Drum Corps International
East Coast memories

East Coast memories

by Drum Corps International

Scott Williamson provided the following in response to the two recent Fanfare columns in celebration of Black History Month. I was a member of the Boston Crusaders from 1982 through 1984. It was one of the proudest periods in my life because it was something I wanted to be while growing up. Never in my life would I have believed I would be the first African-American male in the corps. I grew up in Pittsfield, Mass., and there were three things we dreamed of doing in drum corps: 1. March as a member of the Pittsfield Cavaliers, 2. March as a member of the Boston Crusaders, and 3. Be a New York Skyliner. I have achieved two of the three and live in jealous admiration of my oldest brother, Jim, to whom I always looked up. I joined the Crusaders as a tenor drum player in 1982 at the request of a friend of mine, Bob Granbois, who joined in 1981 after spending 1980 in Avant Garde with me. I met Bob in South Station after taking the bus from Pittsfield. I got off the Redline in East Boston and walked over to the field with all my gear in tow. As we walked across the field, the corps was on the field doing its thing, when all of a sudden everyone stopped! At that point, my first inclination was to turn and go in the other direction. These guys looked like they were in boot camp with waffles (that's high and tight haircuts) and I was staring that good ol' "Boston Attitude" square in the face!

Scott Williamson
Mark Bellveau was the director at the time and a well-known horn man in Massachusetts. He came walking over to Bob and I and introduced himself. Bob went over to grab Waldo (the famous bass drum of the Crusaders) and left Mark to give me a wonderful and uplifting talk. He told me I would make history if I went through with joining and it would change the corps forever, telling me, "March here, do what is asked of you and you will be the Jackie Robinson of the Boston Crusaders!" It never hit me. I just wanted to march in this fabled corps! That was my dream and I was going to make it happen! I had a great deal of support from so many people that were there to help me. From my first year of more than 100 members, to my next year of just 51 total (person-for-person we were the best in the business that year) to my last year, my time was filled with events and people that I will always hold in a special place in my heart. It was a time I will never forget. I am achieving another dream of being a Skyliner, in a New York "state of mind," and I will always have that giant Boston Crusaders swagger about me. Thank you, Boston Crusaders, for all that you wonderful people have given to my growth—in and out of drum corps. I plan on marching in a drum corps until the first shovels of dirt hit my face. Gregorio Hernandez marched as a member of the Syracuse Brigadiers from 1997-2000, Boston Crusaders in 2001, Magic of Orlando in 2002, Blue Devils from 2003-2004 and has been a cast member of the theater show Blast! and Blast II: MIX - Music in Xtreme. Here is one of my favorite drum corps memories. I remember the summer of 1998, I was going into my junior year of high school and marching my second year in the local senior corps, the Syracuse Brigadiers. A number of members from the corps were attending the Drums Along the Mohawk Drum Corps International show in Rome, N.Y., and I persuaded my father to take me to see my first live DCI show. The night was a classic drum corps evening; a cool, clear night with one blazing performance after another. I was blown away by the power and precision of the show that night. The Santa Clara Vanguard was the headliner and was hosted at the school gymnasium. After the show, my dad took me behind the stadium to Santa Clara's equipment trucks, where the usual post show activities were occurring—the motion, the laughter, the smells of the food truck, the sounds of horns and drums working to perfect those still elusive music licks from the show. I couldn't get enough of it. I think if someone had told me that there was an immediate spot open, I would have hugged my dad goodbye and jumped straight onto the bus, armed with only the clothes on my back and not a care in the world! We wandered up to a young percussionist packing away equipment to ask him some questions about his experience, all of which he answered in a very articulated and pleasantly persuasive manner. It was a perfect night for a young impressionable mind. I returned to my drum corps with a renewed fire to emulate the essence of all that I saw that night. Little did I know that the experience would come full circle. After eight successful seasons of drum corps and a year-long national tour with "Blast!," I was cast to join the show "Blast II: MIX" that premiered in Japan last summer. Who was included in the cast? The same exact percussionist that my dad and I spoke to almost 10 years earlier on a summer's night of competition! It's very interesting the twists and turns life throws at you. It's most certainly one of my favorite drum corps stories to tell.

Editorial assistance by Michael Boo. Fanfare archives

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