Massachusetts Hall of Fame inducts legends

by Art Kellerman, Drum Corps World staff

This article was originally published in the April 2009 issue of Drum Corps World (Volume 38, Number 1). This edition marked the 37th anniversary of the newspaper that began in 1971.

The Massachusetts Drum Corps/Music Educators Hall of Fame induction and dinner dance is a can’t-miss affair for drum corps fans this spring. It was held on Saturday, April 25, at Freeport Hall in Dorchester.

Dancing (and great listening) was provided by One More Time, a top-40 band with a strong brass orientation.

Performing also was Mass Brass, a nationally top-ranked mini-corps, and Legends, a collaboration of about 100 drum corps veterans who practice all winter and spring to perform at this one exclusive engagement. Legends’ repertoire consists of many drum corps classics that will elicit fond memories for all who attend.

These are the inductees to be honored in the class of 2008:

As a youth, Paul Cain marched with the Majestic Knights of Charlestown and later became a member of their instructional team. Over the years, he became one of the most passionate members of the NESBA and DCI event staffs. Anyone who has attended a local show will recall the opening announcement from Paul: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the NESBA (or other event) Finals.” The crowd would be filled with anticipation.
Then, in presenting each unit, the crowd would hear the signature introduction, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Royal Paramecium from Oblagatta, Uzbekistan, YOU may enter the field for DCI competition.”

One could see the emotion from the members, the tears, the high fives; and the staffs running around the staff area as if they had all just won the world championship. Paul uses his voice to create an atmosphere of excitement and purpose.

Each year Cain makes a contribution to NESBA and Emass with his commitment to excellence and is a most respected staff person. As a coordinator, he makes the shows he runs a success for the performers, the fans, the staff members, the judges and the entire organization.

Ron Christianson followed in his parents’ footsteps and became a music teacher, serving for 35 years at Stoughton High School, first as a teacher and then as Director of Fine Arts. He chose music over medicine as a career path and landed his first job at Stoughton High School in 1973. At the time, the marching band had only about 21 students compared to the two bands that exist today, each with a membership of 160.

Despite the limitations of Proposition 2, Christianson and his staff struggled to do more with less. Since then, the music program has grown to include two award-winning jazz bands, marching and concert bands, chorus and jazz choir, and musical electives. He is the head of a program for 850 students in grades 4-12 that encompasses a significant percentage of the district’s enrollment.

His colleagues credit his energy and dedication as being a driving force in the success of Stoughton’s music program, which by his estimate has earned over 300 awards over the last 20 years. Christianson has been selected to receive the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award by the state division of the International Association of Jazz Educators.

Stoughton High School Principal Brett Dickens states that Christianson, “Has had an unbelievable impact on the students in this   building. He has promoted excellence at every level and brought pride to the school.

Joe Nuccio comes from a three-generation drum corps family and began as a member of the Beverly Crusaders when he was nine years old. At 16, he began an extensive career as an instructor, with most of his responsibilities being in the area of musical arrangements, brass instruction and program coordination. Forgoing the opportunity to “go national” with some of the bigger names in drum corps, he chose to teach and remain local, instructing thousands of children in the Greater Boston area.

Some of the units that have benefited from Nuccio’s expertise include: Beverly Crusaders, Saugus Socialites, Fitchburg Kingsmen, PAV Rangers of Lowell, Golden Rays of Stoughton, Suburbannettes, Arbella, Buccaneers of Chelmsford, North Star, Charisma, Melrose Explorers, Light Brigade and St. Joseph’s Band of Wakefield.

He has been a music adjudicator involved with MJA and has served with distinction on the Eastern Mass Board of Trustees.

His expertise as an instructor or arranger has been invaluable to Newburyport (where he is currently music director with 24 years of dedicated service to the schools), as well as the Wakefield, Everett and Salisbury school systems.

He has received the Edward G. Molin Award for Teaching Excellence and the Eastern Mass President’s Trophy recently.

Richard and Louise Woodall (posthumously) defined drum corps of the 1970s. As the backbone of the 21st Lancers, they were typical drum corps parents who made the corps and the kids their whole life. They were like parents to all members of the organization, even when they aged out, by opening their hearts and home to the kids, parents and staff.

The Woodalls served the Lancers by financing, cooking the food, repairing trucks and equipment, driving the busses, chaperoning the kids, making the uniforms, attending all practices and competitions, as well as representing the corps at meetings of the Eastern Mass, Mayflower and New England circuits. They ran the first DCI East competition at Lowell’s Cawley Stadium.   All six of their children were members of the 21st Lancers.

Even after their children were grown, they remained active drum corps supporters by cooking and feeding the Boston Crusaders, up until the time of their passing. They are missed by the many people they touched.

Paul Harris is a legend to drum corps fans throughout the New England area for his accomplishments as a performer, an instructor and as a mentor. He was nominated to the Hall of Fame by DCW staff member Nancy Swiniarski, who remembers him as “Mr. Harris,” a much-respected and beloved figure from her early drum corps experience. I would like to present her nomination letter as written.

Dear Mr. DiCarlo:
I am writing this letter to nominate Mr. Paul Harris to the Massachusetts Drum Corps/Music Educators Hall of Fame. Mr. Harris passed away in October 2002 and as such I cannot provide contact information for him, but hopefully you will consider my comments about him as I was a student of his in the I.C. Rockettes from Salem, MA, and the Danvers Blue Angels from the years 1968 to 1973.

I cannot provide his entire drum corps experience. I do know he marched as a lead baritone for Lt. Norman Prince, but if there was another corps in his background, I am not aware.

My comments have to do with his contribution to music education and the truly wonderful example he gave to us as our instructor. He was never Paul Harris to us, he was “Mr. Harris,” and even as an adult when I ran across him in the Legends from Malden I could not bring myself to address him by his first name, as he requested.

I do not think I have ever met a person who was so purely devoid of ego and in a position of authority. In his quiet, gentlemanly way he would press on and go over our music with us.

In the Rockettes, we were very young girls and as such hardly ever shut up for more than five minutes at a time, but he was always there, restoring order, practicing the scale, teaching us the fingering and the slide position, all the while making us feel like we could do it, like we could actually play and compete out on the field, even though very few of us had music . . . in school in those days.

And we did learn. And we did go out on the field. And we did compete. And we were proud. And the proudest time would be after a show if he came out to our bus and told us we did a good job.

I was lucky enough to have Paul Harris as instructor again in the Blue Angels from Danvers, MA, after the Rockettes disbanded.   Here, being a little older, I learned a little more about him and could talk a little more on an equal ground.

When we were old enough, he would recommend certain jazz bands to see over at Sandy’s in Beverly, MA, and a bunch of us would go over and watch. I would never have known on my own what to look for in the performance and so, even outside of drum corps, Mr. Harris helped me to form music appreciation.

His arrangements were simply beautiful. In my mind’s eye I can still see us coming off the field and I can hear the strains of his Midnight Cowboy. I can almost see the notes dancing up into the sultry summer night sky. Off to the side is a silhouette; a man with a crew cut, a butt hanging from his lips. And we are confident that Mr. Harris, a stalwart of our young lives, is watching.

Mike Cahill has an extensive and distinguished history in drum corps and bands as a performing member, adjudicator, instructor and writer. As a young man, he marched with the Cambridge Caballeros and Lt. Norman Prince, later becoming the first drum instructor of the Framingham Sharpshooters.

He was the caption head during the merger of the Beverly Cardinals and the Wilmington Crusaders, which formed the base for North Star. From 1990-1996 he taught the Boston Crusaders and completed the “Sader” experience by teaching the Crusader Senior corps for three years.

For over 20 years, Cahill continued to teach and perform with some top-notch fife and drum corps.

As an adjudicator, he judged every major contest in the country, including the Dream, VFW Nationals, DCI Championship, DCI East, World Open and U.S. Open. He was the only judge in the modern era to hold cards in and judge in both brass and percussion captions.

His Quincy High Marching Presidents band set a trend for others as the first corps-style band in New England. Quincy High won numerous national and international awards.

In the field of higher education, he has instructed at U. New Hampshire, U. Mass – Lowell, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

He is the author of “Developing Corps Style Percussion,” Hal Leonard Pub. Co., and “A Short History of Drum and Bugle Corps,” The Instrumentalist, June 1982.

Some of his noted performing experiences include appearances with the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler, John Williams and Keith Lockhart at Symphony Hall, Tanglewood and the Esplanade. He has performed for 20 years as a jazz set drummer with such diverse groups as the Drifters and with Al Hibbler, former vocalist with Duke Ellington.

Currently, he performs with and is the assistant instructor of Mass Brass, is the brass instructor of the Legends Drum Corps and percussion instructor of the Defenders Reunion Corps of Rockland.