The first full-time executive director of Drum Corps International, Donald L. Pesceone passed away the morning of Wednesday, July 8. He was 75 years old.
Drum Corps International owes much of its early growth and survival to the efforts of Pesceone, who served in the executive director position for more than 20 years from 1973 to 1994.
Pesceone had been involved with drum corps since he was a child, playing French horn in a variety of Chicagoland groups; as a youth in Park Ridge's Mel Tierney American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps and the Skokie Vanguard, and later in Maywood's Winfield Scott Rebels Senior Corps.
He also served the Skokie Vanguard as a marching instructor and drill designer and became the corps' business manager in the early 1960s. His talents in the field led him to be in demand with other corps, including the Stockton Commodores in California and the Salina Silver Sabres and Argonne Rebels, both from Kansas. He became a Marching and Maneuvering judge for the All-American and Central States Judges Association and was one of the first inductees of the CSJA Hall of Fame.
"When it was time for the DCI Board of Directors to hire a full-time executive director, we felt comfortable in offering the position to Don because he had a stellar reputation as a fair judge, treating all corps the same. He gave up a good job to work for DCI," former Madison Scouts director and 1994 Hall of Fame inductee Bill Howard said.
“As the first full-time DCI executive director he was the right person at the right time,” DCI Hall of Fame member and longtime Pesceone family friend Gene Monterastelli said. “The new organization needed someone who had the interest, energy and drive to spend the time to get the organization moving.”
When Pesceone accepted the position as DCI's executive director, he and his wife Mary first ran the organization out of their home. Soon, more people needed to be hired to handle such elements as show promotion throughout the United States and Canada, public relations, and merchandising, requiring the move into DCI's first headquarters in the suburbs of Chicago.
"Don deserves a lot of credit for sticking his neck out and taking the job," Cavaliers founder Don Warren said. "None of us knew upfront if DCI was going to be successful. He did a good job during his two decades at the helm."
Guiding DCI from its modest beginnings into a multi-million dollar organization, one of Pesceone's proudest accomplishments was helping to establish additional tiered divisions within DCI, encouraging smaller and/or less experienced corps to compete with organizations much like their own in what is now known as the Open Class division.
Pesceone was one of the first to be inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame, enshrined in 1986, its second year of existence.
Pesceone is survived by his wife Mary (who was inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame in 1990), his three children Jill, Cheryl and Donald, and grandchildren.
A memorial is scheduled for Saturday, July 11, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. CT at Steuerle Funeral Home (350 S. Ardmore Ave., Villa Park, IL), with a commemoration service at 6 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Drum Corps International Attn: Friends of DCI Scholarship Fund/Pesceone, 110 W. Washington Street, Suite C, Indianapolis, IN 46204