Monday Memory: That Signature Sound is Born

Exercises from page 12 of the 13 pages of the 1992 Brass book.

Exercises from page 12 of the 13 pages of the 1992 Brass book.

That Bluecoats “Signature Sound” wasn’t born over night, but took decades to evolve. After going inactive for the second time in 1983, the 1984 Bluecoats major accomplishment was just getting back on the field and down the road. In 1985 the horn line took a step towards strengthening the line with the first instructional guide for brass members. That would be followed five years later by a new guide that deepened the instructional guidelines for a horn line punching into the top 6 in brass. In 1992 a much more thorough book was introduced and in it are the roots of the current Blue Way book for brass players used for auditioning and during the season within the line. Take a look at some of the progression over time behind the Signature Sound.


Monday Memory: Up and Coming Corps squashed by a bug?

Monday Memory: Up and Coming Corps squashed by a bug?

In just the third competitive season after being officially formed in the winter of 1972, the Bluecoats were the talk of the town… and the nation. Operating in the lower division, known as Class A at the time, the Bluecoats were cleaning up. Newspapers were touting the corps as a “comer” ready to burst among the nation’s best.

Monday Memory: Before there were Bluecoats

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

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.

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 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