Drum Corps International
Winning at life: Two neat Santa Clara stories

Winning at life: Two neat Santa Clara stories

by Drum Corps International

Both Harold McCormick III and Thomas Lewis Brown know something about winning. Harold holds the distinction of being the first marcher to win both a DCI World Championship and a DCA senior corps title, and Thomas knows that making others feel like winners is a calling that must be answered. (Photo above courtesy of Thomas Lewis Brown, the snare on the left. DCI judge Allan Kristensen is the fourth snare from the left, and Rob Carson, multiple-time DCI I & E snare champion, is the second snare from the right.) They both live in New Jersey and have heart-warming stories involving Santa Clara Vanguard. First, let's hear Harold's story. Born in 1954, Harold joined his first corps in 1963, the Harmony Senior Drum Corps of Boonton. Both his father and grandfather marched in the parade corps, which still exists today. He marched with Harmony until 1971, and then joined the Wayne Monarchs of Wayne, N.J., when he got his driver's license. Monarchs was a real drum and bugle corps that competed in the Garden State Circuit. The corps' one big trip was to World Open in Massachusetts. At the conclusion of the 1972 season, he joined the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights of Union, N.J., his all-time favorite corps at the time. The corps visited his hometown many times to compete in the annual "Harmony in Motion" competition. Golden Knights practiced through the winter and then disbanded in May of 1973, just prior to the competition season. Harold was disappointed to not be able to march with a quality group, so he joined the Hawthorne Caballeros, one of the top senior corps. He performed in a few exhibitions, before learning that Hawthorne Muchachos had two openings for baritone players. He had a lot of fun in the Muchachos during the 1973 season, particularly remembering star soprano soloist Jeff Kievit playing his famous solos on one foot. He also listened to baritone player Jim Prime expound on philosophies of drum corps arranging. [Jim since became one of the activities' top arrangers, writing for corps such as the Cadets and Star of Indiana and "Blast!" and "Blast II -- Shockwave."] Harold met Santa Clara Vanguard's director, Gail Royer, at a show on the east coast in 1973, noting the passion with which Gail warmed up the corps. Inspired by the encounter, he decided to move to California to march with SCV when he was 19. He lived the dream of a drum corps nomad, traveling up the Northwest, through Canada and hitting the Midwest for the 1974 DCI Championship. Along the way, he ate more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than he cares to remember, and swears the fruit cocktail was spiked so the corps would get to bed early. During that season, he learned "amazing" techniques that he still employs after 20 years of being a band director. It was easy to absorb great teaching; the corps had Pete Emmons teaching marching, Fred Sanford teaching percussion and Gail teaching horns. Gail's facial expressions conveyed his intent, and he often told the corps, "You have to feel the passion of the music." Gail Royer gave him the nickname "Mr. Bud," and it has stuck to him to this day. SCV exchanged victories with Madison Scouts and then won the DCI World Championship in Ithaca, N.Y., the proudest moment of Harold's life thus far. He marched the 1975 season with SCV, the year the corps earned perfect scores in all three general effect subcaptions, despite losing the title to Scouts. Afterwards, he went home to Boonton and started arranging for Harmony Senior Corps. But by 1978, he had the urge to march again, so he traveled to Reading, Pa., where he marched with Buccaneers. He didn't march the 1979 season, the year he graduated from Kean University with a degree in music and got engaged to his girlfriend, a non-corps person who had a sister in the Imperial Guardsmen of Livingston. On the night of his wedding reception in Hanover Park, N.J., Harold surprised everyone when 75 members of the Harmony Senior Drum Corps marched into the reception hall and performed about 30 minutes worth of music. Both he and his dad grabbed horns and played in the line. When asked if his in-laws ever forgave him, he'll only admit that they never forgot it, adding that his mother-in-law wished she knew the corps was coming so she could have had food ready for the members. His bride must have forgiven him. They've been married for 23 years and are proud parents of four children. In 1980, he decided to march with Reading Buccaneers during a year of an extremely strong horn line. Many in the brass section were fellow music educators. The corps won the DCA Championship, and the since-folded newspaper Drum Corps News put a picture of him on the cover as the first person to win both a DCI and DCA Championship. He tried marching again in 1981, but the cost of gas skyrocketed and his wife was pregnant, so it didn't make much sense to drive to Reading three times a week during the summer. He left in the middle of the season to become a father, never to march again. Harold started to take his own high school band, the Jackson Jaguar Band, into competition in 1984, and became an adjudicator of marching bands and drum corps. He's judged the DCA finals numerous times and has taught a number of corps and arranged for a number of bands. He's spent his last 20 years as a band director and has loved every minute of it. Now we get to the "neat Santa Clara story." His high school band was in a show at Giants Stadium that was being judged by Gail Royer. His mentor stated on the GE Music tape, "Mr. Bud, you did one hell of a job. Congratulations." Needless to say, that comment made all the years of toil in the trenches of music education worth it. Thomas Lewis Brown is the associate director and percussion director for Spirit of Newark. His story is rather short, but really sweet. In Thomas' words, "In the summer of 1975, I was on tour as a member of the Santa Clara Vanguard. After a show, a young kid approached me, and we started up a conversation. I asked what corps he was with, and he said he was a drummer in a corps from upstate New York. I told him that I was from New Jersey, and had heard of his corps. "After a few minutes of conversation, he asked if he could have the 'V' from my uniform. I told him that I needed it, but if he were going to be at the DCI championships in Philadelphia, I would give it to him then. "Competition was fierce that summer, and I had forgotten my little friend. "At championships in Philadelphia, Santa Clara treated the crowd to an emotionally charged performance as we sought to win our third-consecutive DCI title. The corps was awarded perfect score in GE, and won best percussion for the third consecutive year, but it was not enough as the Madison Scouts walked away with the title. SCV finished second that night. "After the scores were announced, the corps marched off the field and out of the stadium into a parking lot where we formed a circle around our director, the legendary Gail Royer. The corps was a little disappointed, but had no regrets as we put everything we had into our performance that night. "As I listened to Gail speak, I felt a tug on my uniform. I looked down, and saw my young friend. Without saying a word I took the 'V' from my uniform and handed it to him. "I never saw that kid again, but I am sure he showed his souvenir to his friends with pride, probably with as much pride as I received from wearing it."