Drum Corps International
Late Freelancers director ushered California corps onto national stage
Under Parker Silva's leadership, the Freelancers first appeared as a DCI World Championship finalist corps in 1976.Photo by: Drum Corps International

Late Freelancers director ushered California corps onto national stage

by Michael Boo

Parker SilvaFormer Freelancers director Parker Silva passed away on October 26 at the age of 93.

 He was long connected with the 10-time DCI World Championship finalist corps from Sacramento, California.

In his formative years, Silva had been a member of the American Legion Post #391 Drum and Bugle Corps, which was directed by his father. The corps featured a junior all-girl color guard named the Capitalaires. In 1963, he took over the leadership of the corps after membership dropped and turned it into the Manheart Capitalaires, an all-girl parade corps that performed mostly in northern California.

The corps took on the name “Sacramento Freelancers” in 1973 after going independent from the Legion. Three years after, membership was opened to males. The Silva family was deeply involved in keeping the corps alive. Parker’s wife Gracie was known as the corps “mom,” and his son Don served as percussion head for much of the corps’ tenure. His daughter Pam was a member of the horn line, and Parker’s father Tony served as business manager.

According to former Freelancers member Cricket Rubino, “Many people called their house a second home. This is where the flags were sewn, uniforms handed out, meals were always available, and if one needed a bed, one was available with never a question.

“Parker was so much more than just a director; he was a mentor for many of us. His calm demeanor, great sense of humor, and his ethic was admired. He took care of all the members as if they were his own family, and in a way we were. You could always count on Parker to be there, giving good advice, standing up for us and setting us straight if we needed it. I can honestly think of no one more deeply rooted in the drum corps activity.”

Rubino adds that Silva became close to the management of all of the groups that were starting up in California at the time and was available to those corps to lend expertise and a helping hand. “He invited Troopers director Jim Jones to California to help build a strong base for national competition and was among the first to expand California corps eastward for touring.”

Under Silva’s leadership, the corps first toured nationally in 1975, placing 18th at the DCI World Championships, then earned a spot as a top-12 finalist corps for the first time in 1976, this despite touring on a bare-bones shoestring budget that would have kept most corps at home.

According to DCI Pacific Division representative Tom Hope, “Parker loved drum corps and traveled with the corps most of the time until 1986.”

“Every person needs to feel secure, respected and challenged as they grow up,” Rubino said. “Parker provided that and more, demonstrating fair play, encouraging members to love what they were doing, and with Grace, being a role model for young people. If you knew him, you were very lucky.”

A visitation will be held on Thursday, November 10 in Elk Grove, California, with a funeral service planned for the following day.

Parker Silva funeral service details.

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