Monday Memory: Before there were Bluecoats

1969 Canton Police Boys Club Newsletter

Before they were the Bluecoats, a drum & bugle operated in the same facility that would become the first home of the corps.  In 1969, the Canton Police Boys Club put out their usual newsletter and on the front page ran a story about the third year that club had operated a drum & bugle corps.  While not a competitive unit on the field, the corps did hit the streets on the parade circuit.  The Boys Club corps would continue on for another three seasons before the move would be made to form a competitive unit that would compete on the football field.

Familiar names appear on the front page of the Police Boys Club news: Art Drukenbrod and J. Babe Stearn.  Babe was the Executive Director of the Boys Club and Art a local downtown tailor who marched drum and bugle corps with the Canton VFW post known as one of the national powerhouse groups in the ’50s and ’60s.  It was the Canton Police Boys Club Drum & Bugle Corps that marched past Drukenbrod’s shop on Cleveland Avenue during the Hall of Fame parade, that fired Art’s engine and brought him to the group.  Art lobbied Ralph McCauley and J. Babe Stearn to take the next competitive step with their club musical group and on December 1st, 1972, the Bluecoats were born.


Monday Memory is an on-going series that starts off the week with a little history behind the Bluecoats on our website and social media outlets

Monday Memory: How about a trip to Disney?

The cost of drum corps has always been challenging to the members, regardless of the year.  The Bluecoats have offered the members different fundraisers over time to whittle down the cost of dues (the old fashioned way of saying “tuition”).  One of the more unique ways a member could lower their out of pocket cost was a raffle to win a trip to Disney.  In 1997 Drum Corps International was in the middle of a multi-year agreement to have DCI Finals in Orlando, Florida.  Part of the arrangement was Disney hosting Individual & Ensemble contest as well as the (now defunct) parade the day before Prelims.

The Bluecoats raffled off a grand drum corps experience to a lucky winner, offering tickets to DCI Finals, Disney park tickets, lodging in a Disney property and six tickets to the Bluecoats Hall of Fame show.  Should the winning ticket be sold by a marching member, that member got an extra $100 deducted from their dues.  It was a lot of opportunity that netted about $1,000 for the corps.  While not the biggest of fundraisers for the corps (the revenue generated from this raffle was less than half of a performance check at a DCI show), it certainly gave one lucky winner a heck of an experience for a fraction of the price.


Monday Memory is an on-going series that starts off the week with a little history behind the Bluecoats on our website and social media outlets

Monday Memory: A Season That You Won’t Want to Miss

The 1989 Dues Structure for the Bluecoats. Click on the image for greater resolution.

After stabilizing as a Top 12 Finalist in 1988, the Bluecoats took a new competitive step in 1989 with a different design staff.  Entering the winter season, business appeared as usual as members reported for their first camp after Thanksgiving and picked up the “blue pages” of rules, regulations and the cost of being a Bluecoat.  Touted as one of the least expensive Top 12 corps, the dues structure for 1989 was a paltry, by today’s standards,  $125 for rookie “member” dues.  But the Bluecoats of that era put together an ala carte cost structure.  Winter Camps ranged from $6 to $10 per camp. Tack on about another $100 for 11 off-season camps (compare that to four camps for the brass section of the corps, two for guard and percussion today) and the cost rises to $250.  An approximate $200 summer meal fee was payable on the first day of tour, and of course the incidentals of gloves, shoes (in 1989 that would be all members, switching from black to white) and so that topped the total dollar amount to right around $500. Adjusted for inflation, that comes to about $1750 in 2018 dollars and about half the price today’s Bluecoat pays.

New powder blue uniforms debuted in 1989. Click for larger resolution.

But a scroll through the 1989 “blue pages” (read them yourself!) shows a very different organization.  No full time director, an instructional staff that is easily a third of the size of today’s staff and corps full of volunteer parents.  While those volunteers are key to today’s corps, the touring schedule in 1989 was more conducive to part time drum corps organizations.  The first half of the season was spent touring regionally, for the Bluecoats in 1989 that was Drum Corps Midwest (no longer around).  The second half of the season picked up the wider travel across the country en-route to DCI Championships, which rotated every two years to a new location.  1989 was originally intended to be in Montreal, Canada, but in the winter was returned to Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1989 Bluecoats would wander southeast after Drum Corps Midwest and take in a few Drum Corps East shows (also no longer around) before beginning the DCI touring schedule en-route to Kansas City, which would see the corps jump from 11th to 8th place, sporting a new sound (brass arranged by Jay Dawson, percussion by Robb Muller), new drill design (Bret Mascaro) and a new look with baby blue tops and white pants.


Monday Memory is an on-going series that starts off the week with a little history behind the Bluecoats on our website and social media outlets

Monday Memory: When the Bluecoats Opened for Canadian Brass

25 years ago this winter, the Bluecoats decided to host a different kind of drum corps show for the 1994 season.  Actually, it wasn’t really a drum corps show at all.  Following the 1993 Drum Corps International season, the Star of Indiana reached an agreement to a series of performances with the world renown Canadian Brass, where the “drum corps” would perform on a smaller scale indoors and then in an even smaller set of vignettes, perform with the Canadian Brass.  This venture would eventually spawn Blast! which went on to Broadway acclaim by the end of the 1990s.  One of those Blast! designers, Jon Vanderkolff, would join the Bluecoats design staff in 2013.

Star of Indiana was looking for places to perform their indoor gig, which in its inaugural year was way too big and complicated for a theater stage.  Then Bluecoats director Ted Swaldo was involved in business dealings with Star’s founder, William Cook, and it was a natural fit that the two agreed to Canton playing host to one of their performances.  Leaving behind the familiar trappings of Fawcett Stadium, Innovations IN BRASS in 1994 moved south to downtown Canton and the Civic Center.  It was quite a venue change from the outdoor 10,000-seat stadium to  a mere 2,000-seat (concert side) indoor arena.

The 1994 Innovations IN BRASS flyer inside panel. Click on the image for greater resolution.

The Bluecoats, in just their fourth show of the season, opened the night with a standstill performance, as the Civic floor is more akin to a basketball court than a football field.  Star of Indiana followed, performing a full-fledged drill on a lined tarp with a somewhat condensed, but full ensemble, corps.  It was Indoor Winds decades before it became a thing in WGI.  Canadian Brass headlined Act 3 and members of Star joined them for a variety of songs that featured staging and choreography.   Star of Indiana would continue on after 1994 without Canadian Brass, honing and evolving their indoor concept that was billed as Brass Theater, went to the stage in London and then eventually became the Broadway-based Blast!  A few Bluecoat alums, including John Rigano, a member of the Bluecoats snare line in 1994, would go on to perform with Blast!

In what was the most unique Innovations IN BRASS the corps has operated as a fundraiser, the Bluecoats did indeed open for Canadian Brass.


Monday Memory is an on-going series that starts off the week with a little history behind the Bluecoats on our website and social media outlets

Monday Memory: Preparing for the ‘Super Bowl’

No, the Bluecoats have not performed in, or around, a Super Bowl… yet.  As the world prepares for the biggest game in football this coming weekend, in 1981 the Bluecoats were preparing for their “Super Bowl” in the eyes of their director.  In just the second season after having been inactive, the Bluecoats were on the rise again.  A newspaper reporter sat down with director Tom Jakmides about how the season was progressing and he drew the analogy of DCI World Championsips as the equivalent to the NFL championship game.  But the Bluecoats goal wasn’t to win a DCI Championship in 1981, it was to achieve member status (making top 25).  Jakmides had long established this as one of the first major goals for the young corps.  In two previous trips to DCI Championship week, the corps had placed 35th in their first appearance in 1977, and then 28th the following year.  But following their inactive season of 1979, the 1980 corps tumbled back to 38th.

Newspaper coverage of the 1981 Bluecoats. Click for larger resolution.

Like getting to any Super Bowl, you have to win to get there.  The Bluecoats were proving their mettle in this 1981 season, having taking their 4th state VFW Championship title in five years, no easy feat when there were drum corps all over the state of Ohio to challenge.  For the first time in corps history, they made the night show of a major day-night prelims & finals contest — this one across the state in Toledo.  They would do this again for DCI North in Ypsilanti.  And with a major gathering of corps at historic Whitewater, Wisconsin, they placed 25th in DCI Midwest prelims.  The crowning achievement of the season was in the Class A division at the prestigious U.S. Open in Marion, Ohio, where the corps took the championship.  “Open” competition events were viewed in the late

70s and 80s as nearly equivalent to DCI Championships.  Many of these Open contests pre-dated DCI’s existence by decades.  In 1981, DCI had not been an organization for a decade.

When the dust settled at season’s end, the corps missed out on top 25 by six places and seven points.  Despite not making that elusive goal of Top 25, the 116-person Bluecoats still went home champions, having pocketed the title in Marion, and while not a “Super Bowl” certainly would be like winning a major collegiate bowl game.


Monday Memory is an on-going series that starts off the week with a little history behind the Bluecoats on our website and social media outlets

Monday Memory: Time to Look as Good as We Sound

Inside panel of original fundraising brochure from 1974. Click for larger resolution image.

The first summer of the Bluecoats existence was a short tour — a few local parades in borrowed band pants and t-shirts with the Canton Police Boys Club logo.  A full color fundraising brochure was created to seek the dollars needed to uniform the corps, starting boldly with “Do you remember the 1973 Hall of Fame Parade and the sense of pride you felt when the fledgling Bluecoat drum and bugle corps marched by wearing tee shirts and discarded band trousers for uniforms but stepping out and holding their heads as high…”  The brochure goes on to give a little background on the activity.

  • small bands competed in the 1920s using “primitive” instruments
  • drum and bugle corps are between 100 and 150 members
  • in the 1970s corps play the full range of music from Bach to the Beatles

The brochure also poetically reached out to the nostalgia of the recipient, “This type of civic-mindedness and summer activity brings to mind band concerts, ice cream festivals and a more serene time of life.”  While there are no pictures of the members of the corps, the brochure is filled with the best looking drum corps of the day.  A not so subtle hint that the Bluecoats need this look too.

The brochure cover’s uniform prototype would end up becoming the actual uniform worn through 1978. The look was modeled after the uniform of police units in the Caribbean, where corps co-founder Art Drukenbrod, also a professional tailor, vacationed and took note.  The brochure also proudly touts the roots of the Bluecoats with the police, “the name Bluecoats was chosen as a tribute to Canton police force and, indeed, all policemen everywhere.”

Back and front panels of original fundraising brochure from 1974. Click for larger resolution image.

The extent of the success of the brochure is not known, but Bluecoats Hall of Famer Richard Fredericks was a key corporate partner, providing significant funds to fully uniform that 1974 corps.  Casting a nice foreshadow, the brochure proudly says that these young performers are “striving to be the best at what they do.”  A decade later, another corps director would begin using “be the best you can be” a combination of six words to serve as a motivational slogan.

 


Monday Memory is an on-going series that starts off the week with a little history behind the Bluecoats on our website and social media outlets

 

Monday Memory: The Birth of the Bluecoats

Bluecoats first anniversary captured in the news. Click for greater resolution.

On Sunday, December 3rd, 1972 a tailor and two police officers held an informative meeting to start a competitive drum and bugle corps out of the workings of the Canton Police Boys Club youth based drum corps that the two police officers worked with.  It would be no small feat and from the outset the trio were counseled against the endeavor.   To motivate the 50 youngsters and parents that showed up that day, Art Drukenbrod (the tailor) read a letter from a national drum and bugle corps expert who advised that they would never find youngsters willing to give up the time required nor would the community be willing to support it.

Six months later, 119 young adults hit the pavement for the corps’ first parade, which they won and used the $15 prize money to buy gas to help bring the corps back home.  One year later the corps hit the competitive field in brand new uniforms, helped in part by the same community that was supposedly not going to help the organization. Four years later the corps attended Drum Corps International Championships for the first time.  Officers J. Babe Stearn and Ralph McCaulley believed, with Art, that their community and its youth were ready for the challenge.  In honor of their police Boys Club roots, the corps was named the Bluecoats.

For the full story from the newspaper in 1973, click on the image to the upper right.

 


Monday Memory is an on-going series that starts off the week with a
little history behind the Bluecoats on our website and social media outlets

Bluecoats Accept Invitation from DCI for Alumni to Perform at 2022 Championships

Bluecoats is excited to announce it has accepted an invitation from Drum Corps International (DCI)  for the 2022 Bluecoats Alumni Corps to perform at the Drum Corps International World Championships Semifinals in celebration of both the DCI and Bluecoats 50th Anniversary!  The organization will spend 2022 celebrating many events with its alumni and broader community. The DCI Semifinals Performance will serve as a grand capstone to a season of celebrations.

Mike Scott, Bluecoats Chief Executive Officer, is excited to see plans begin, “2022 will be an incredible year for  Bluecoats. The alumni corps is just one part of an ambitious 50th birthday celebration for this organization.” Drum Corps International Executive Director, Dan Acheson, equally anticipates a Bluecoats 50th Anniversary Alumni Corps, “We are looking forward to a great celebration and I just can’t wait to hear Autumn Leaves again.“

To orchestrate this exciting ensemble, Bluecoats has announced the formation of an alumni corps steering committee to embark upon creating a world class, high energy performing unit showcasing the talents of decades of Bluecoats.  It will be no small feat to put an alumni corps spanning five decades on the field. Recent history has seen a number of massive alumni corps entertain the DCI Championship week crowds, the most recent being the Santa Clara Vanguard Alumni Corps in 2017.  

“The bar has been set very high by those alumni units before us,” said David Glasgow, Bluecoats Executive Advisor and former Executive Director.  “We enthusiastically accept the challenge to present a show that not only will honor DCI’s 50th Anniversary, but showcase how the Bluecoats have been a key part of that legacy too.”

Ted Swaldo, director from the 1980s and early 1990s has been named as the Chairman of the committee. “Organizing and executing a project of this size and scope will require detailed planning,” said Swaldo. The committee spans much of the corps’ history, and as Swaldo shares, “they bring a lot of varied and outstanding abilities. I’m excited to be a part of this!”

The committee consists of two other former directors joining Swaldo in Bill Hamilton and David Glasgow. Mike Scott, the current corps director and Bluecoats CEO will serve on the committee ex officio. Also contributing will be former program coordinator Larry Hershman, who brings experience in producing drum corps All Star corps from the 1990s.  Rounding out the committee are Jay Wise, Jenn Johnson Renaud and Lane Armey, all three of whom bring excellence in administrative and instructional experience within the Bluecoats and beyond.

Details of the project will be announced in the coming months.  Follow the progress of this decidedly ‘BLOO’, endeavor at https://bluecoats.com/50th-anniversary/