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Icing on the DCI Birthday Cake

By adminkac - Posted on 27 January 2010

Icing on the DCI birthday cake

First champion reborn as Kingsmen Alumni to cap DCI's 35th birthday bash
By Michael Ferlazzo, DCW staff, July 2007

Drum Corps International made big party plans for its 35th Anniversary celebration. For the first time, California was awarded the World Championship event, to be held in the nation’s most famous sports stadium, the Rose Bowl no less.

But then came the icing on the cake with the announcement that DCI’s first world champion, the Anaheim Kingsmen, would be reborn for the event through a Friday semifinals performance by the Kingsmen Alumni Corps.

According to Corps Director Garrison Kean, 40 members of the alumni corps actually performed with the 1972 DCI Champions. They’ll be part of a 300-member spectacular that will feature the vintage baby-blue Kingsmen cadet-style uniforms, classic musical selections from the 1970s and the corps’ trademark military precision.

The DCI World Championships have been the vehicle for similar historical reincarnations through the years by the Kilties (1992), 27th Lancers (1994), Chicago Royal Airs (2002) and the Madison Scouts Alumni Project (2006). DCI officials are thrilled about this latest real life “time machine,” California-style.

“Because the Kingsmen were the very first Drum Corps International World Champion, it will be a fitting tribute to their achievement in 1972, and to DCI history, to have them participate in our first California championships in our 35th Anniversary year,” said DCI Executive Director Dan Acheson. “And it is our honor and pleasure to welcome the original corps members of their championship year, along with the others participating as they treat us with what is likely to be a spectacular reenactment performance.”

Talk about California dreamin’ for long-time drum corps fans. It’s even more of a dream come true for the Kingsmen organizers and members, starting with Kean.

“The second I heard this idea, it became a vision,” he said. “I could actually see the corps on the field doing this. Once you get to the point that you visualize what you want to achieve, it all becomes very clear and focused. And a lot of people see it. They’ve all done it before. We all know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.”

Weaving a web of interest

The Anaheim Kingsmen officially folded following the 1986 season and hadn’t been heard from musically since, although alumni have had periodic reunions. In an effort to make those events more extensive and complete, Kean launched the Web site in January 2003. One of the main features of that site was a registry that allowed alumni to both identify themselves and interact with each other online.

At the time it was launched, Kean said that only 150 alumni had been identified out of more than the estimated 800 who marched with the corps during its 18-year history.

The effort produced the desired chatter and much of it had to do with how they could get the Kingsmen back on the field -- although not the way one might think. Most wanted to put the Kingsmen junior corps on the competitive field again.

Because of the increasing alumni base and junior corps interest, some leaders of the movement incorporated the Kingsmen Star Corps non-profit organization the following January, one year after Kean’s Web site had been launched.

Through the site, one of the alumni members, Joe Rybus, organized a reunion at his house around the June 2005 “Southern California Classic” show in Long Beach. As alumni came together for that reunion, so did the idea of the Kingsmen alumni returning to the field -- with a little help from one of their former rival corps.

“After that show in Long Beach, some people went back to have a party at Joe’s and they watched the 27th Lancers’ 1994 alumni video,” said Kean. “They got excited about the 27th Lancers, so it’s no secret that we were inspired by the 27th Lancers’ show in 1994. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place when they watched that show.”

Out of that reunion on June 27, 2005, some of the alumni started a thread on the Web site’s forum asking others if they’d be interested in being a part of an alumni corps. About the same time, some learned that DCI had intentions of holding its 2007 World Championships in Southern California.

Three days later, Rybus wrote a letter to DCI asking officials about their plans and whether the Kingsmen alumni corps could be part of them. That’s when the idea really got serious.

“We simply started what we called a ‘yes’ list for all the people who came to the forum and said ‘Yes, I’ll be part of the alumni corps,’ ” said Kean. “Within a couple of months, we got a list big enough to show DCI we were serious.

Carol Brokke-Jordan sent the list to DCI. We received confirmation from DCI on December 20, 2005. That’s how long it took for us to bring this all together to know that we were really going to perform at DCI.”

Even before receiving official word from DCI, Kean reports that the corps’ practices had begun, first with a small brass rehearsal in Newport Beach in October, and then a full corps rehearsal in Riverside in November. About 100 alumni showed up in November, making believers out of all of them. The corps considers its first “official” rehearsal to be in January 2006 -- the first after DCI’s commitment -- that drew 150.

Open to non-alumni “guests”

While the early rehearsals were successful in attracting interested alumni, the project’s organizers set a goal of 300 for the Pasadena performance. In order to reach that number, they opened the corps up to non-alumni “guest” performers.

“We realized from the very beginning that in order to achieve the goal on the amount of members we wanted on the field, we’d have to open it up. In general, about 40 percent of our corps is non-alumni guests,” said Kean. “Most of the guests are in the same age bracket. Our average age is 48-years-old.

“They (the Anaheim Kingsmen) only fielded a corps 18 times since 1964, so our alumni base is very small,” he said. “Even in those years, people repeated several years. We realized from the beginning that we were going to need some help to do this.”

Kean reports the corps’ breakdown is 18 in the national squad, 32 flags, 25 rifles, six drum majors, 16 snares, 10 bass drums, 10 cymbals, 10 tenors, five marching tympani, 24 contras, 50 baritones, 16 French horns, 16 mellophones and 44 sopranos. He expected the corps to reach its 300-member target at its June 2007 camp.

That camp precedes the start of their summer performance schedule. The Kingsmen Alumni will be presenting the colors and played the National Anthem prior to the Fourth of July fireworks performance by the Pacific Symphony in the Irvine, CA, Verizon Amphitheater. Then on Saturday, July 14, they debuted their full show where the idea began -- at “The Southern California Classic” at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.

They’ll also be doing their pre-DCI camp at the California State University - Long Beach, performing again at Veterans Stadium during a special exhibition on Wednesday, August 8, joining the defending DCI Division III Champion Impulse, among others.

Two days later, the Kingsmen will perform at the DCI World Championship Semifinals in the Rose Bowl on Friday, August 10.
While Kean would like the corps’ actual program to be a surprise, he indicated that all the musical selections will be Kingsmen classics from the early 1970s, starting with 1972. It will also contain the famed “mace walk” and some of the corps’ other famous military marching moves from the 1970s.

Organizers have spent much time reconstructing the replica baby blue uniforms, which were recreated by Ictus Limited in Florida, a company that was founded by one of the corps’ color guard instructors and flag members. They have been purchased by members for $400 apiece.

As for the other equipment, it’s come from a wide variety of places and sources.

“Joe Rybus did a great job of buying and selling horns for the members,” said Kean. “He bought horns wherever he could find them -- old G-bugles. We’re playing on all G brass. He’d find them on E-Bay or in somebody’s garage, and he’d sell them at cost to our members whenever he’d get them. Because Joe coordinated all that, we have at least 150 horn players who have horns in their hands now.

“All of the flags and equipment in the color guard they paid for themselves,” he said. “Dynasty gave us a good discount and a loan of percussion equipment, but we also gave the members the option to buy or rent. We’ve been very fortunate that Pro-Mark donated all the mallets and Evans donated all the drum heads. Sabian donated cymbals and Tom Day, the founder of Bugles Across America, donated national squad flags and uniforms. We’ve had some really great sponsors.”

A labor of love for two corps

Many people have contributed to a project that has literally been a “labor of love” for organizers, like Kean.

“It’s been extremely time-consuming for a lot of people,” he said. “People have put their lives on hold. Years ago when we marched, we had parents and boosters (to assist in the organization) and now we’re doing all the work.”

While their efforts seem like the latest in a growing list of past drum corps returning for reunion tours, the Kingsmen alumni believe they’ve broken the mold for such organizations -- one that ultimately returns a competitive junior corps to the field.

“There are two different categories of alumni corps -- those that have a junior corps and those that don’t,” Kean said. “I was really concerned about that (returning a competitive junior corps). I said, ‘Let’s lay the groundwork for the junior corps first.’ But what’s happened now is that all of us are marching in the alumni corps.

“The strange thing is that when we hold a management meeting, someone says ‘OK, rehearsal’s starting, it’s time to go march.’ ”
But the foundation has been built to allow the Kingsmen Star Corps to march soon, too.

According to Kean, the sponsorships arranged for the alumni corps also apply to the junior corps, since those equipment agreements were done through the non-profit corporation. The Kingsmen Star Corps’ leadership decided against fielding a corps until they can raise enough funds to provide a sound financial base.

“It’s just a matter of money,” said Kean. “They (the junior corps) need the newer instruments. The alumni model is different in that we’re all paying for our own instruments, but with the junior corps, the members are not expected to do that. So it’s a whole different ball game when it comes to the junior corps.”

But if the Kingsmen alumni have their way, they’ll be playing that game real soon.