The six time Drum Corps Associates (DCA) World Champion Bushwackers Drum and Bugle Corps rehearse in Franklin, New Jersey throughout the year. The Bushwackers most recently placed 3rd at the 2006 DCA World Championships, and are the defending brass and colorguard champions.
The Bushwackers (“Bush”) is a senior marching and maneuvering corps based in Harrison, New Jersey. The catalyst for the formation of the Bushwackers was Mike Olszewski, the man who had the dream, money, and guts to get the corps started. He wanted the corps to be located in his hometown of Keyport, New Jersey, and he secured the Keyport American Legion Post 23 for rehearsals. An organizational meeting in late 1980 brought together Mike, the first show coordinator Mike Mercadante, future instructors Lee Romano and Russell Morris, and about 15 other interested people.
Although the corps had hopes of fielding a corps in 1981, there were not enough members to begin any drill, so the corps performed in parades, typically with about 35 members. By working as a parade corps, Bush made some money, got more exposure, kept in practice, and formed a nucleus for the following year.
Relocation to Harrison, New Jersey, allowed Bush to tap into members of the recently disbanded Royal Brigade. The new horn instructor, Al DiCroce, had been the horn instructor of Royal Brigade. Al got Larry Kerchner to arrange two numbers, "Clash of the Titans" and "Fishlegs,” both of which were performed at the Bushwackers’ debut in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, at the Archer-Epler standstill show on April 17, 1982.
The Bushwackers became used to working in the rain and putting in long hours of rehearsal. In fact the night before their first M&M field show they rehearsed from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. That first performance, in Ramsey, New Jersey, came off without any breakdowns in front of a small but considerate crowd. Bush finished last with a 52.55, which was very forgiving. Throughout the remainder of the season the new corps took their lumps and paid their dues, finally taking eighth place at the 1982 DCA Finals.
When you are a new corps and no threat, other corps pat you on the head and become your best friends. But once you improve and begin to beat them, you are no longer the cute little corps with the unusual name that they have come to know and beat. The Bushwackers learned this lesson in 1983.
Over the winter the corps pulled in some talented people from Garfield, Bayonne, and the Royal Brigade. Word of mouth helped the corps grow and make big strides from the '82 group. Bush probably gained two or three years of maturity in one calendar year.
At 1983 Finals Bush went on after a terrific show by the Buccaneers, an experience that was a turning point in Bush history. With a tie for fifth, the Bushwackers had jumped three spots in just one year and began to make a serious name for themselves.
As the 1984 season approached the Bushwackers found themselves in the unique position of fielding one of the best DCA corps of the year by passing the Skyliners, Westshoremen, and the '83 champs Sunrisers. Changes that propelled the Bushwackers forward included the addition of George Zingali as drill designer, the turnaround of the marching program and performance scores, the emergence of the color guard as a top contender, and the development of the drumline into a legitimate force.
Another factor in a successful year was a change in uniforms. Designed by Michael Cesario, the new uniforms were in two pieces, including high bib pants with a short jacket. The colors were changed to magenta/powder blue/white/black with a white fedora hat.
When the season was coming to an end, the competition appeared to be the Cabs and the Bucs, followed by Bush. This was the first time the Bushwackers had to perform with any real pressure to succeed. So for the first time in the corps’ history, DCA Finals was a major disappointment. Third place after just three years was an achievement to be proud of, but winning even one caption would have been nice too.
1985 should have been a great year for the Bushwackers. The corps had placed eighth, fifth, and third in DCA Finals over the first three years and had left 1984 in very strong shape. People expected the Bushwackers to vie for the championship in '85. Instead this would be a rebuilding year. Therefore it was all the more amazing when the corps finished in fourth place.
Just as 1984 took a toll on the corps, a similar drain sapped the group at the end of the '85 season. The drum corps rumor mill had the corps dead. They appeared at no winter standstills, and their first show would not be until July fifth. 1986’s final results was all the sweeter as a result.
New staff included Gary Oberwanowicz as show coordinator and head horn instructor, color guard instructor Steve Walsh, and Roy Chambers and Allen Chesnovitz to design drill. By June they had a corps that would make the field and do itself justice. On July fifth in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the corps performed well enough to come in third, but things got better still. Winning high horns and percussion at the DCA Finals, the Bushwackers, with a 92.45, edged Steel City and Hawthorne to win their first show of the year, which just happened to be the DCA Championship.
Looking back to 1986 and 1987, it becomes clear that it's easier to become a champion than it is to stay a champion. Retaining the DCA Championship proved to be another difficult adventure. Bush placed third in Prelims, but miserable weather forced the cancellation of Finals in 1987.
The corps kicked and screamed and scratched and clawed through the winter, and by the spring of '88 had turned another corner. The most challenging aspect of fielding a drum corps is getting enough bodies to start the show and work it up. The 1988 corps had two things going for it, however: 1) a small but very talented core of members, and 2) a difficult but organized show. It took awhile to get going, and it took imagination to visualize a show written for 44 horns to be performed with 19, but once it started to snowball, the show became an avalanche that roared straight through to Finals. A season-long battle with the Sunrisers, and on-field fisticuffs with a member of another corps, ended with a DCA Championship tie, at 96.36, on a cold, windy Monday afternoon.
In 1988 the corps had the unusual sponsorship of Super Trucking and Rigging of Harrison, New Jersey.
Every championship the Bushwackers ever won has had its own identity. 1986 was a shocker as the corps sneaked up and won like its namesake bushwacker. 1988 featured a dogfight through the last four shows of the season with an anticlimactic tie. And now 1989 was a year in which the Bushwackers became the front runner with the Sunrisers snapping at their heels. The hunter became the hunted.
Finals resulted in yet another tie between the Bushwackers and the Sunrisers. However, a new tie-breaking rule used the total GE score as an additional plus 0.1 to whoever won total GE. With the strength of the Bushwacker color guard, who won best guard again, this put the extra 0.1 on the Bushwackers' card. The Bushwackers found another way to win. They were known as "the senior corps with a difference," "where the unusual is usual."
In the 1990s, the Bushwackers continued their championship ways, going on to take DCA’s top spot again in 1990, 1992, and 1993. The corps has remained in the top ten of DCA corps ever since. In 2002 and 2003, the corps finished seventh in DCA Championship competition. The 2004 finish was eighth, when they played a classically themed show called 'Early American Landscapes.'
The corps colors are magenta and blue. The corps song is "The Perfect Year" from "Sunset Boulevard".
The corps, in 2006, is in its 25th year of competition.
1981: Birth Year - Parade Corps
1982: Clash of The Titans/Fishlegs/Mickey Mouse/That Cat is High/ Snowbird Fantasy/Chariots of Fire. Prelims: 8th - 74.05 Finals: 8th - 70.55
1983: Cleopatras Asp/Emerald Eyes/Egyptian Danza/Quensabe/ Las Suertas de Los Tontos/Chariots of Fire. Prelims: 5th - 82.75 Finals: tied 5th - 82.65
1984: Santos/Quensabe/Las Suertas de Los Tontos/Egyptian Danza/ I'll Be There/Thriller. Prelims: 3rd - 88.55 Finals: 3rd - 89.00
1985: The Epic/First Circle/Supertonic Suite Prelims 4th - 84.35 Finals 4th - 86.55
1986: Santos/Quensabe/Las Suertas de Los Tontos/ Egyptian Danza/ Ayres Eyes. 'Prelims: 3rd - 88.70'Finals: 1st - 92.45' High Percussion and High Horns Caption Awards
1987: Pellet Suite, Marguerite, Corner Pocket, Aries Eyes Prelims: 3rd - 92.96 Finals: canceled due to rain see Prelims. High Percussion Award
1988: Pellet Suite, Inner Crisis, Mira Mira, Out of Africa Prelims: 2nd - 93.44 Finals: tie 1st - 96.36 High Percussion Award
1989: Time Check, In Her Family, No Pasaran, Mira Mira Prelims: 1st - 95.9 Finals: 1st - 95.1 High Percussion Award
1990: Prototype - Steve Melillo Prelims: 1st - 96.3 Finals: 1st - 96.9 High Percussion Award
1991: Son of Storm - Steve Melillo Prelims: 3rd - 90.7 Finals: 3rd - 94.00
1992: Sweeny Todd: The Ballad of Sweeny Todd/ My Friends/ Worst Pies In London/ History of the World/ Epiphany/ Nothin-s Gonna Harm You Prelims: 1st - 96.9 Finals: 1st - 96.7
1993: Sunday in the Park with George: Putting it Together/ Color and Light/ Sunday in the Park/ Sunday Prelims: 1st - 95.4 Finals: 1st - 96.6
1994: Nightmare Before Christmas: What's This?/ This is Halloween/ Making Christmas/ Kidnap the Sandy Claws/ Sally's Song/ What's This? Reprise Prelims: 3rd - 92.9 Finals: 3rd - 94.2
1995: Symphony for Drumcorps: Mathis der Mahler/ Age of Anxiety Prelims: 4th - 93.1 Finals: 4th - 93.6
1996: Sunset Boulevard: As if We Never Said Goodbye/ Let's Have Lunch/ Car Chase/ With One Look Prelims: 4th - 88.5 Finals: 4th - 91.5
1997 : El Congo Valiente/ Festival de Ritmo/ Verde Luz/ A Mis Abuelos Prelims: 4th - 91.5 Finals: 5th - 89.6
1998: Jeckyll & Hyde: This is the Moment/ Façade/ Murder, Murder/ Transformation/ Alive/ Take Me As I Am Prelims: 8th - 83.8 Finals: 8th - 85.2
1999: Sondheim Snapshots: Overture (from Merrily We Roll Along)/ Next (from Pacific Overtures)/ Pretty Women (from Sweeny Todd)/ Putting it Together (from Sunday in the Park with George) Prelims: 7th - 85.8 Finals: 7th - 87.8
2000: Music from the Darkside The Duel of the Fates (from Phantom Menace) The Battle (from A New Hope) Battle in the Snow (from The Empire Strikes Back) The Crash (from Return of the Jedi) The War, Ewok Battle (from Return of the Jedi) The End (from Phantom Menace) Prelims: 10th - 82.7 Finals: 10th - 82.1
2001: Into the Raging River, On the Waterfront Prelims: 5th - 91.05 Finals: 5th - 92.40
2002: The Myths of Fire Inferno / Vesuvius / Firebird Suite Prelims: 6th - 89.6 Finals: 7th - 912.1
2003: Journey to the Moon Part One - "The launch" - Twelve Seconds to the Moon Part Two - "Orbit" - First Contact Part Three - "The Landing" - Excerpt from To Tame the Perilous Skies Part Four - "Reentry" - Excerpt from To Tame the Perilous Skies Prelims: 6th - 92.863 Finals: 7th - 91.038
2004: Early American Landscapes New World Symphony / America / William Tell Overture Prelims: 8th - 89.688 Finals: 8th - 88.638
2005: Russian Winter Portraits Russlan and Ludmilla / Dance of the Snow Maidens / Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet / 1812 Overture Prelims: 2nd - 95.0 Finals: 3rd - 94.738 (1 point penalty)
2006: Stages: 25th Anniversary Fanfare for the New / The Perfect Year (from Sunset Boulevard)/ Rocky Point Holiday Prelims: 3rd - 95.363 (high brass, high colorguard) Finals: 3rd - 95.638 (high brass, high colorguard)
The only percussion section in either junior or senior corps to ever win six straight High Percussion Awards at Championships. 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991.
In 1986 the Bushwacker Percussion section went undefeated, winning High Percussion at all shows (including DCA Prelims and Finals) and having one tie during the regular season.