Drum Corps International
Beyond the call of duty: Dave Kampschroer

Beyond the call of duty: Dave Kampschroer

by Michael Boo

A while back, I asked for recollections about Dave Kampschroer, founder and long-time director of Blue Stars and DCI Hall of Fame member (and chairman of the DCI Hall of Fame committee). One of the letters I received was worthy of its own column, a recollection by Cavaliers FMM (former marching member) Paul Milano, who went on to work in the management of Spirit of Atlanta during that corps' early years.

Michael Boo
This is a story of how one person can make a difference, and also how several people can contribute to good things happening at a later date, if one has enough patience. Incidentally, this week marks the 30th anniversary of the July 1 encounter mentioned below. The following are Paul's own words. Just thought I'd share some memories of Dave Kampschroer with you. While I marveled at his level-headed approach as a member of the DCI board (when I was a participating member of the meetings back in 1978-1980), and while I was always grateful to him for the guiding hand he provided to me personally during my "learning curve" years as Spirit of Atlanta's manager, those memories of him pale in comparison to the night of the Wheeling, Ill., show on July 1, 1973. I think you may like the context of why I am so grateful to Dave for what he did that night. My corps, The Cavaliers, was on a clear downhill slide by the start of the 1973 season. The "clown show" of 1971, followed by the "throwback-era show" of 1972, put in place a backward momentum that was beyond the ability of the corps to stop at that time. During the winter preceding the 1973 summer, many of our vets left the corps. Our instructional staff, absolutely rock-solid and consistent for a generation, were virtually all gone. An odd assortment of well-intentioned, but marginally talented instructors were now paired with the same quality management and members. It wasn't pretty. We began the 1973 season as embarrassed as I've ever been in my life, up to that point. Lacking the music for our concert number (the arranger got it to us months late), we still chose to compete in our traditional season opener, the Kenosha, Wis., show. Our "solution" for not having a concert piece was to play an old Cavalier standard, "Somewhere," from "West Side Story," but to play it reeeeaaaallll slow (without drums or guard work), in order to fill in the proper time requirements. I remember standing there during that concert tune, head hanging low, hearing the laughter of the crowd, and the catcalls from other corps standing on the sidelines. Our opening score, unlike the high-60s and low -70s we were used to getting at Kenosha, was a 57. How sad. We proceeded to deteriorate throughout the next couple weeks. We held out a small glimmer of hope, however, that by the time we got to the July 1 Wheeling show (our "home" show, in many respects, and the "birthplace" of DCI, since it was the first Combine show two years earlier), we would have regrouped and started to make our move. It was going to be one of the best chances we would have to make a comeback. It would be "our" crowd, "our" field. We would also see Santa Clara at that show, and then we'd know how we really measured up to the "big boys." We started pointing to that day as THE day. The day finally arrived. We were still going nowhere competitively, but our spirits were starting to come around. A few vets were returning to the corps, we were "tweaking" the show, and the judges were telling us to "hang in there." I never thought I'd see the day, but folks actually had some sympathy for us. It was both gratifying and mortifying! Our rehearsals that day were great. We knew tonight would be the night, the "return" would begin for the Green Machine. We put on our best performance of the year. Then we sat back and watched some of the "big boys" perform. The dark clouds quickly began to return. My God, we didn't even seem to be in the same league. As we stood on the field for the finale (all the corps assembled in block formation, just like on finals night at today's DCI Worlds), we were worried that our best effort might not have been enough to catapult us to within range of Santa Clara, Blue Stars, and the like. Oh well, at least we'd finally put some distance between us and some of the "also-rans" we had been hanging with so far. But then it hit ... our score and placement. I remember feeling as if I had just learned that my girlfriend had been cheating on me, or that I had gotten an "F" on an important final exam, or that my grandmother had been taken to the hospital. We were announced in sixth place, BEHIND at least one small corps (Kewanee Knights), that I had vaguely heard of. [NOTE: For perspective, here are the scores from the Sunday, July 1, 1973 show in Wheeling, Illinois: Santa Clara Vanguard 80.1, Blue Stars 77.3, Phantom Regiment 68.05, Knights 61.6, Bleu Raeders 59.9, Cavaliers 59.6, Guardsmen 56.5, Miami Vanguard 40.2.] All of the character-building lessons learned in my wonderful Cavaliers began to fade from my mind. We started looking at each other in disbelief, but it quickly turned to anger ...no, it turned to rage! We couldn't have been that bad, could we? NO, the judges are getting back at us for all the years they couldn't beat us as marching members in their "B" corps! That must be the reason (though that was clearly NOT the truth). By the time the scores were finished being announced for the winner, Santa Clara, most of our corps members had broken ranks and gathered in a large huddle up by our America Flag squad. The corps on either side of us were quickly ushered off the field by their managers. The crowd was buzzing. We had to DO something. We couldn't just let this happen. So we began. After saluting Santa Clara, much of the corps started walking toward the stands, toward the press box at the top where the judges critique was already beginning. We were going to have our say, and then some. Our instructors and management were angrily trying to push us off to the side. The crowd was beginning to panic a bit, as they saw us moving as a mob toward the judges' box beyond them. It all really started to become a blur for me. I don't know which members of the corps were the first to gather their senses and start to move off the field and away from the stands, but I know it wasn't me. Before long, however, we were all wandering, in no particular military/drum corps order, toward the gym where we were bunked down. I distinctly remember our "mob" reaching the gym, which we shared that day with Santa Clara and Blue Stars, and seeing their members scattering and nearly tripping over themselves as they hurriedly packed up to go. They were scheduled to spend the night there, but obviously had made a quick decision to find other quarters. But in an instant a quiet applause rose through our mottled ranks as we told Santa Clara, the show's winner, that this "fight" was not with them. A few of them came over, we shook hands, and they were on their buses and on their way, with the Blue Stars fast behind them, leaving us to sit in silence, in a large circle, hushed curses mixed with quiet tears. Our staff and management began the usual pep talk. "WE ARE THE CAVALIERS," etc. The words seemed hollow. I felt like we were done. All sense of fight in me, and my fellow marching mates, was gone. Then he was there, standing in the middle of our circle, wearing his Blue Stars jacket. I had a faint recollection that he was the "boss" of the Blue Stars. He hadn't particularly registered in my psyche like Jim Jones of the Troopers, Gail Royer of the Santa Clara Vanguard, or Bill Howard of the Madison Scouts. Still, I knew he was "important." He asked if he could speak to us, not presuming that we'd want to hear from him ... a classy way to begin, I thought. He talked about watching the corps as a young marching member, about how he dreamed of one day starting another drum corps modeled in our image. He said he spent the early years of the Blue Stars having his kids watch us line up to go on the field, watch us clean up a gym at the end of a day, watch us compete, watch us win, and watch us lose ... all with class. His said that though his corps was now a top competitor, that they still were a young organization. He said they still "needed" us to be a leader, since they still weren't ready for that. He reminded us of the guys who were still "out their" dreaming of being Cavaliers. We needed to continue for them. Continue for the guys who came before us. Continue for each other. Those were words eerily familiar to those told to us by our own drum majors, and corps veterans, several years earlier when we were still "kings" of the activity. How could I have forgotten them? How could someone from outside the organization be the one to make us remember? Dave left us with parting words of encouragement. He said we might not be competitive this year. He said we might not make finals at DCI this year. He said we would probably continue to get beat by "little" corps this year. But he said we had a far greater goal. We had to be the men who refused to give up. In this, the 25th Anniversary year of The Cavaliers, we had to be the ones that future Cavaliers would talk about, maybe even sing about (most historic events of The Cavaliers are celebrated in song). "WE ARE THE CAVALIERS," he shouted. And he was right. July 1, 1973, the night of my 20th birthday. The night of some of my worst memories in drum corps. The night of some of my best memories in drum corps. Such mixed emotions about that night. As far as the impact of Dave's comments on the rest of the year, I know that his words stuck with me, and many of the rest of us, for the remainder of the summer. We went on to the Western United States shortly after the Wheeling show. When we got to Denver, we got killed in a couple more shows. The staff asked the members if we were willing to gamble by rewriting a large section of the show, or should we just finish out the season as is? They said we probably wouldn't make finals either way. The corps told the staff to "go for it" since we wanted to prove to everyone that we weren't quitters. (Dave's words maybe ringing in our ears again?) Thus began another great story ... Our opener, "To Life," from "Fiddler on the Roof," was originally in ¾ time. In an effort to spice it up, the horns parts were changed to 4/4 time. Easy enough for them, but for the drums it meant our parts were now 33 percent FASTER. Could not be done. So, while the horns learned four minutes of new drill (opener and new drum solo), and got used to the faster tempo (same notes though), the drums learned four minutes of new drill (not much trouble for drummers back then), but also four minutes of new music. And we did it in ONE DAY! We pulled out of a show, and stayed another day in Denver. We began rehearsal that morning (after the staff stayed up all night long writing new drill and new drum music) at around 6 a.m. We had 30 minutes off for lunch. We skipped dinner. When it became too dark to see on the practice field, the staff found a parking lot behind a warehouse with large floodlights on. We finished learning the drill there. The parking lot was made up of large (the size of golf balls) rocks, not pavement. We were already exhausted and the rocks under our feet were just about the last straw. We literally started "anonymously" tossing some of them at Sal Ferrera of corps management, trying to get rehearsal to stop. We were really, really dead! Finally, he pulled the plug on rehearsal at 1 a.m. (mainly because the police came amid noise ordinance complaints). We had gone 19 hours straight, with only a 30-minute lunch break. We got a few hours sleep on the floor in the gym, and then loaded up the buses for a long ride to the next show somewhere out West. We then rehearsed another two or three hours that day. That night we performed the "new" show. The judges almost flipped! They'd never seen anything like that before ... overnight! Our scores actually went up significantly, even though the performance was fraught with errors. Hope was back. We kept fighting all the rest of the year, always hearing the echo of Dave's words, "Don't quit!" Leading up to finals week, we had gotten back to within a whisker of being in the top 12. But the Cavalier "ideals" would cost us our place in finals, though they would ironically shape many of us as better men because of it. Only a few days before our prelims performance, knowing we had likely pulled off a miracle and climbed back into finals, several members of the drum line were caught breaking one of the MAJOR rules of the corps. The drum line was asked by then corps manager, Bob Hoehn, if the standard punishment should still be meted out (expulsion). There was no debate from any of us in the drum line, even knowing the likely competitive consequences. Our drum captain spoke for the entire line without even asking for a vote, already knowing our answer: "Kick 'em out." Gone they were, and so to was our chance at finals. If you review the recaps for the 1973 prelims, you will see that the drum execution scores are what did the corps in. [The corps finished in 15th with a 74.65. Only 1.9 separated the 1973 Cavaliers from the 12th place score in DCI World prelims.] But we did not quit, and we did not forsake the ideals of those who came before us, or those who would follow us. Dave had reminded us of that "higher goal." Earlier in the summer, we had been 23 points behind Santa Clara, and 15 points behind Anaheim. By DCI prelims, despite the tumult of loosing several key drummers, we had climbed back to within 12 points and five points respectively. WE DID NOT QUIT! 1974 was to be the "miracle year" for the corps, as we catapulted back into eighth place. To this day, I'm convinced there would have been no 1974 Cavaliers, if not for a Blue Star ... who could have been a fine Cavalier. Fanfare archives 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.