1997: Latin Jazz

In contrast to the lack of change in placements throughout DCA in ’96, 1997 had lots of movement throughout the season.
Unfortunately, in the end this worked against the Bushwackers.


After spending all of 1996 looking at a significant gap between Bush and the larger corps in the top three, the corps set the ambitious goal of marching 50 brass in 1997, our largest hornline ever. It was hoped that with larger numbers we would better compete with the larger corps. While certainly we didn’t have those numbers in the beginning, the hornline did have a fairly successful winter. The percussion section was another story. Eddie Dioguardi, a longtime Bushwacker, had taken over as Caption Head & Arranger. The staff also had longtime members Tim Hamel, Ed Marino & Bill Poletti. As usual, we struggled for mallet players. But oddly, the Bass and Quad lines were full immediately, entirely of vets, while we only had one snare drummer until we finally got outside. Needless to say, he learned to play LOUD.

For the 1997 program, the corps went with a Latin Jazz program: El Congo Valiente, Festival de Ritmo, Verde Luz, and A Mis Abuelos. Though the membership joked that we should add kickpleats and sombreros, for our uniform we returned to the fedoras and black shoes & stripe from the late 80s.

It wouldn’t be a Bushwackers season without some sort of crisis, and 1997 was no different. For many years, the corps enjoyed a sponsorship from Joe Supor & Son trucking in Harrison, providing us with a very large equipment truck. This year though, the son took over, and decided for whatever reason, he would no longer be offering his support. We were also losing the corps hall, but by this point it had gotten to be a pretty scary place, anyway. So we had a corps, and we had Tri-Chem, but that was about it.


Luckily, for all of the competition and trash talk that may go on, when it really comes down to it, Drum Corps is a pretty close community. When one corps finds itself in a tight spot, there is usually another willing to help if they can. In the late 90s-early 2000s, the Syracuse Brigadiers had a very successful fundraising program, and were kind enough to donate a box truck to us. While it was much smaller than we were used to, it kept us on the road and we made it work. It was a good thing the Pit was small, though, since I doubt we could have fit one more thing on that truck.

Despite the problems with the truck and the small battery, the season started off well. While we weren’t yet full, by the third show, we passed the Caballeros, and were in striking distance of the top 2. The next weekend, Brigs, Empire and Cabs all took a big jump Saturday, but then Sunday we gained again, sitting only 0.2 behind Cabs and 1.5 out of first. It certainly looked as though we were in the mix for the top spot.


Seeing that we looked to be competitive, people who were on the fence started joining up, a few every weekend. While we were happy to be drawing more and more members, this ended up being a problem. Adding new people every weekend meant having to relearn sections every weekend. Rather than cutting out the holes and cleaning what we had, we were dead-set on 50. We finally got there in August, but even then, one member had to be replaced because he was going away to school, so the hornline wasn’t finalized until a week or two before finals. All that relearning took its toll, and by the time we were full, we were also about 5 points behind.

(Another, more amusing, problem with 50 is in the drill writing. During the drum feature, the hornline was in a rotating 7 x 7 block. As cool as it looked, that leaves you with one leftover body. Solution: Hide behind the bottom bass drum.)

One of the highlights of the season came at the American Legion Championships in Scranton. By that time the top three had pulled away from the pack, and at the end of the night in Scranton, all three were within 0.4 points. Since we were so grateful for the help from Syracuse, after retreat our hornline played “The Perfect Year” for them.


At the championships in Allentown, we played well in prelims, but there was still that gap from us to the top three, who were now within 3 tenths of each other. The next night didn’t go as well though. We didn’t have a very good show in Finals and ended up being passed by the Sunrisers, falling into fifth. It’s a shame that the only evidence is often the Finals recording, because that performance doesn’t do justice to the quality of the season. Up top, the Cabs must have come up short as well, because they fell behind and the season ended with a championship tie between Syracuse and Empire. We were happy for our new friends at the Brigs, and Empire really had a great show that summer, so it was well deserved.

While 1997 may have had a disappointing result, it was a summer where we learned an important lesson. You can’t sacrifice quality for size and expect to be successful.

And maybe that you can’t “Out-Cab” the Cabs. J

El Congo Valiente, Festival de Ritmo, Verde Luz, A Mis Abuelos

Drum Major: April Golden

PRELIMS: 4th – 91.5
FINALS: 5th – 89.6

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