Massachusetts Drum Corps and Music Educators Hall of Fame remembers

by Art Kellerman, Drum Corps World staff

This article was published originally in the June 2009 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 38, Number 3).

On Saturday, April 25, the Massachusetts Drum Corps and Music Educators Hall of Fame held its induction ceremony/dinner dance with over 500 in attendance. The large crowd was anticipated well in advance which encouraged organizers to change the venue from Florian Hall to the larger IBEW Hall. It was a good decision because the place was packed and the “joint was jumpin’.”

Musical entertainment was provided by One Moe Time, a hot band, heavy on the brass, which provided the proper festive atmosphere for dancing and celebration.

The mini-corps champion Mass Brass performed and it was interesting to see the faces of people in the audience who had never experienced the sound of a modern, high-quality mini-corps. They couldn’t believe what they heard from 20 horns plus Mike Cahill (Legends music director) on trap set. The pulsating Latin rhythms and screaming sopranos on tunes such as Larrygueña (as in Kerchner) and Esmeralda Suite just shocked the audience and the performance was all too brief. Great sound!

During the dinner, the induction speeches were made. It was a little difficult to concentrate on the speeches while eating and socializing with people sitting at one’s table, but I am sure those being inducted were thrilled at the honor, nonetheless.

Because there was no induction dinner last year, both the Class of 2008 and 2009 were inducted at this affair. In my last DCW column, I highlighted the 2008 group — Mike Cahill, Paul Cain, Ron Christianson, Paul Harris, Joe Nuccio, and Richard and Louise Woodall — so this time I bring you the Class of 2009.

George Bevilaqua — His drum corps experience began in 1952 with St. James of Woburn, MA, where he played percussion, later moving on to the Woburn High School Band and the Immaculate Conception Queensmen of Winchester. In 1954, he joined St. Joe’s of Newark and traveled over 225 miles each way to rehearsals every Friday.

In 1956, he became a member of the newly-reorganized Hyde Park Crusaders and was chosen to be drum major. After completing his military obligation, he organized and funded the Lynn Continentals which helped disadvantaged kids in that city. In 1971, he was asked to help Dan Dwan as assistant manager of the Boston Crusaders and later in the year assumed the position of corps director.

As one of the founding fathers of Drum Corps International, Bevilalqua and 12 other directors signed a personal bank guarantee of $20,000 to support the working capital for the first year of DCI. From 1971 to 1980, he served as the director of the Boston Crusaders. In 1981, he visited England and Holland at his own expense to assist Mark Belliveau and Paul Pitts who were confronting difficulties while on tour with the Crusaders. He personally helped with some of the financial burdens incurred.

Paul Alberta — For over 40 years, this gentleman nurtured in the Norwood Public Schools one of the finest music programs in Massachusetts, a program that would measure up to the best anywhere. When he became Director of Music, he established a large and vital Parents Music Association that set up private lessons for each instrumental student. This resulted in all-district and all-state players, and state championships for his band. Perhaps his crowning achievement would be his jazz program. He ran a jazz band rehearsal every day for two hours, after school, on his own time. This effort produced a national jazz band title. Today, Norwood’s jazz band consistently finishes among the top groups in national competition.

Peter Funari — He began his career in drum corps as a member of St. Mary’s Crusaders and later, the Cardinals of Beverly. His talent in the field of percussion as a performer, arranger and teacher have made an indelible mark on the young people he has worked with over the past 40
years. From his days of teaching the DCI World Champion Arbella of Salem, MA, to his contributions as program coordinator for the DCI World title-holding Nashua Spartans, Furnari has earned the respect of the entire drum corps community.

As an adjudicator at both the DCEast and DCI levels, he is highly respected and his opinions valued. His expertise is held in high esteem in Europe as well as in the United States, and he has taught and judged abroad for over a decade. Peter Furnari exemplifies the best qualities the activity has to offer and has been a positive role model for thousands of performers.

Dolores Zappala — This lady has been a member of the Winter Guard International Hall of Fame since 1994, in recognition of her service in guiding WGI through several critical years of growth. She served as president of its board of directors for over a decade. As artistic director of Blessed Sacrament, she continues to be a driving force in the activity, always striving to maintain the highest of standards.

She continues the legacy of her father and has led Blessed Sacrament to more WGI Finals appearances than any guard in history, with the unit outliving every other guard in the activity as well. She has been the common thread running through 30 years of success and has taught her guards the meaning of love, trust and commitment year after year through loyalty and guidance, and she has challenged the activity to keep up with her spirit of innovation.

Bobby Cotter — Bobby marched with his hometown Norwood Continentals in the late 1960s, before stepping onto the national stage with the 27th Lancers. He aged out in 1973, but Ike Iannessa took him under his wing and brought him into a teaching role with the Norwood Debonnaires and the St. Francis Sancians. At the time, he was only slightly older than his students. Unlike the screaming and yelling that was typical of drum corps instruction of the day, he offered a friendly demeanor that was appreciated by his students and it proved to be effective as his talents became sought after. His expertise was valued by drum corps, winter guards and marching bands.

Some of the units he taught are: 27th Lancers, Quasar, East Bridgewater High School, Blessed Sacrament guard and King Philip High School. Highly thought of by his colleagues, instructors with whom he has successfully worked in the past would fill a virtual “Who’s Who.” Currently, he and his wife, Donna, serve as co-chairs of the 27th Lancers Alumni. He is also known as the voice of the “Hall of Fame,” serving as the emcee of these dinners in past years.

Richard Rigolini — His life’s passion in the music/marching arts began in 1975 as a member of the Immaculate Conception Band from Everett and he then moved on to St. Anthony’s of Revere, playing lead trumpet. In 1981, he became a member of the famed 27th Lancers. His introduction to instruction began with St. Joseph’s of Wakefield and the Explorers, with both units capturing titles under his tutelage. A number of high school bands and winter guards benefited from his expertise, among them Andover, Winthrop, Malden, Melrose, South Portland and New Bedford high schools.

In recent years, he served as staff coordinator and assistant director of the Nashua Spartans. In his first year with the corps, 1997, the corps won their first DCI World Championship. The following year he helped develop a new identity for the corps as they won the title for the second consecutive time. Under his leadership and guidance, the Spartans won three more DCI gold medals in eight years, as well as five DCI Color Guard titles.

In 2008, Rigolini became staff coordinator of the Citations in Burlington, MA, and saw the corps return to the DCI Finals after 20 years. As the Citations won the 2008 Best Color Guard award, this marked five consecutive years that he has taught the top color guard in Division II/Open Class. In addition, he has served as president of the New England Scholastic Band Association for 12 years.

David Bunten — as I read the nomination paper for this gentleman, I realized that I couldn’t capture the emotion expressed by the parent, Dawn Strong, who wrote it. As I did with the report on the nomination of Paul Harris in the Class of 2008, I would like to print the letter in its entirety.

Dear Mr. DiCarlo:

I would like to nominate David Bunten for the Massachusetts Drum Corps and Music Educators Hall of Fame. As the color guard parent liaison and member of the Reading band parents organization I have had the pleasure of knowing him for six years. Over those years I have had the opportunity to observe him in many capacities that reach beyond the scope of music educator. I am comfortable that he has the traits that your organization is looking for in a candidate.

In truth, my first observation of Mr. Bunten was while watching the annual Memorial Day parade about 15 years ago. I had attended Reading Memorial High School in the late ’70s. At that time the marching band was a joke to all but the few faithful students. They did their best under the direction of a music teacher who did not care about the program.

I was keen to see what the students looked like under the direction of the “new” music teacher. I knew the program had expanded under his direction, but I was not prepared for the dramatic changes. Instead of a group of rag-tag students in black dickeys, homely red blazers, black pants of varying lengths, with minimal music ability, before me was a real marching band. These students stood tall, walked smartly in step, clearly proud in their uniforms.

I realized that he was not just a teacher, but also a band director who cared about the students and the program. I can remember looking at my daughter’s face and seeing how impressed she was as they marched by. She turned to me and said, “I want to do that some day.”

Over the years, that memory had become quite distant, as she struggled with learning disabilities, until she was an eighth grader and announced that she was trying out for the color guard. I admit I cringed, watching her struggle to learn a basic routine, wondering if she would be cut from the program. I had heard through the grapevine that “Mr. B” was a force to be reckoned with and accepted nothing less then perfection.

As I volunteered that first year and listened to my daughter repeat what she had learned from Mr. Bunten, I realized that the grapevine was not correct. He was not expecting perfection; instead, he was expecting the students on a personal level to perform to the best of their capabilities and on a larger level to be part of an expanded “band” family. By making the band program something the students could be proud of, it was now larger than any sports group.

From the outside it would be easy to overlook the larger life lessons being learned in the band. How to be a good citizen, accountability for one’s actions, standing up for something that you feel strongly about even if it isn’t popular, leadership, sportsmanship, to name just a few. He was not just teaching music, he was providing a safe environment for students to learn the life lessons that the future has in store for them.

Even more telling of his impact on the students was his handling of a band student dying from cancer. He did not pity the student like most around were apt to do when faced with a situation like this. He let the student participate as a band student that happened to have cancer rather then a cancer patient that was in the band. He provided the young man with the opportunity to experience some normality in what was clearly a surreal experience.

He gave the parents of that child the opportunity to see their dying son in a setting that was filled with love, laughter, hope and support. Those memories are the ones that the parents and students lining the church drew on as they buried the teenager. The lasting memory was one of him being buried with his beloved drum sticks, surrounded by pictures filled with music and laughter.

It was only when my children joined a drum corps that I learned that he had been in the 27th Lancers drum corps. After their first tour, stories were swapped of the things that they faced. Quickly I realized that the experiences have not changed for the members much over the years, even though the activity has gone through a dramatic evolution.

It was rather ironic to find out that he wrote the drill and taught the Citations, the group that my kids were now involved with. Clearly helping them during a time when many instructors would shy away from being associated with a young corps, over the years it has become clear that drum corps is also about more than just music. It shapes the youth involved into young adults we all can be proud of.

Those were times he was clearly proud, for they shaped him into the man he is today. The man that could take a music program, with no funding from the school, and turn it into a band that could represent the town proudly in a variety of settings. The man, in the prime of life, who refused to give in when a massive stroke struck him down, trying to rob him of his life and his livelihood.

Many who see him today have no idea of the battle he has fought to get back as much as he has or how much it still impacts him on a daily basis. However, after being part of the drum corps community for the past few years, I understand where that inner strength comes from. After you have given every part of your being to be the best you can be as an individual and a member of a corps family, you don’t give in or walk away. Drum corps shapes its members so that, when faced with adversity, they can draw inner strength from those life lessons.

Not only has he not walked away or rested on his past successes, he continues to try to expand the opportunities in music for the youth in the community. He supports both the NESBA and MICCA circuits. He was a board member of the IAJE. When they disbanded, rather then let the program disappear in Massachusetts, he was active in regrouping the local members into the MAJE.   Additionally, he has encouraged the members of NESBA to participate in the New England Jazz Festival to expand opportunities for the groups that are part of this circuit. It is only through opportunities like these that the average student is inspired to be more then average.

I hope from these few examples you agree that David Bunten represents the traits and traditions that makes drum corps an activity to be proud of. His contributions as a music educator have had a lasting impact by producing numerous music teachers in addition to many who are involved with the activity. His students have gone on to keep the activity alive in New England by marching with the Citations, East Coast Jazz, Spartans and Cadets, to name a few.

Best regards, Dawn Strong

After a toast to all HOF members, “Legends” set up to perform. I must mention that I play with this group and we practice through much of the year to give just this one performance. All drum corps veterans are welcome to join and we probably have representatives from 30 to 40 different units. For this concert, we had about 96 (that’s correct, 96) horns and about 20             drummers. At rehearsals, we never had more than 65 horns at a time and we practiced in a much smaller room. When I saw how spread out we were at the IBEW, I thought to myself, “Here comes the mother of all cross-tempos.”

But I was wrong. It wasn’t a perfect job, but very good considering the scope of the project.

We started off with the playing of Taps and the Lord’s Prayer as a tribute to our fallen comrades in drum corps. Then we thrilled the audience with such drum corps classics as Crown Imperial, This Nearly Was Mine, This Masquerade, Reilly’s drum solo, Grey Ghost, Civil War Suite, My Favorite Things, Sac’s drum solo and Let It Be Me.

The reaction of the crowd made me proud to be associated with such an effort and credit must be give to Al “Cisco” Colemeano, Mike Cahill and Steve Wolpe for their leadership and instruction.

Also, Tony DiCarlo and his board are to be saluted for putting together such a successful function. I’m sure many hours of planning went into this. I look forward to next year’s HOF banquet on Saturday, April 24, 2010.