Drum Corps Associates--40 Seasons and Going Strong

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There are, of course, many answers to this question. The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars had ruled Drum Corps with an iron fist. Frequently, their political motives were far more important than what was best for the corps. They made thousands of dollars each year throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s on their drum corps championship, yet they gave very little back to the corps. Aside from the monetary considerations, they also had radically different rules of adjudication forcing the corps to decide which they would lean towards in their design. The other sponsors became very strong and frequently decided who would adjudicate their shows, under what rules they would be judged and they made it all too clear to the corps that you either played in "my yard, by my rules or you could go elsewhere." All of these contributed to the inevitable formation of a "union" of corps, whose sole purpose would be to determine the common rules of adjudication select and educate adjudicators and deal with sponsors.

In any activity, which thrives on competition, organizing the competitors, themselves, is not an easy task. In the earliest meetings in 1963 and 1964, there was much controversy and even some distrust. The final charter of DCA was signed by seven corps: Reading Buccaneers, Archer Epler Musketeers, NY Skyliners, Connecticut Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Rockets, Baltimore Yankee Rebels and the Interstatesmen from the Albany region of New York. Most notably, the Hawthorne Caballeros, Syracuse Brigadiers and Rochester Crusaders among others, had declined membership.

Through the strong efforts of several key individuals, especially Henry "Lefty" Mayer of the Skyliners, DCA immediately had moderate success in recruiting sponsors and held their first championship in 1965. By the following year, DCA had a solid line up of sponsors and several of the "reluctant" major corps took schedules that included both DCA and independent shows. By the championship in late September of 1966, the mighty Hawthorne Caballeros, the popular Syracuse Brigadiers and the strong newcomer Long Island Sunrisers won their way to membership. They were joined by five of the seven charter members (Interstatesmen had gone inactive and Yankee Rebels did not attend). The 10 members for 1966 also included the Lt. Norman Prince Princemen—near the end of their historic life—and Les Metropolitains of Montreal, the first of many wonderful Canadian corps to make the ranks of DCA membership. Noticeably absent was the strong Rochester Crusaders who did not attend in 1966.

1967 was a pivotal year as more and more of the sponsors signed on with DCA, Rochester Crusaders and Westshoremen Bonnie Scots replaced Rockets and Les Mets in the finals, but it was not until 1968 that DCA solidly had control of the senior scene in the Northeast. The championship was moved to Rochester and 18 corps showed up for the preliminary competition. From 1968 on, there was no question of the supremacy of DCA in the senior activity. DCA never looked back.

The Metropolitan New York area political rivalries that had spawned DCA, led by "Lefty" Mayer and Jim Costello, realized that a neutral, but strong leader was needed to make DCA succeed. The corps chose newcomer Vince Bruni of the Rochester Crusaders and DCA flourished throughout the 1970’s under his leadership. After his decade of leadership, Vince retired in 1975 and DCA turned to well known Drum Corps personality Michael "Mickey" Petrone for leadership. Mickey led DCA for almost 3 decades. With only 2 leaders in over 30 years, DCA found a stability that allowed it to grow and survive through difficult and changing times for all drum corps. He passed on in September of 2004 and Vice President, Gil Silva moved up to the Presidency and now runs DCA.


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