Drum Corps International
Wonders of drum corps: The readers respond

Wonders of drum corps: The readers respond

by Michael Boo


Michael Boo
Several weeks ago, I wrote a column about "The Wonders of the Drum Corps World," and asked the readers of "Fanfare" to submit their own "nominations." Here they are, in random order. Greg Newell is one of many readers who responded. "My wonders in some cases are organizations. I'm amazed at the continued success of a handful of groups over the life of DCI: Blue Devils (far and away the most well-run organization in drum corps), Santa Clara Vanguard, Phantom Regiment and Madison Scouts. Cadets and Cavaliers are flirting with that success, but over the life of DCI, they aren't there yet. "As far as individuals and their amazing success: Wayne Downey, Thom Hannum, April Gilligan, George Zingali and Marc Sylvester, Jim Prime, John Brazale/Jim Wren/Marty Hurley (they almost have to go together as a trio), Scott Stewart, and George Hopkins, because he's such an interesting person in the activity. "It's hard to leave out several and I'm not sure it's possible to argue any one of these over another: Bobby Hoffman, Dennis Delucia, Jim Mason, Todd Ryan, Myron Rosander, Dan Acheson, Gail Royer, Scott Chandler, Jim Jones, etc." Paul Milano suggests Tom Float be added to the list of percussion wonders, stating, "I can't think of any drum instructor who so dominated the caption during the late 1970s, entire 1980s, and the early 1990s. "I also suspect that some mention of Star of Indiana is warranted. They may not have been dominant until the 1990s, but the story of their birth and rapid ascent certainly was unique and spectacular." Brent Unger played mellophone in the 1988 Star of Indiana. Here's his list. "The Troopers: For many years this corps has been known as 'America's Corps.' Despite falling on hard financial times, the Troopers continue to perform and compete today and have never shed their traditions of the past. They continue to provide a performance and educational venue for the youth of Wyoming and other western states. They may not be the marching powerhouse they were 20 or 30 years ago, but fans still stand and cheer with pride when they see the corps enter the field. The Troopers hold closer to drum corps past than any other competitive corps on the field today. "Bill Cook: He was blessed with financial wealth which he shared generously not only with his own corps but with many other corps. In 1984 he founded one of the most successful and innovative drum corps in the history of the activity, Star of Indiana. Mr. Cook helped to fund and produce the DCI Championships telecast on PBS for several years. Those telecasts in turn helped to introduce thousands of future drum corps members and fans to the activity. Although controversial at times, Bill Cook's contribution to drum corps and its positive effects should never go unnoticed. "Jim Prime: One of the greatest brass arrangers of all time. He created some of the most beautiful and amazing music for several years with the Garfield Cadets, Star of Indiana and Blue Knights. "George Zingali: Undeniably the most unorthodox, innovative, eccentric and masterful visual designer the marching arts activity has ever seen." G. Michael offers the following. "Truman Crawford: Changed the sound of drum corps with the brass arrangements he did for the Chicago Royal Airs in 1964 and 1965. "Jim Jones: Changed the look of the drill by have the Casper Troopers be the first to do a wide open drill and circles back in mid-1960s. "Gail Royer/Santa Clara Vanguard: Turned the drum corps world on it ear in 1970 when they beat every major corps in the United States. Started a whole new ball game. "1971 Cavaliers: One of the first corps (along with Garfield and Madison) (and without a doubt the best) to perform a total show concept, which was unheard of before this. The judges gave them the gas pipe, but the show was incredible. Saw it live several times and even today, it ranks as one of my all-time favorites. "1975 Blue Devils: Brought the sound of big jazz to drum corps in a way never heard before. Further refined it in the 1976 show. "1983 Garfield Cadets: The year the East was back. Another major drill change that set the standard for years to come. After this show, it was almost bye-bye to symmetrical drills. "Bill Cook/Star of Indiana (1993): Staged a show so far out in left field that you either loved it or hated it, with no middle ground. The performance was excellent, the concept disturbing and the uniforms were questionable. But, when they played so controlled the whole show and then let loose in the final few moments, you had to respect the effort. "Scott Chandler: After revolutionizing color guard with the Spirit of Atlanta in the mid 1980s, he brought forth the model for male/female guard coupling, Scott took this a step further with his work in the Blue Devils organization. Many of the most memorable color guard moments in DCI history are a result of Scott's innovation and design. He has been at the helm of over ten high color guard titles and continues to explore body movement and GE in regards to music. "Peggy Twiggs: Modern color guard has to have a 'forefather' and the 27th Lancers are just that. Unique styling belonging to the 27th Lancers was only expanded on as Twiggs brought her style and teachings to the Garfield Cadets. Her concepts and total integration of style helped to mold what we see today. "Michael Cesario: Laugh at his 'tounge in cheek' musings on the broadcasts, but this man knows how to assist in bringing forth greatness. He helped bring Phantom Regiment back in 1987 with a shocking style change and adds his touch to many corps. "Ralph Hardimon. "Marc Sylvester: It's hard to say George Zingali without mentioning Marc Sylvester. Those that knew these two men in their heyday know they were inseparable and the talents they brought to the table are legendary. Modern drill style and integration can be credited to George and Marc with their work with the Garfield Cadets. "Allentown's A.S.D. (J. Birney Crum) Stadium: A 'warhorse' in the drum corps arsenal. Many a classic battle has taken place here. Prelims are legendary ... the city and the stadium just ooze legend, tradition and competition. The classic 1980 battle, the Bridgemen/27th/Scouts 1981 showdown, the 1984 helicopter incident (where a helicopter was brought in to dry the field just before show time), the full slate in 1985, the 1986 and 1988 Blue Devils performances ... 1989 SCV, the Blue Devils/Cadets 1990 showdown, Crossmen over Blue Devils in 1991, Star making an appearance in 1992, the rain in 1993, the gathering of almost everyone in 1994 ... then the two-night extravaganzas in 1995 through 1999 ... Now, the legend will be in use again! "James Wren/Marty Hurley, John Brazale of Phantom. "27th Lancers: East, East, East didn't start with the Garfield Cadets! In the late 1970s and early 1980s, those chants fell on the shoulders and ears of the 27th Lancers. With solid show design, percussion and innovation in color guard and GE, 27th Lancers paved the way for the Garfield Cadets and many 'color guard heavy' corps of today. The void they left since 1985 is still felt by many. "As a former marcher, I see Camp Randall one way. As a fan, I think of the Blue Devils ... especially 1986!" John Rochon performed in Freelancers and Garfield Cadets in the 1980s, and is currently arranging and doing tech work for River City Regiment. "In the true sense of the concept 'Wonders,' as in the Egyptian pyramids of drum corps, my list would be something like this: "George Zingali: Definitely no argument with the above opinions. "The Cadets: No matter what name they go by, regardless of what you think of George Hopkins, the corps maintains a level of excellence that has become a foundation for the activity. With few exceptions, most things avant-garde in drum corps originated from that organization from the early 1980s to present. "Steve Brubaker: Like Zingali, people wondered about the composition of that man's grey matter that enabled him to give us pure genius in the M&M world, and left us waiting breathlessly for his next show design while repeatedly rewinding the tape to watch his previous ones. "Star of Indiana 1993: Has stood on a pedestal as the most intricate, complex, cold-bloodedly performed, digitally executed, mind-boggling, controversially and universally debated, emotionally manipulative show ever. It was so different from anything anyone had ever seen, everyone was left with years of internal and external debate and evaluation of what they had just witnessed. Which to me is the very quality of the proverbial 'wonder.' "Wayne Downey: Whereas I have chosen The Cadets as a corps, Wayne Downey is in a class by himself, individually. What he has accomplished with a drum and bugle corps horn line, with a consistency that has become legendary, completely blows the mind. In his years teaching and writing for the horn line, he has amassed 17 high brass awards to go with a smattering of 2nd, 3rd and 4th placements. He has never placed lower than 4th in horns since 1975 (and has only placed 4th once). "Camp Randall Stadium: The Mecca of drum corps, when you can get past the mutant mosquito/praying mantis hybrids. My only foul memory of Madison, Wisconsin is when one of those flying rats landed on my bell and stared me down. That thing was practically one of the Wonders all by itself. "DCI Championships 1985: SO MANY good corps! As far as I'm concerned, the best listening of any year. The top four corps are all on my seven-show dream CD." Someone named Jojo from Santa Clara's guard in 1973-1975 and more recently the SCV Alumni Corps and Renegades guard nominated Fred Sanford, with no further explanation. But then, none is needed. Anthony Miranda of Empire Statesmen and Reading Buccaneers submitted the following: "Thom Hannum, Fred Sanford, Ralph Hardimon ... for percussion instructors. "Any SCV cymbal line. Allentown's J. Birney Crum Stadium, The Cadets uniform, Crossmen's Bones, 'Blooooooooo,' 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'" Matt Briddell of Pioneer and Capital Regiment suggests, "Jim Mason, Scott Stewart, Huskie Stadium at DeKalb, Velvet Knights shows in 1988 and 1992, Bridgemen." Martin Redmann, currently vice president in the Madison Drum and Bugle Corps Association, submitted the following. "Scott Stewart: 'Nuff said. "Truman Crawford: Horn arranging pioneer. "1977 Bridgemen ... So far outside the box ... not even near any stinkin' box! "Jerry Seawright: Created the Devils. "Sal Salas: Many of today's best visual and guard guys learned from Sal. "Two-valve bugles: Slide and one valve was tough ... rotor and one valve was easier ... two valves were it! (Anyone can arrange for and play on three valves.) "Jon Schipper: Madison soloist in the truest sense ... if you doubt me, listen to 1995 and 1996! "There will be a thousand different responses to this survey, but we all have certain things that stand out. I played on a valve/rotor bugle. Man, what those guys could do with those horns. Give the 1975 Scouts and Muchachos two valves and WOW. I played two-valve sopranos for Stewart and Crawford ... both drum corps icons! Sal taught me and 59 other horns players to spin flags and kind of dance. I was sitting on the back sideline as Devils won in 1976 and I still marvel at what Jerry created. Jon Shipper is by far one of the greatest Scouts soprano soloists ever, and that says a lot. There is a long list of screaming sopranos who came before Jon, and he made us all genuflect when he played. Lastly, the 1977 Bridgemen. I was lucky enough to see them the entire second tour, and the show got better and better." Steve Simpson is associated with Heat Wave, and is founder of DCP-a-holics Anonymous, a support group. Here's his contribution. "When I think wonders, I think of the ideas and concepts implemented on the field, that occurs that make an audience say 'wow' aloud, so my wonders don't include the persons responsible for the ideas of the activity, but instead the ideas/concepts themselves. Read on and you'll get it. "Cadets' Z-pull. Bones, Madison's rotating company front. SCV's disappearing phantom. The Cadets playing each other's valves. Bridgemen drumming blindfolded. Star playing Barber and Bartok on the field." Someone submitted the Velvet Knights' buses in 1995. Can someone elaborate on this? JD marched Bleu Raeders 1978-1980, Southernaires in 1981, and Phantom Regiment 1982-1983, suggesting ... "Garfield 1983 and 2000. SCV 1986 through 1989, and any time they did the 'Bottle Dance.' Phantom Regiment's 'Spartacus.' Muchachos 1975. Star 1990. "Crossmen 1978. This one requires a little explanation. This was a unique show, because they did things such as march an exposed drill and spread the forms all over the field and a lot of corps didn't do that at that time. Their drum line had their faces painted and this was about a decade before face painting became popular. Except for the symmetrical drill, this was a show ahead of its time. "Cavaliers 2001. And honorable mentions: Bridgemen 1980 and Velvet Knights 1986. I know many good choices were left out." True. But there are so many wonders in drum corps that have affected us. It's impossible to cover all the bases. Someone nominated Division II, due to being "the most competitive division across the board, and the most entertaining division across the board. I mean, 'sheesh,' when you need a score above a 91 to make it into finals and almost every corps is a contender." Someone known on the Internet as LancerFi, who marched 27th Lancers in 1976 through 1980 and the Alumni Corps in 1994, wishes there were more women in the DCI Hall of Fame, suggesting, "Twiggs and Bonfiglio, Bonfiglio and Twiggs: Peggy = 'trick flags,' 'Peggy Spins' and so on and so on. Denise = cleaning the 1976-1981 and beyond 27th rifle line. Also taught Cadets, SCV, Star, Emerald Marquis ... the list goes on and on. "There were four people who made us who we were in 1979 and 1980; Zingali, Sylvester, Twiggs and Bonfiglio, along with many, many other people who are still teaching today. The two men are in the DCI Hall of Fame, the two women are not. "I guess I could start a letter writing campaign to get them into the 'Class of '04 or '05." LancerFi, anyone can do so, but it takes someone to nominate someone so they can be voted on. No one would be discouraged to undertake a letter writing campaign to those who do the voting. Go for it. Tommy Stovall of Rockingham, N.C., marched Marquis in 1998 and Carolina Crown in 1999. Here's his list. "Asymmetrical drill: Drum corps changed with this invention. "George Zingali: Father of modern drill writing. "Star of Indiana: The only corps worthy of being a 'wonder' because of their immediate rise and SUDDEN loss. "George Hopkins: Love him or hate him, he has had more influence on modern drum corps than any other man. "DCI Judges: Just a true wonder ... nobody will disagree. "Camp Randall Stadium: Mecca! "Gail Royer: Before Hop, there was Royer, and there was much rejoicing!" Christopher Atkinson says, "Jim Wren would be a natural addition to any list of drum corps wonders. You just know it's Phantom when he writes ... his arrangements are already the stuff of legend." Vic Russell states, "Scott Stewart: He represents the very essence of what drum corps was and should be. He almost single-handedly kept the non-affiliated fan base coming to drum corps events for 25 years with his brilliant shows. Not only that, as a superb teacher and leader, he always put the interests of his corps members first. Why was Madison's Camp Randall the favorite drum corps site during the last 25 years? Why did the Scouts have a strong avid fan base throughout the country during the last 25 years? Why did Midwest fans have more opportunities to view live performances of drum corps during the last 25 years than fans in other parts of the country? The answer: Scott Stewart." David Rice lives in Japan and has marched the Yokohama Inspires for the past three years. (The corps came to DCA last year and finished fifth.) He says, "I only have one name to add to this list. He was the biggest fan of drum corps. He was drum corps. "I wish that I could have met Pepe Notaro. He seemed like a 'real' person; no pretensions. One of our bus drivers from the DCA tour, Gus Boova, came to Japan to see us at our Championships. He marched many years in DCA, and being from the New York/New Jersey area, he knew Pepe. He said that Pepe would really have liked us. I can hardly think of a better compliment." Nikki Cramlet marched soprano in Capitol Sound from 1999 through 2002 and is a soprano in Southwind this year. Nikki offers, "The Royalaires 2002 Reunion Corps ... Yeah old school!" Robert A. Ozello believes Don Angelica should be on the list, stating, "He was a towering figure not just in drum corps, but in music education. I marched in the Bergenfield High School marching band when he was there, along with Fred Sanford and Jack Meehan. He brought the music program of Bergenfield to new heights." Earl Douglas was drum major for Anaheim Kingsmen in the late 1960s, and started marching in 1956 in the Troop 132 Drum & Bugle Corps, which became the Lakewood Ambassadors. As he remembers, "Back then the number one corps was Blessed Sacrament of Newark, N.J. WOW, what 29 horns could do! It was unreal. "I watched the balance of power work its way across the country until it came to California. A lot of people don't know this, but Fred Sanford and Pete Emmons (drum majors) both came from the Troopers and started their teaching with Anaheim Kingsmen. They brought a new look to drum corps on the West coast. I was marching with Velvet Knights, then shortly left to become the drum major for Kingsmen. Pete and Fred left to go to Vanguard. Don Potter, Jr. took over the drum line with a young man, Don Hertell, who was in the Navy and stationed in San Diego. Don was the drum major for the DesPlaines Vanguard. He brought a whole new look to drum corps. "The person that I looked to was a drum major from the Chicago Cavaliers in 1965, Al Brinker. That was going to be me someday, and it came true. My years in drum corps where great, as were the people. I got to work with Don Pesceone, Pete Emmons, Jim Jones and many more. But at the top of the list were the people that I marched with over the years, and someone that I feel gets overlooked, Don Potter, Sr. He founded the Kingsmen and was the corps director from 1965 through1973, when he stepped down. (What a loss.) I hope that someday he will be put into the DCI Hall of Fame. In your column, you named a lot of people I had the privilege of knowing. I marched with some of them and competed against others. The activity has changed a lot from my days, but it still has the excitement." Frank Etzel played baritone in the Little Falls (N.J.) Cadets in 1965 and contra bass in 1966. He says, "I went away to college in the fall of 1967, and during Christmas break tried out for Blessed Sacrament, auditioning for Dick Burns. I made the contra bass line but could not follow through and march that summer. It remains my fond memory of what could have been. "I actually participated as a Golden Knight that break at a standstill exhibition, which would be my last actual participation. I was a full-time college the remainder of the 1960s, and from 1970 to 1976, involvement in the National Guard prevented me from resuming active drum corps participation. I currently attend some concerts, and watch a lot of the DVDs. Hopefully some of these 1960s memories will help you out. "1964: St. Kevin's Emerald Knights ... Possibly the last successful traditional corps (no contra basses, no rudimental bass drums). What a sound! Balance, harmony, power, range, execution ... they had it all. Even the provincial Jersey fans went wild for them and booed when they lost at the Dream and Garfield's Invitational. "1966: Not sure if it was the VFW or the American Legion Championships at RFK stadium in Washington, DC. What a magical night ... you can hear the excitement on the Fleetwood recording. The large crowd was going crazy for all the corps, and all the corps were responding with great performances. The Golden Knights fielded a small horn line (30) with a large (for then) drum line (five snare, five tenor, two rudimental, two bass) and did all sorts of outrageous drill (fronts, pinwheels, full field coverage). If you listen to the recording, you'll hear they where so pumped they could not slow down and settle in, but the show was pure guts and the crowd went wild. The corps that was like a monster was The Cavaliers. In my mind, the 1966 Cavaliers had great arrangements, drill, and a push-the-envelope program. They deserved the win. The placements were fair that evening and the show was one of the memorable nights of my life. The seniors followed and were just as exciting. Hurricanes had an unreal horn line, and I believe the Caballeros bested the Skyliners that night for the first time all season. "1976: I had not been to a contest since 1970, and I was working with some folks who had a son and daughter in Garfield (The Cadets). I met them at the Dream Contest at the legendary Roosevelt Field, and could not believe how worked up they were about these 'Bayonne Bridgemen' and how they threatened to ruin drum corps in total! When they entered the field, they reminded me of the Mad Magazine 'Spy vs. Spy' guys in appearance, and I could only believe my acquaintances were correct in their assumptions, UNTIL the first note of the 'William Tell Overture.' I was totally floored ... this was the greatest thing I have ever seen ... still is ... especially on the Legacy DVD (when viewed on a big screen and heard on a seven-speaker stereo ... it's all the time machine I'll ever need. "Here are some more 'Wonder Moments.' "1964 St. Kevin's: What a horn line, last great straight-ahead corps. "1966 Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights: Horns, drums, drill ... a small corps that would have been historic if not for ... "1966 Cavaliers: Horns, drums, drill and size with phenomenal execution of a push the envelope program. "1976 Bridgemen: Unbelievable corps that was so radical for the time, and a level of execution to match. "1988 Vanguard: I prefer the 1988 'Phantom of the Opera' show ... unbelievably adapted, great balance of shtick and execution of a wonderful book. "1989 Phantom Regiment: A drum corps that sounds like Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. My vote for the best second-place program of all time. "1995 Cavaliers: My vote for the best drum corps show of all time. I think Holst thought drum corps when he wrote 'The Planets.' The performance by The Cavaliers is mind-boggling by horns, drums, drill and the overall color guard show and its integration ... just overwhelming in my mind. "2000 Crusaders: I love this program ... the music and drill is inspirational. Although not the best in terms of execution, it is my favorite show to watch. "2002 Cavaliers: I like this show the best of the three-peat! Great musicality, and I do like the music. The drill is incredible ... I don't know if anyone else can emulate this style. I hope it forces the other contenders at least to become more active, drill-wise. "In general, my feeling is that drum corps is in great shape and the corps and programs are the best ever. I can't wait for next year." Fanfare archives Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a masters degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.