World Drum Corps Hall of Fame member Doug Reynolds of Niagara Falls, Ontario, who passed away October 21 at age 80, earned a reputation as an outstanding snare drummer, percussion instructor, administrator and judge, carrying out all of these functions at the same time from 1953 to 1980. He became a member of the Hall of Fame in 2002.
According to his wishes, cremation has already taken place. Donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation would be appreciated by his family.
He began marching with the Niagara Falls Memorial Militaires at age 15. In the following years, he drummed with Hamburg Kingsmen and Rochester Crusaders. He taught drumming to four junior and five senior corps on both sides of the border in the 1960s while he was also corps director of the Militaries, then the board chair of the Kingsmen.
He was undefeated Canadian senior individual snare champion; the first Canadian to win the United States individual title, taking top spot twice in the early 1960s; winner of five New York state titles and three Eastern States titles. He took private drumming lessons with the late John S. “Jack” Pratt, the Hall of Fame member who introduced rudimental bass drums to the drum corps community and wrote hundreds of drum solos and percussion books.
Doug Reynolds judged percussion for every major association: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion (AL), Drum Corps International (DCI), Drum Corps Associates (DCA), Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), Canadian nationals and New York, Illinois and California state championships.
He is survived by Sally, his wife of 61 years who he met at school in grade 3, two sons, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He spent most of his working career in the pharmaceutical industry.
(World Drum Corps Hall of Fame member inducted 1989)
Even if I wasn’t a drummer, I would try to see Buddy Rich and his Big Band as often as I could. He was an awesome player and his band’s music was as driving, pulsating and emotional as he was behind those drums!
I saw him several times in Philly with John Dowlan and Eddie Gibbons, as well as in New Hope, Pa., Valley Forge, Pa. and even in Boston, Ma.
In fact when I was in Boston for the World Open with a few drum corps, I saw an ad that said Buddy Rich was going to perform in concert at a hotel in Boston. I called and made a reservation for the tickets to his show.
When I got to the hotel desk and asked for my tickets, the young girl asked for my name.
Marrella, I replied.
Again, she asked for my name…M a r r e l l a, I spelled slowly.
As she kept looking, I stared at signs on the walls and banners welcoming all the drum corps to the World Open.
She finally said “I have a Merlino”… I said No!
My name is MARRELLA!!!
By now the manager heard this discussion and came over to try and help. I told him I made a reservation for the Buddy Rich concert and my name was Joe Marrella.
He paused and asked, ” Are you Joe Marrella the drummer?”
Now before I answered, I remembered all the drum corps signs plastered on the walls and thought he meant Joe Marrella, the drum corps drummer.
So, I answered tentatively… “Yes.”
Now came the killer question, “Does Buddy know you are in town?”
I stammered smiling as my voice began to rise in pitch, “I don’t think so.”
At any rate, he got me my tickets and I was on my way before he could ask me any more questions about Buddy.
A few nights later, we arrived at the show and sat through a strong first half performance. As I headed to the concession stand during intermission, I was literarily grabbed by the arm.
“Thank goodness I found you… Buddy told me to bring you back to see him or I was in Big Trouble.”
Oh boy, now what Mr. Marrella?
My name has gotten me noticed before, but never by Buddy Rich. Often times when they announce my name as a judge, especially at the Meadowlands Stadium, now Giants Stadium, it sounds like Morello.
(At another time the real Joe Morello called and asked to meet me… the other Joe Marrella.)
This is a different story for another time.
Back to the frazzled Boston hotel manager…I honestly don’t remember what reason I gave him, but I begged off going to Buddy’s dressing room at that moment. I knew that had I walked into Buddy’s dressing room as Joe Morello, Buddy would have thrown a stick at me!
Let’s fast forward to a Mets baseball game and a private box next to the Mets dugout. I was with a customer from Manny’s Music and his guest, Stanley Kay. Stanley was Buddy Rich’s manager.
Well, it was a great time for me to tell Stanley about my Boston experience and the misunderstanding regarding my like-sounding name. I always hoped that Stanley would eventually tell it to Buddy.
A few months after the Mets game, Buddy Rich was making another appearance in a club in center city Philly. As usual, I was going to be there. I was with my best friend and outstanding drummer, Eddie Gibbons.
Eddie and I had seen Buddy many, many times together. We always left the show shaking our head about his incredible ability to drive a band and to play things so fast and so precisely.
He was Super Human!
We sat at the bar on the left side of the stage. As was our custom, we arrived early to get a good view. This night was something really special…Buddy walked in and stopped by the bar.
He was in a friendly mood and anyone who knew him or anything about him knew this was truly Unusual!
Well, here was my chance to tell him face-to-face about the Joe Morello/JoeMarrella story from Boston. When I did…he actually smiled…minor miracle.
When his performance was over, everyone was yelling “Can you play an encore”? In typical Buddy fashion, he answered, “I could… but I won’t.”
Yet, he turned to his left, pointed at me and actually asked what would I like to hear…???
Stunned, I yelled back “Channel One Suite.”
As Eddie and I walked out of the club, I turned to Eddie and proclaimed, “We will never see him again.”
In that brief moment, I had reflected on the events of the evening. I suddenly realized that because I chatted with Buddy, told him my Boston story, and got asked for an encore suggestion that the Buddy Rich/Joe Marrella circle was now complete!
We remember vividly those in our beloved drum corps activity who share their unique talent, dedication, creativity, and life philosophy, toward catapulting the activity and its performers to greater heights. Their greatness stands out in the manner with which they leave their mark and influence on each person who crossed their path. Ralph Pace is one such giant.
Ralph Pace’s drum corps experience began as a member of the famed Vasella Musketeers junior drum and bugle corps of South Philadelphia, followed by the Archer-Epler Musketeers senior corps of Upper Darby. He went on to create and instruct the most innovative visual designs of the activity during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, all the while influencing future designers who would further advance the activity.
Pace helped top corps achieve their goals, including Blue Rock, 27th Lancers, Cavaliers, Crossmen, Phantom Regiment, Spirit of Atlanta, Madison Scouts, and Reading Buccaneers. His visual designs and instruction helped Blue Rock, 27th Lancers and Reading Buccaneers defeat all competitors at least once during his tenure—a particularly impressive feat for the 27th Lancers, since they finished 20th at the DCI Championships the year before. Such quantum achievement comes not only from design and execution, but from the positive spirit that Ralph Pace molded in each of his students.
The critical period of Pace’s influence is that in which the activity took control of its own destiny to become a world renowned performing arts organization. The mold that needed to be broken was that which characterized drum corps as quasi-military. Marching and maneuvering had been bound by the rubrics of the US Army Field Manual 22-5 for Drill and Ceremonies. Movement had to be in military squads, executed with precise pivots, interval, body position, and cadence. Equipment carriage—flags, sabers, rifles, bugles, and drums—would also be judged accordingly. Drill was mostly linear and symmetric.
By the mid-1960s the activity was screaming to break free of these constraints, as it evolved from excellence in executing military compulsories to presenting a total show with maximum affect, exhibiting outstanding performing arts standards. Toward such disruption, Ralph Pace imagined, designed, and brought to life the earliest asymmetry that would characterized the post-military era of drill. He introduced non-traditional, non-military body movement that enhanced performance and fostered greater audience appeal. His designs and influence are seen clearly in this “Danny Boy” mashup by the 27th Lancers: https://youtu.be/_wDBJ7v_gcY. As one fan reacted, “Stunning, gorgeous, impossibly difficult. I loved every second of it.”
Noteworthy in the extant comments and discussions throughout drum corps literature, folklore, and social media is Ralph Pace’s influence on and relationship with his students. There was an almost magical connection that would inspire them to reach beyond their grasp and achieve greatness. According to the Crossmen Hall of Fame induction:
“Ralph Pace was one of the most instrumental creative forces…helping [Crossmen] achieve their goals of fielding a DCI Finalist drum corps in 1977. His drills were innovative and helped push the creative boundaries … his influence can still be seen today…”
“He brought what seemed to be ‘mythical powers’ to rehearsals, and commanded the respect of the members. His motto for the corps was “Every Day in Every Way.” He challenged the members to rise to great heights, he had faith in them, and helped guide them there as an inspirational figure for an entire generation of Crossmen alumni.”
What is it that makes people stand up and take notice, to induct a great drum corps personality into the Crossmen Hall of Fame, the Massachusetts Hall of Fame, the New Jersey Drum Corps Hall of Fame, the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, Drum Corps International Hall of Fame, Reading Buccaneers Hall of Fame, Cavalcade Of Bands Hall of Fame, and National Judges Association Hall of Fame? It is the dimensions of greatness: creativity, Innovation, accomplishments, championships, influence, eternal design concepts and ddmirers, to name just a few.
“Ralph’s arrival to the Cavaliers mid-summer of 1979 was a ‘watershed’ moment for the organization. His high expectations, confidence and creativity made us begin to think differently about drill design and about the activity in general. While his stay may have been short, his shadow maintained a creative influence on the corps for decades.” – Jeff Fiedler, The Cavaliers
“Forty-seven years later, Ralph Pace’s influence on my character is still evident, for which I am grateful beyond words.” – Willie Black, Reading Buccaneers.
If you measure greatness by innovation:
“Ralph’s creation of Crown Imperial to the Iconic wheel in Danny Boy, paved our path in Drum Corps history and beyond. This 27th family is forever honored and grateful for the courage and creative genius of our Ralph Randall Pace.” – Patte Bonfiglio, 27TH Lancers
If you measure greatness by a sustained high level of accomplishments:
“Ralph was brilliantly creative at a time when creativity was stifled by the ‘rules’.” Larry Kerchner, composer, DCI Hall of Fame
“Ralph’s body of work with his history of teaching remains high, creative, talented, and passionate about what he does and how he works with people. I will refer to his role in the rebirth of the 27th Lancers after a difficult time in their history. His programs in the middle ‘70s broke ground. He helped many a corps and instructors. Many of us owe a great deal to Ralph as an instructor because he helped bring an expanded creative range to pageantry.” – George Olivierio, DCI Hall of Fame
If you measure greatness by championships:
“Ralph created productions for VFW National All Girl Champion Royaleers, CYO and US Open Champions, Blue Rock, Senior DCA World Champions, Reading Buccaneers”
If you measure greatness by the incredible influence they had on others that they mentored, consider Ralph Pace’s influence on George Zingali and others on 27th Lancer’s staff, and how it impacted many other organizations throughout the years through the works of Marc Sylvester, Jeff Sacktig and Steve Brubaker.
If you measure greatness by the innovative, lasting concepts he developed:
“He has the rare capacity to listen intensely to musical compositions and instantaneously ‘see’ drastically different, extraordinarily innovative visual structures.” – Michael Kumer, Bands of America Hall of Fame
If you measure greatness by the number of people who admire and respect their achievements:
“Ralph was a unique instructor who often thought outside the box and to this day he is a tree that continues to bear fruit.” – Thomas Brown, Reading Buccaneers
“Multitudes of us ‘Forever Drum Corps Spirits’ have an overwhelming regard and affection for Ralph Pace. Raising the bar, exceeding our limits, and reaching for the stars. Second best just would not be acceptable”. – Maureen McCloone, Royaleers All Girl Champions
How many among us have won guard, junior corps, and senior (aka “all age”) corps championships, while being a world class instructor and consultant in demand by all classes of drum corps and marching bands?
His resume reads like a “who’s who” of drum corps. It includes the champion corps Blue Rock, Cavaliers, Phantom Regiment, 27th Lancers, Reading Buccaneers, Spirit of Atlanta, Crossmen and all girl Royaleers.
Ralph Pace is one of the only designers/instructors ever to have had two corps in DCI’s top ten simultaneously, once with 27th Lancers and Crossmen and once with Cavaliers and Phantom Regiment.
“He is a legend among legends in drum corps and bands and has treated thousands and thousands of people to thrills and chills with his designs.”
– Bob Yarnall, Crossmen
Most importantly, he succeeded wherever he went and to whomever he instructed. Such is a true testament to greatness.
“He was innovative, had incredible attention to detail, a wonderful sense of color, certainly persistent, always wants ‘It’ to be ‘Right.’ He was willing to learn, won’t take NOT possible as an answer.” – Gene Monterastelli, DCI Hall of Fame
Ralph Pace’s on-the-field products led to a quantum leap in the quality and entertainment value of the activity; drum corps “drill” was never the same thereafter.
The torch was ultimately passed to a new generation of creative innovators influenced by Ralph Pace.
“Ralph Pace was a pioneer in visual design. Many of the present day designers can connect ourselves back to Ralph through George Zingali, Marc Sylvester, and Steve Brubaker all of which were taught by Ralph. Thank you Ralph for your creative vision and passion for our activity.” – Jeff Sacktig, Cadets and Carolina Crown visual designer
I was in every production meeting with the corps that Ralph and I taught together. Just like George Zingali, Marc Sylvester, Jeff Sacktig and Steve Brubaker, I learned from Ralph Pace so many concepts and how to implement them in a production—especially the importance of getting and keeping an audience’s attention while making them feel each moment.
“People engaged in conversations during production meetings often seem to be listening. In essence, they are really just hearing, but Ralph actually truly listens. I always felt his listening was part of his genuine concern for those he was engaging with so he could learn about their thoughts and ideas. The result was innovative and exciting shows time and time again.” – Harry Jenkins, Blue Rock.
While drum corps is about competition—fierce competition—it is a tribute to Ralph Pace that there is genuine respect and reverence for him from many who taught competitors.
“In the 1970’s Ralph Pace ushered in the transformation from ‘Old School’ non-coordinated show design to modern form integration of all the elements. Ralph’s designs had a profound impact on what would become the ‘East Coast School of Drill Design.’ Pace’s work can be found in the DNA of modern show design today. He is a true iconoclast and a high renaissance genesis of our activity.”
– Jim Elvord, Madison Scouts, DCI Hall of Fame
Ralph made additional contributions to the activity by being an adjudicator for ten years and providing guidance to the next generation of designers.
“Ralph was a disruptive presence, able to take rough ideas and formulate them real-time with a live corps. He was a bridge between what drum corps was pre-DCI to what it would become. He released the demons from confinement, and showed the way to obstreperous design and innovation, which were carried on by his disciples.” – Gary Dickelman, brass arranger, staff writer for DCW.
When watching one of Ralph’s drill designs for the Reading Buccaneers, George Zingali saw a moment and form that intrigued him. George complimented Ralph and wondered if he could borrow it for the Cadets. Of course, Ralph agreed. Ironically, it turned out to be a big moment in the climax of the Cadets show. It was referred to as the ‘Z’ pull, shown here: https://youtu.be/VnbyIMMm9PM?t=177
It should not be any surprise to anyone that Ralph’s accomplishments earned him a place in those many Halls of Fame cited earlier. When you consider Ralph’s accomplishments, championships, the respect and gratitude of his peers and students, and the designers he mentored who took the activity to the next levels, I humbly suggest that when they create a Mount Rushmore of visual designers, we should see the face of Ralph Randall Pace.
This tribute to influential visual designer Ralph Pace was prepared by Joe Marrella for publication in the September 2020 issue of Drum Corps World. Both are World Drum Corps Hall of Fame members: Ralph Pace inducted in 2005; Joe Marrella inducted in 1989.)
The Bracken Alumni Corps, of Bristol, Pennsylvania started out-of-door practices the week of September 18, following weeks of inactivity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are no performances scheduled, so it was just for the camaraderie of getting together, and to keep our chops in shape,” stated music director and brass instructor Chuck Smith, an associate Hall of Fame member inducted in 2002.
“Everyone enjoyed playing with a group, for the first time in over six months, and the corps sounded better than expected after the long lay-off,” he added.
Chuck Smith began a long association with corps in the Philadelphia area in 1954, with Duquesne Dukes. He then spent seven years with the Pittsburgh Rockets before several decades of service with Archer Epler Musketeers as a baritone player, music arranger, and instructor and arranger for the chorus. He also served as an instructor or arranger with a number of nationally known corps in the 1970s, including Steel City Ambassadors, Audubon Bon Bons, Bracken Cadets and Bristol Cadets. He was a high school band director in Bensalem PA for 25 years and has sung professionally with a number of organizations.
The Bracken Cavaliers are widely considered the first junior drum and bugle corps in the United States, formed in the early 1920s. The Cavaliers won Pennsylvania state championships in 1932 – 35. The corps is named after Bristol High School grad Private Robert W. Bracken, of Company C, 15th Machine Gun Battalion. He was the first Bristol casualty of World War I.
Associate member Gail Langan, inducted in 2017, is the new World Drum Corps Hall of Fame (WDCHoF) webmaster, replacing Dan Rippon, a regular member inducted in 2012, who will continue to serve as website assistant. The appointment was announced by WDCHoF president Richard Templin on September 14.
Those who have attended Hall of Fame induction banquets for the past few years are familiar with the major contribution Gail Langan has already made to Hall of Fame activities: she has been producing the induction video features since 2011. She also conceived of and produced the videos for Buglers Hall of Fame induction ceremonies from 2010 to 2012. She has conducted video interviews with prominent drum corps personalities.
She is a founding member and board member of the Drum Corps Experience virtual museum, which debuted online in the summer of 2017. From 2010 to 2015, she handled public relations for Park City Pride Alumni.
She played lead soprano with ND-ettes drum and bugle corps (Notre Dame Girls High School) in Bridgeport for five years, winning four major championships: the 1969 and 1970 World Open All Girl Championship; the 1970 U.S. Open All Girl Championship and the 1970 Greater New York Circuit All Girl Championship. The following year, she was assistant brass instructor with ND-ettes. She played soprano and mellophone with Park City Pride Alumni from 2004 to 2011 and more recently played mellophone with St. Rita’s Brassmen Alumni and the Romeos Brass Ensemble.
Dan Rippon also made important contributions to the drum corps community off the contest field. He proposed and served as the first coordinator of the Drum Corps Associates (DCA) Class A division. Ten Class A corps competed in the 2005 DCA championship preliminaries, making it the largest prelim show in DCA history to that date. He provided computer automation support to the National Judges Association for website design and a judging profile system. He also provided design and support services for the computerized DCA tabulation system.
He has served in many DCA positions, including secretary, vice president, business manager, executive board member and assistant treasurer. He was the first outside member of the board elected to Five Star Brass Productions. When the Westshoremen were facing difficult times, he stepped in to serve as corps director, helping to create a successful turnaround. He has judged for DCA and the National Judges Association. In his early years in the activity, he marched with several corps, including Rochester Crusaders, Grey Knights of St. Mary, Pennsylvania and Johnsonburg Diplomats. He first marched with the Buck-tail Regiment, playing cymbals in 1976 and 1977.
At the request of his family, private funeral services for Elmer ‘Red’ Winzer have been provided by Bell-Hennessy Funeral Home, Inc., 420 South Main St. in Williamstown, New Jersey. He passed away Tuesday September 8 at age 80. Those wishing to send flowers to the family or plant a tree in his memory should visit the Bell-Hennessy Tribute Store. He was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame in 2005.
In a career that began playing baritone horn as a charter member of Reading Buccaneers in 1957, his activities spanned more than 40 years as a topnotch horn player, music arranger, brass instructor, drill designer and instructor. Between 1957 and 1973, he played baritone horn with Reading Buccaneers and the United States Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps. He began instructing and arranging for the Buccaneers’ horn line in 1972.
He was one of the first music arrangers to adapt classical music to field show routines. His arrangement of Morton Gould’s “American Salute” (adapted from the Civil War era tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”) was a highlight of the field show when Blue Rock of Wilmington, Delaware won both the final Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) national championship and the U.S. Open in 1971. Other notable arrangements include Verdi’s “Requiem,” Stravinski’s “Firebird Suite” and Shostakovich’s “Fifth Symphony.”
Between 1967 and the mid 1990s, he was either the music arranger, brass instructor or brass caption head for many top ranked corps on the eastern seaboard, including junior corps Blue Rock and Haddonfield Royaleers of New Jersey and several senior corps including Emmaus Sentinels, Reading Buccaneers, Baltimore Yankee Rebels, Archer-Epler Musketeers. He was also brass caption head for Yankee Rebels Alumni and Reading Buccaneers Alumni. He judged all music captions for the Mid Atlantic Association, Drum Corps Associates (DCA), Drum Corps International (DCI), and the National Judges Association.
A 1958 graduate of Emmaus High School, he held music degrees from West Chester University and was a Doctor of Music Arts candidate at Temple University. He served as the supervisor of music for the Souderton Area School District and was the principal bassist with the Delaware County Symphony and Mainline Symphony Orchestra.
He is survived by beloved companion Kumiko Murashima, children Kristen Chocheli, Melanie Winzer, Brennan Winzer and two grandchildren.
A memorial service for associate member Tom Wilbur, inducted in 2002, originally scheduled to be held Saturday, September 26 at American Legion Post 199 in Hawthorne, New Jersey has been postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions. A new date has yet to be confirmed.
He passed away August 31 of pancreatic disease and is survived by his wife Nancy, son Brian and his wife Brenda and grandchildren Austin and Evelyn.
Tom Wilbur began his drum corps activity 1960, when he first played baritone horn with Dumont Police Cadets. In the following years, he was a member of Fair Lawn Police Cadets, Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, New York Skyliners and Hawthorne Caballeros.
He competed in winter color guard contests with Dumont Cadets in 1963-1964 and Fair Lawn Cadets in 1965. He played contra bass with the Golden Knights in the winter of 1965-1966 before being drafted into United States Army Intelligence. He returned to drum corps life in 1968, playing baritone with Skyliners.
In the 20 years after joining the Cabs in 1975, he marched in the color guard, played contra bass, helped as equipment manager, then marched in the honor guard, serving as captain from 2005 to 2007. He also marched in the honor guard as a member of the Summer Music Games All Star Drum and Bugle Corps in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
He played contra bass as a charter member of the Hawthorne alumni corps from 1994 to 2007, serving as color guard instructor and drill technician. He also played contra bass with St. Lucy’s Alumni Corps in 1996.
He was a member of Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Chorus. He served as president of the Hawthorne Alumni Association beginning in 2000, after serving as vice president for five years. He also served on the executive committee of the alumni corps, the advisory and fund raising committees of the competing corps, and was Hawthorne’s Grand Prix contest program book chairman. He served as vice commander of Hawthorne American Legion Post 199.
He was a member of the New Jersey Drum Corps Hall of Fame.
Norm Peth, one of the most admired and influential drum instructors in the four decades following World War II passed away Friday, July 10 at age 95.
A member of the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame since his induction in 1997, he was also certified as a master drummer by the International Association of Traditional Drummers (IATD). He was the first recipient of the IATD’s John Sterling Pratt Prestige Award, bestowed earlier this year on January 13, 2020.
John Pratt, a prolific percussion composer and a former student Norm Peth, also passed away earlier this year.
Norm Peth’s performances ranged from theatre and club stages to the drum corps contest field. Many of his students became top musicians performing around the world from Las Vegas to Singapore. He played drums professionally with the Jerry Wald Orchestra and many other groups during the Big Band era, working for and with many of the great jazz drummers of the day. Over the years, he was involved with 114 different music groups ranging from street parade corps to big field competition drum and bugle corps.
A list of his students is a virtual “who’s who” of high achievers in drumming. In addition to teaching drum and bugle corps percussion sections, he had students that later played with and taught the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and West Point Hellcats drum lines. Other students became high school and college teachers and professional drummers.
Some of his students went on to become members or instructors of such well-known drum and bugle corps as the Seneca Chiefs, Rochester Grey Knights, Tri-County Incorporated, Geneva Appleknockers, Syracuse Brigadiers, Interstatesmen.
He made contributions in every area of drum and bugle corps activity: playing, instructing, organizing and adjudicating, mainly in western New York. He was a judge for the All American Drum and Bugle Corps and Band Association, more commonly known as “The All American,” who judged many American Legion events as well as New York/Canadian Association contests and the New York/Canadian Individuals
He became widely known in the late 1940s as the drum instructor for the Seneca Chiefs Senior Drum and Bugle Corps of Seneca Falls, New York. Under his instruction, the Seneca Chiefs drum quartet won the New York/Canadian ensemble championship for three straight years, from 1963 through 1965.
He retired from drum corps activity more than 30 years ago, moving from western New York to enjoy the sunny climate of Florida. During his retirement he continued to play with various nightclub groups and, occasionally, live theatre bands.
Charter Hall of Fame charter associate member Bob Wagner passes at age 83
Wilbert Robert “Wags” Wagner, III of Manchester, Maryland, inducted in 2001 as a charter member in the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame Associate Member category, passed away recently at age 83. His long career in drum and bugle corps activity began in 1943 and extended more than 60 years well into the alumni drum corps era and the turn of the century.
Along the way, his teachers with various competitive and alumni drum corps included some of the best-known arrangers and instructors in the activity, many of them now also members of the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame.
He became a member, and eventually president, of the Yankee Rebels Alumni Drum and Bugle Corps in 1988, playing soprano and mellophone under the direction at various times of Ray Eyler, Ray Fallon, Truman Crawford, Jamie Bennett and Larry Kerchner. From 1991 to 2000, he played soprano horn with Archer-Epler Musketeers Alumni, with instructor Ray Fallon.
Beginning in 1994, he played mellophone with Reilly Raiders Alumni, taught by Bob Adair, Larry Kerchner and Bill Pusszi. From 1996 to 1999, he played mellophone for New York Skyliners Alumni, under Bucky Swan. He played mellophone with Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni beginning in 2003 and Music Express in 2004, under Larry Kerchner.
He first marched, at age seven, in 1943, continuing non-stop with several top competitive east coast corps until 1969.
From 1943 to 1949, he played drums under Joe Soistman and bugle under William S. Hart at P.S. School 83 in Baltimore. From 1945 to 1949, he also played bugle with instructor Webb Rice for Tall Cedars Junior Drum and Bugle Corps. He played bugle with St. Michael’s from 1949 to 1951. For the next four years, he was a bugler with Kenwood Cadets and Kenwood Cavaliers.
From 1955 to 1957, he played with Baltimore’s Hamilton Post 20, with Bill Rennie, Skip Groff and Truman Crawford as instructors. Bobby Adair was his instructor with Reilly Raiders from 1957 to 1960. He played with New York Skyliners in 1960 and 1961, when Hy Dreitzer was the instructor. He spent his final years of competition, from 1961 to 1969, marching with Baltimore’s Yankee Rebels, with instructors Skip Groff and Truman Crawford.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, he retired from Dow Chemical Company in 2000. He had served in the Maryland National Guard. He is survived by his wife Arleen, daughters Stephanie Brewster (Bill) and Cynthia Barbe and two grandchildren.
Thank you to all who participated in voting for the Class of 2020 as well as the screening and selection committees. Your vote was recorded and an outstanding Class of 2020 was selected. Voting results have not been announced at this time and will remain confidential. We are all painfully aware, as a result of the pandemic, the entire drum corps season has been canceled. This of course includes the Annual World Drum Corps Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
The Executive Committee has determined the Class of 2020 will become the Class of 2021 (there will be no class of 2020). In the spring of 2021 members of the Class of 2021 will be individually notified followed by a public announcement. There will be no voting in 2021. Nominations will continue to be accepted and processed in preparation for 2022 voting . While there were many options to handle the current situation, the Executive Committee agreed the adopted procedure will afford the newly elected members a complete and undiminished experience.