In 2014 Drum Corps Associates is celebrating its Golden Anniversary as we need to start at the beginning on how this all came about. The chief motivator behind this was not a drum corps person, but rather a show sponsor and a major role player in the American Legion. That person was Dr. Almo Sebastianelli, sponsor of the annual ‘ Parade of Champions ” in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In August of 1963, Sebastianelli approached the New York Skyliners manager, Henry “Lefty ” Mayer about various problems that were affecting both the corps and the show sponsors. On August 25, 1963, a meeting was held in Scranton to address these issues. In attendance were Sebastianelli, Mayer, Carman Cirlincione of the Archer- Epler Musketeers, Randy Roy of the Reading Buccaneers, and George Bull from the Yankee Rebels. At that meeting five common areas were identified as the problem areas. They were to secure contest dates not in conflict with previously established contests. To establish set prize money. To secure improved and consistent judging. To generally improve the contests. And finally, to promote better relationships among the competing corps.
In September of 1963 a second meeting was held and was opened to the other corps. It was at this meeting that the name Drum Corps Associates was chosen for the new group pf drum corps. Bylaws were adopted and the first election of officers was held. Henry Mayer was elected as the first president. George Bull was made vice president, Randy Roy became the treasurer, and Peter Burns was elected to be the secretary. Seven corps were designated charter members: the Reading Buccaneers, Connecticut Hurricanes, Interstatesmen. Archer – Epler Musketeers, Pittsburgh Rockets, Yankee Rebels, and New York Skyliners. Noticeably absent from this group were the Hawthorne Caballeros, Long Island Sunrisers, Rochester Crusaders and the Syracuse Brigadiers. Without the full support from these major corps, DCA had many trying times during its early months. DCA was not able to hold a true championship until September of 1965. The first ever DCA competition was held on June 6, 1964 in New Haven, Ct. with the Skyliners defeating the Yankee Rebels by eight tenths of a point.
The first champion of DCA were the Reading Buccaneers on September 11, 1965 in Milford, Ct. That weekend in Milford, Sebastianelli arranged for Harold Dillon, chairman of the American Legion Contest Supervisory Committee, to attend the first DCA Championships and to have the American legion moderate a meeting between DCA President Mayer and the Caballeros business manager Dick Quigley. How ironic is it that an association formed in large part because of the veteran’s organizations’ inability to agree on rules and sometimes strong – handed management techniques, was primarily responsible for bringing the factions in senior corps together and cementing the future of DCA. As a result of this meeting, the Caballeros joined DCA for the 1966 season as the Sunrisers and Brigadiers followed suit. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place with the compromise that brought the Rochester Crusaders into the fold for the 1967 season. Soon after, their corps director, Vince Bruni, was elected president of DCA with Henry Mayer as the business manager. By the end of the 60’s decade, this new organization was highly competitive and very well balanced.
The 1970’s saw the Hawthorne Caballeros win their first of many DCA titles over Labor Day weekend in 1970. The late 70’s saw the emergence of the Long Island Sunrisers as they struck gold in 1977 and 1978. The Reading Buccaneers went back to back with wins in 1979 and 1980. The late 70’s saw Vince Bruni’s retirement from the Rochester Crusaders and step down as president of DCA. The reins of leadership were then turned over to Michael ” Mickey ” Petrone who became DCA’s third president. Petrone was very popular amongst the corps and was a skilled drill designer and judge. As a corps director, he led his St. Vincent’s Cadets to several national championships and served as a contest sponsor for the ” National Dream ” . Three other historical events took place during the 70’s. In 1972, The New York Skyliners were odds-on favorites to win the DCA title. After being defeated by the Caballeros in prelims, Sky came back strong at finals and came back a tenth or two ahead of Hawthorne. However, a minor timing penalty was issued and the Skyliners placed second. After going inactive in 1972, the Syracuse Brigadiers attempted a comeback in 1973 and missed finals by a mere five one-hundredths of a point. To make things worse, a size- of- flag violation was assessed and they were knocked out of finals. The corps was unable to recover from this and then went absent from the ranks of senior corps for almost twenty years.The final historical occurrence happened in 1975 as a group of former Crusaders and Brigadiers formed a second corps in Rochester called Phoenix. This new corps burst onto the competition field and they not only became the first brand – new corps to make finals, they went all the way into the top five in their first appearance ! This paved the way for new corps like the Bushwackers, Empire Statesmen and others to present a fresh new look to DCA in the coming years.
The 1980’s saw the Connecticut Hurricanes capture their third DCA title in 1981 while the Sunrisers went back to back in 1982 and 1983 and the Caballeros back to back victories in 1984 and 1985. Then in 1986 that many people say was the most improbable and surprising event in DCA history, occurred at the 1986 championship in Allentown, PA. The Harrison, N.J. Bushwackers made their first appearance in 1982 and from its surprising eighth place finish in 1982 until the fall of 1986, Bush gradually became a force in the ranks of DCA. They were often near the top, nut were never quite able to win. From 1982 until the last show in 1986, they never finished first in any contest. At prelims in 1986, they finished third behind the tied Hawthorne Caballeros and Pittsburgh’s Steel City Ambassadors, but at the end of the night when all was said and done, they had not only won their first DCA World Championship, they won their first drum and bugle corps competition EVER !
Throughout the closing years of the century, DCA continued to prosper and grow as overall the corps got larger and better. In 1991, the Empire Statesmen captured their first DCA title with Bush powering back in 1992 and 1993. Empire won again in 1994 followed by the Cabs in 1995 and Westshoremen in 1996. How many of us remember the power failure at retreat in Rochester at Frontier Field? The 1992 season saw the re-entry of the Syracuse Brigadiers as they shared the title with Empire in 1997. Empire was able to defend in 1998, but the Brigadiers went on a four year win streak from 1999 thru 2002.
Going into the new century, the 2000’s saw the emergence of more corps from other areas. Heat Wave, the Corps Vets, and Carolina Gold had created a solid block in the South and in recognition of this DCA created its first subsidiary regional organization as DCA South. This has been followed by adding DCA Mid West into the ranks of regions. In 2002 the San Francisco Renagades became the first member corps from the West Coast. When you talk about drum corps from 2005 until today you have to be amazed about the records that the Reading Buccaneers have amassed. Six straight DCA World Championships from 2005 thru 2010. Minnesota Brass, Inc. ended that win streak in 2011, but the Bucs took their title back in 2012 and 2013. Going into 2014 check out these feats that they have accomplished. Twelve DCA titles ( most of any DCA corps since the start in 1965 ), highest score ever at finals with a 99.03 in 2012, 64 straight wins from 6/18/05 to 9/03/11, and being named All Age Corps of the decade. All these awards without counting all the caption awards they have won make them the head of the class over the past fifty years. The Hawthorne Caballeros have won 9 titles, the Sunrisers with 7, the Bushwackers with 6, and the Empire Statesmen and Syracuse Brigadiers with 5 round out the rest of the corps in DCA history.
The Class A movement started in 1997 as DCA decided to try harder to encourage more corps throughout the country to participate in the activity. Restricted to sixty five members, Class A offers the opportunity for success to the smaller but up and coming corps. The first Class champions were the Chieftains in 1997 followed by a tie in 1998 with the Generations and Heat Wave. The Corps Vets and Fusion Core started out in Class A and are now Open Class top ten units. The Skyliners and Sunrisers fought back from some hard times and both won Class A titles on their way back up. In 2014 the Class A movement remains strong as potential new members are already in place. This only helps to continue the growth of our activity.
Over the fifty years of DCA we have had many drum corps from our friends in Canada compete in regular competitions and at prelims and finals. This has opened the door for units from foreign countries to come here and truly make it a World Class association. In 1990 the very strong Southern Knights of Brighton, U.K. finished twelfth in preliminary competition and became the first Intercontinental Champion of DCA. The 2002 season saw the first Japanese corps attend championships. The Yokohama Inspires placed eighth in prelims and then took out their ” copy cat ” idols, the Hawthorne Caballeros. Recently the Kidsgrove Scouts made finals in 2012 and last year Heartliner from Germany made a large impression on the fans in Class A. the International movement has also led to members from foreign countries coming to America to march in our corps. Last season the Hawthorne had four foreign members in their ranks. two from Japan, one from Brazil. and one from Canada.
The legends of DCA have paved the way for this activity to remain alive and well. Today’s economy, family commitments, age, and other obstacles stand in the way of success but DCA has fought through them. People like Dr. Sebastianelli, Vince Bruni, James Costello, Henry ” Lefty” Mayer, Michael Petrone, Pepe Notaro, Joe Genaro, Hy Dreitzer, George Bull and the endless list of those individuals who made Drum Corps Associates what it is today. This year marks the 40th consecutive anniversary of DCA Treasurer Michael ” Red ” Corso’s length of service on the Executive Board. A great deal of thanks must go to former DCA PR Director, Tom Peashey for his valuable input into this historical year article. For more information on the 50th anniversary celebration and events to be held, please visit the DCA web site for all the information.
Bill Flaker DCA PR Team