Since 1985, the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame has honored individuals who have left their mark on the world of marching music. From instructors to designers to innovators, administrators and others, today's Hall is made up of more than 100 men and women influential in the history of drum and bugle corps.
Each winter, members of the drum corps community participate in a nomination process, informing DCI's Hall of Fame Committee of those whom they feel should be recognized as part of drum corps' legacy. In April, current Hall of Fame members and corps directors participate in an election process to decide who will join the ranks of this prestigious society.
Five individuals have been selected for induction as the DCI Hall of Fame Class of 2015. They will be officially honored and recognized during the week of the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis this August.
Executive Producer, DCI World Championship broadcasts
If you've seen drum corps on television, in movie theaters, or on home video in the last three decades, you have seen the work of Tom Blair.
Since 1984, Blair has edited, directed and produced Drum Corps International's broadcasts from TV to the cinema. A former percussionist with the Glassmen and Cavaliers, Blair has come through the ranks as a performer, arranger, instructor and judge; and that experience has forged a life-long commitment to drum corps.
Throughout a diverse television career, Blair has worked on projects ranging from coverage of the NCAA Final Four to the Summer Olympics to the Super Bowl, and even "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Along the way he's cultivated contacts with talented individuals in the industry who now regularly spend the first part of August each summer joining Blair's production team for the DCI World Championships.
"These are some of the best in the business who work for much less than their normal rate because of their respect for Tom," longtime DCI broadcaster and Hall of Fame member Steve Rondinaro said. "Once Tom gets them in, the performance excellence of the corps keeps them hooked."
Focused not only on the current-day video production of DCI events, Blair also has made it his mission to preserve the legacy of Drum Corps International. "He values our history and has perhaps done more to preserve it than anyone," Rondinaro says.
Blair was the force behind the DCI Legacy Collection DVD set, a project during which he painstakingly restored and re-edited World Championship performances from 1974 through 1999 from original broadcast tapes. In a time when video technology has progressed by leaps and bounds, he's also guided DCI's move from VHS tapes to DVDs and most recently to Blu-ray disc with high definition audio and video. At each step along the way he's spent countless hours pushing technology to bring new life to DCI's storied past.
"Never complacent, he works hard to innovate," said Mike Mabbott, a longtime producer and director on Blair's World Championship production team. "His extraordinary ideas percolate for years and soon enough Drum Corps International becomes the beneficiary of his innovations. After restoring ancient masters of DCI's greatest all-time performances he called me and talked like a proud father."
With an exceptional commitment to excellence that Mabbott credits to Blair's formative years as a corps member, he continues to strive to make drum corps look their best at all times and in all media. Preserving and protecting drum corps' image has always been his first and utmost priority.
"Tom believes what is on the air must faithfully represent what is on the field. The trouble is there's so much on the field and all at the same time," Mabbott says. "He stretches the limits of television to capture the essence of each performance."
William "Bill" Harty
Manager, Guardsmen Drum and Bugle Corps
After stepping up to take the reins of the suburban Chicago Guardsmen Drum and Bugle Corps during an unstable time in the organization's history, Bill Harty quickly transformed the corps into a DCI World Championship Finalist.
As the corps' drum major from 1967 to 1974, Harty became an instant figurehead of the organization.
"As our leader, he established a unique style as a showman, carrying himself with dignity and pride, developing the unique ?˜Guardsmen Carriage;' shoulders back and chin up," Harty's sister and former Guardsmen staff member Celeste Jackson explained. "He established the style the Guardsmen would always be remembered for."
Specializing in color guards as an instructor and choreographer, Harty is also credited with many firsts related to the use of thematic props and equipment in drum corps productions. Often cited is the "guard house" that accompanied the "toy soldier" theme that was a trademark of the Guardsmen in the late 1970s and early ?˜80s and the infamous color guard "lay-down-toss."
As he took on more and more responsibility with the drum corps and its highly successful winter color guard program, through it all, Harty strived to put the experience of the performing students first at all times as he worked to recruit, teach, and mentor a whole new generation of corps members.
"Bill was devoted to the young marching members who crossed his path, frequently utilizing his personal resources to house, feed and transport members in need," said DCI Hall of Fame member Tim Salzman who is a former brass arranger and instructor of the Guardsmen. "His selfless devotion to the advancement of the Guardsmen during that organization's most challenged times was a hallmark of his altruistic devotion to young people."
"He had the patience to work with me and with so many individuals to bring out the best in young men and women," former Guardsmen member Dale Warren said. "Bill helped hundreds discover their talents, abilities and work ethic through drum corps. He always did it with a huge smile on his face and with that incorrigible Harty laugh."
Program Coordinator, The Cavaliers
A longtime design staff member of the Cavaliers, Scott Koter has been a leader in shaping the way marching music productions are designed and presented in a modern era of drum and bugle corps.
Involved in the marching arts for more than 40 years, Koter has been a drum corps member (Royal Crusaders, Guardsmen), instructor and arranger (General Butler Vagabonds, Rockland Defenders, Steel City Ambassadors), and consultant for numerous World Class units.
Perhaps his best-known work has been with the Cavaliers where he has served as program coordinator for more than 15 years. In the position he has spearheaded the visual and musical design process among staff members, providing the leadership and direction for how the corps' productions are put together and taught to young corps members each year.
Getting his start with the Cavaliers in 1998, Koter quickly elevated the corps through a rapid competitive rise. With an impeccable eye and ear for details, he helped coordinate the artistic and educational aspects of the productions by which the Green Machine would earn DCI World Championship titles in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006.
"Even more than championship titles, I think the true testament to Scott's influence on the activity has been the way many corps began to emulate the [program and staff] coordination for which the Cavaliers became known during his tenure," former Cavaliers visual designer and DCI Hall of Fame member Michael Gaines said.
In addition to those who have admired and followed his example from afar, Koter has lent his time and expertise to a number of other corps including the Bluecoats, Troopers and Spirit of Atlanta, providing a catalyst for success that these groups would achieve in subsequent years.
"He truly brought us into the modern era of arranging and programming," Bluecoats Executive Director David Glasgow said. "Without Scott's guidance in those years (2001-2006, 2009-2010), we would not have had the success we've been fortunate to experience recently."
Prior to his work with the Cavaliers, Koter served as a Drum Corps International judge in the 1980s and ?˜90s, and over many years he has been a strong voice in the modernization of the DCI adjudication system.
Outside of the drum and bugle corps activity Koter was a music educator for more than 20 years in Pennsylvania, leading the Kiski Area Marching Band and music programs to numerous accolades. After stints as an intermediate school principal and other administrative roles, he currently serves as assistant superintendent of the Kiski Area School District.
"Scott is devoted to the young marching members who cross his path, whether in the public schools or on the drum corps field," 2008 DCI Hall of Fame inductee James Campbell said. "His devotion to the advancement of the drum corps activity has been a sustained gift of leadership on many fronts."
DCI Judge Administrator
Starting his career as a Drum Corps International judge in the 1970s, John Phillips has devoted more years to the art of adjudication in the drum corps activity than perhaps anyone in the history of the organization.
Starting his musical career as a 10-year-old in the Scarborough Firefighters Trumpet Band in Canada, Phillips progressed from a corps member to instructor with groups like the Northstars (Kitchener, Ontario) and Defenders (Rockland, Massachusetts).
Phillips cut his teeth as a brass judge and clinician with the Canadian Drum Corps Association, and in 1974, he got his chance to judge for the first time on the Drum Corps International stage. He was quickly recognized among his peers for his effective communication skills and constructive commentary.
"John's ability to recognize ?˜quality' in performance and provide feedback for growth to struggling and fledgling brass sections came naturally to him," longtime Blue Devils brass arranger Wayne Downey said. "His enthusiasm and natural sense of communication provided an excellent role model for his fellow judges to emulate and respect."
"I can recall studying his adjudication tapes intently with the hope of someday being able to articulate and evaluate with the same degree of meticulous professionalism," fellow judge Wayne Dillon said.
Phillips quickly moved up within the DCI judging ranks, from brass judge to brass caption head to judging task force member. Now for some 15 years he has served as judge administrator of Drum Corps International's team of adjudicators?”the longest anyone has ever held the position which is installed by a vote of DCI's member corps.
As judge administrator, Phillips has long served as a leader and conduit between the competing drum corps and the judging community.
"He leads by example, is the ultimate professional and role model and when called upon, always provides the voice of reason," DCI visual judge and 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Marie Czapinski said.
Outside of his drum corps affiliations, Phillips has served as a high-profile music educator in Canada for more than 30 years. On the collegiate level he's taught at the University of Toronto, York University and University of Western Ontario. He's also had the honor of serving as Director of Curriculum for the Government of Ontario's Ministry of Education.
Drill Designer, The Cadets
For two decades, Jeff Sacktig has been the brain behind the complex visual formations that the Cadets bring to the football field each summer.
An East Coast native growing up in a family of drum corps performers, Sacktig began his career at the young age of 9 in the very same group (The St. Mathias Blue Max) that his father marched with in the 1940s. Becoming a member of the Cadets in 1986 and in later years joining the staff, he had the opportunity to first write the corps' drill formations in full in 1995.
Coming from an outstanding lineage of drill designers the likes of DCI Hall of Fame members Ralph Pace, George Zingali and Marc Sylvester, Sacktig has built on the legacy of his predecessors while adding his own unique style to what people instantly identify when the Cadets take the field each summer.
"Throughout his career he has been authentic in his approach and admired as a genius with his mathematical approach to visual design," 2009 DCI Hall of Fame inductee Jay Bocook said. "Jeff's drum corps designs are among the most respected and copied in the last 20 years."
Helping lead the Cadets to four DCI World Championship titles and numerous medalist placements, longtime Cadets director George Hopkins notes that among Sacktig's most notable contributions to the lexicon of drum corps drill designers are his endings.
From breakneck rotating blocks and intersecting lines, Hopkins says: "I can't tell you how many times I've gone to Jeff and said, ?˜This is where you will write the greatest ending of all time,' and he does it again and again and again."
"Jeff Sacktig has inspired a generation of designers with his signature style," Bocook added. "He is a true professional, and his passion for drum corps is lifelong and genuine."
Learn more about the DCI Hall of Fame.