funny. ‘You have to hit that accent like it was your mother-in-law’ was my favorite line that weekend.
“I thought Truman looked great, just like a retired Marine should. We found out at DCI Worlds that he was suffering from ALS and wouldn’t be in Madison. By the DCA Championships, he had already lost quite a bit of weight, but not his sense of humor.
“We were not planning on continuing after DCA. We had all said our goodbyes, turned in our equipment and went home. I’m sure Truman -- along with many people out east -- was pushing for the Royal Airs to stay together for another year. We were able to secure the equipment for another year, and right before our banquet in November, it was announced that we would perform in 2003 as a dedication to Truman.
“Truman made the banquet and expressed his thoughts to the staff about what should be performed in 2003. That was the last time many of us saw him. We were hoping he could conduct just one more rehearsal.”
Keith Harper was a soprano in Royal Airs in 1967 and 1968. He performed in the reunion corps last year and will return for this year’s season. Keith recounts, “I first had the pleasure of working with Truman when I joined the soprano line of the Royal Airs in the fall of 1966. During rehearsals, he would wave or toss that famous red hanky in the air and we would stop on a dime. Often, he would just walk down the line listening closely to each player. I was a young and inexperienced player when I joined the corps, but I learned quickly under his tutelage.
“Once, he stopped right in front of me and just listened for a moment. He told me how much I had improved since joining the line and told me to keep it up. His encouragement meant the world to me and I carried it with me throughout the 1967 season. The next year, I moved up to first soprano and I just lived to play his arrangements. I started recognizing his arrangements that were being played by other corps. His style was just so unique.
“It was such a pleasure to work with him again in 2002 for the Royal Airs Reunion Corps. I was looking forward to seeing him at the banquet this month, but instead, I know that he will be looking down on us as we play our tribute show to him this summer.
Semper Fi and God Bless You Tru. We Love You.”
If you happen to read this in time, this Saturday, March 8, there will be a massed tribute to Col. Crawford at noon, Eastern Standard Time. (11:00 Central, 10:00 Mountain, 9:00 Pacific.)
“Taps Across America” will involve everyone wishing to honor Col. Crawford, regardless of whether or not they play a bugle. At that time, those who can will take their bugle (or trumpet or other appropriate brass instrument) and play “Taps” in memory and salute to Col. Crawford. This could be in the privacy of their living room or any place they feel is appropriate. Drummers may play a long, soft and sustained roll for about one minute.
Others may stand in silent tribute, knowing that “Taps Across America” is taking place in locations near and far.
The idea is inspired by Bugles Across America (www.buglesacrossamerica.org), the organization founded to encourage brass players to offer themselves to perform “Taps” at the funerals of veterans. According to founder Tom Day, Col. Crawford was actually one of the very first buglers to sign up. (If you are eligible to do this, please visit their Web site and sign up. There is a chronic shortage of buglers for such occasions. You may bring much comfort to the family of a veteran in the future.)
Now back to that reunion coming up on March 22. Linda Walmsley says, “After Truman’s diagnosis, his family wanted to make sure that Truman was well aware of just how much he was loved throughout the drum corps activity. With that said, the Royal Airs and the Yankee Rebels decided to pick up the ball and kicked off the effort for the reunion.
“With Truman’s passing, it has been decided that we will march forward with the banquet effort as a memorial to his memory. The greatest tribute to the memory of Truman would be to fill the Hershey Lodge Ballroom to capacity (900). Please visit www.trucrawfordreunion.com for more information.”
When: March 22, 2003
Where: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center
West Chocolate Avenue and University Drive
Hershey, PA 17033-0446
This is an invitation to everyone associated with drum corps to join in a celebration honoring Colonel Truman W. Crawford and his decades of accomplishments with the United States Air Force Drum & Bugle Corps, the "Commandant's Own," the Royal Airs, the Yankee Rebels, and scores of others for whom he arranged, taught, and influenced.
The evening will include the Colonel’s beloved U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps and participation by alumni members of the Royal Airs, the Yankee Rebels, the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, the Audubon Bon Bons, and many, many others. Special arrangements by drum corps’ greats will be performed to celebrate this joyous occasion, along with remarks by the Colonel's close associates. Those who wish to honor the Colonel with a musical composition/arrangement may contribute to the FestMusik detailed on this site.
Join the Royal Airs, Yankee Rebels, and Marine Corps Drum & Bugle Corps in jamming Col. Crawford’s renowned arrangement of “Alexander's Ragtime Band.” When cued, you are cordially invited to grab your horn, drum, cymbals -- and, OK, rifles and flags and sabers -- and join in what promises to be the best ensemble version of “Alexander” ever performed.
In addition to the Banquet, you can attend either or both of the following:
Reception: Friday evening, March 21, 2003
Breakfast: Sunday morning, March 23, 2003
From a posted obituary:
Funeral services will be held at 12:45 p.m., Thursday, March 27, at Fort Meyer Chapel, Arlington, Va. Interment will Full Military Honors will be in Arlington National Cemetery.
The family will receive friends at Gettysburg College Christ Chapel on Saturday, March 8, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be made to the ALS Association National Office, 27001 Agoura Road, Suite 150, Calabasas Hills, CA 91301.
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
Semper Fi, Colonel Crawford.
Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.
He has a bachelor’s degree in music education and a masters degree in music theory and composition.
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors.
Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating.
His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes.
But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.