A founding father of Drum Corps International and the DCI Hall of Fame, Dr. David Kampschroer, passed away last night at the age of 74. Kampschroer, widely known as "Dr. K." after a long career as a school administrator, was one of the drum corps activity's greats who brought DCI to life and who tirelessly served the organization for years beyond his time as executive director of the Blue Stars. Kampschroer marched as a member of the Phantom Regiment in the early 1960s and then went on to co-found the Blue Stars in 1965 at the young age of 25. After serving as a tenor drum and marching instructor during the corps' first seasons, he became executive director in 1968 and stayed in that position through 1980. As an educator in the Wisconsin public school system, Kampschroer was a perfect fit for the Blue Stars and is well remembered for his rapport with the corps' members. "Every year during the years Dr. Kampschroer was director, he was given a blank check from one of our sponsors. He told me it had a designated limit and could be used for anything he thought the corps needed," said Billy Happel, drum major of the Blue Stars from 1971 to 1974. "Not once was that check used for equipment, instructors, fuel or bus repairs. He used that check every year for a comfort or extra for the members and staff, whether it be a stay in a hotel after finding less than adequate housing, a day at an amusement park, or a full-blown sit-down dinner at a real restaurant. He would always tell me that they said the check was to be used for something the corps needed, and right now, they need this."
David Kampschroer cheers on the Blue Stars during a performance at the 1978 DCI World Championships.
Blue Stars alum and current business manager Steve Stueck remembers Kamprschroer's dynamism. "When Dr. Kampschroer was with the corps, there was always a higher energy level. After one of his motivational speeches that level went through the roof. We wanted to do great things for this man." An innovator in how drum corps could be run, Kampschroer obtained sponsorship from La Crosse, Wisconsin's First Federal Savings Bank, making Blue Stars one of the first corporate-sponsored drum corps. This sponsorship covered approximately 80 percent of the corps' expenses in its early years. In 1971, Kampschroer became one of the five directors to commit to the founding of the Midwest Combine, a union of corps created to branch away from the American Legion and VFW organizations that controlled the drum corps competitions of that era. In 1972, corps in the east and other locales united with the Combine to create Drum Corps International. As one of DCI's charter board of directors members, Kampschroer was selected as the new organization's executive director for the western region until a full-time administrator could be hired. In Drum Corps International's first two seasons, the Blue Stars placed second and third, finishing less than half a point away from winning the inaugural World Championship title. 19 years after retiring as head of the Blue Stars, he served a one-year stint as director of the Phantom Regiment in 1999. Kampschroer stayed actively involved with the Blue Stars and other drum corps well into his later years. "Many may not realize Dr. K. continued to be a trusted resource to the entire Blue Stars organization through our reemergence as a World Class corps in the last decade," Blue Stars Executive Director Brad Furlano said. "He was always a phone call away to provide advice, a kind word of support, or even a kick in the pants if necessary."
Kampschroer poses with a group of age-out Blue Stars members during the 2005 DCI World Championships.
Kampschroer was a charter member of the DCI Hall of Fame, inducted as part of its inaugural class of 1985. He then chaired the Hall of Fame committee for almost three decades, helping turn the induction ceremony into a celebration of the best that drum corps has to offer. At the end of the ceremony each year, all of the Hall Fame members in attendance would be invited forward to join the new inductees in a champagne toast. Each year, Kampschroer would precede the toast with one of his favorite quotes by playwright George Bernard Shaw: This is the true joy in life?”being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one?being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ?˜brief candle' to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations. Kampschroer is survived by his wife of 52 years, Barbara, daughters Kelli Antoine, Kimberly Kampschroer, and Kristen Lee Storey, in addition to grandchildren and other relatives. A memorial service is being planned for June 13 in the Blue Stars' hometown of La Crosse, Wisconsin. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Dr. Kampschroer can be sent to the Blue Stars, Drum Corps International or the Central Florida Pug Rescue. Obituary: David Lee Kampschroer, 1940-2015
Kampschroer takes his familiar spot at the podium during the 2011 DCI Hall of Fame induction ceremony.