Star of Indiana: Recollections

Mr. William A. Cook and Jim Mason


Seeing drum corps for the first time -- Star becomes a reality -- Jim Mason, Director, Star of
Indiana -- The Winter of 1984 -- The Summer of 1985 -- The PBS Television Broadcast -- The
Summers of 1986 and 1987 -- The Summer of 1988, the year of change -- The Summer of 1989 -- The Summer of 1990 -- The Summer of 1991 -- George -- The Summer of 1992 -- Jim Mason's
psyche in 1992 -- The Summer of 1993, the year of the bitch -- Retrospect, 1993 -- Star's
association with The Canadian Brass -- The Summers of 1994 & 1995, the years of "Brass
Theater" -- Contributions to DCI and other corps -- A personal philosophy -- A personal
philosophy on drum corps -- Star's staff, 1984 - 1995

Seeing drum corps for the first time.

     I first became aware of drum corps in 1979 when Carl, my son, wanted to watch the DCI
Championship for a high school band project.  I griped but he won out and so the TV was turned
on to Birmingham.  The corps that I remember most was the Bridgemen; to me they were
humor, professionalism, talent, entertainment, all wrapped up in a yellow package.  When the
show ended at 1:00 a.m., I was hooked and the following summer Carl and I went to several
shows--the most memorable was the championship at Whitewater.  Phantom was incredible and
I couldn't believe that 15 to 21 year olds were making such wonderful music.
     Carl never considered drum corps while in high school because he was a saxophone
player, but during his second year in college he decided that he wanted to try out for the Colts. 
After a tryout, he didn't think that he could make it but was given a flugel horn, told to go home
and learn how to play.  By his own words, he couldn't play much his first year but by the second
year, he could.  The marching was a foreign language to him and he considered that he might be
cut at anytime.  He aged out in 1984 and stayed on as a staff instructor through 1986.

Star becomes a reality.

     After the DCI semi-finals in 1984, Bob Lendman and I were crossing a street in Atlanta
when I asked him, "Carl just aged out of the Colts; what would you think about us starting a
drum corps?"  His answer was: "you're nuts!"
     I met Bob in the summer of 1982 when he appeared in Bloomington with a huge white
and blue semi equipment truck, two sagging buses, and the "Blue Stars."  Bob had parked this
monstrosity on a sidewalk next to a fire plug and was having a conversation  with a two off duty
university policemen. Earlier that morning, I had received a phone call from the police chief
telling me that some "drum" guy had parked his semi in a no parking zone.  It seems that Bob
had convinced the police that the truck belonged on the sidewalk and next to the fireplug but
only after considerable talking.  Suffice it to say, the truck remained there until the Blue Stars
and Bob left two days later.  Bob and Allison Lendman have deep roots in drum corps; their kids
marched in Phantom Regiment and Bob later became Phantom's director.  He had the fortune or
misfortune of getting two back-to-back 2nds in the World Championships.  To this day, he is
sensitive to what happened.  I still greet Bob with:  "hey Bob, have you got a second?"   He goes
     But back to the story in Atlanta.  My next question to him was "who would you pick as
director?"  He related the backgrounds of several Midwest directors but in the end said: "I would
pick Jim Mason."  So off we went to find him.  Jim was standing by a Colts bus at the back of
Grant Field.
     After several minutes of pleasantries, I said to Jim, "would you consider being director of
a new drum corps which would be based in Bloomington Indiana?"  His answer was, "let me
think about it and talk with Theresa" (his wife).  On the following Monday, I called and set up an
appointment for the two of them to visit Bloomington.  After seeing my commitment to the
project,  Jim said:  "You now have yourself a corps director; I'll take the job."  He didn't ask
about salary or any details before he said yes.
     There has been a speculation that it required $1 million to field Star; this is true.  (At
another time, I will give the details on how four corporations were started to meet Star's
financial needs in the future; these companies are: Star Bus Lines, Star Travel Services, Cook
Aviation, and Cook Air Services.  With the exception of Cook Air Services , they are profitable
and contributing to Star of Indiana today).
     Expenses each year run between $740,000 and $950,000.  For this reason, I suggest to
anyone who asks me: "what is the first thing to do when starting a drum corps?"  My answer is:
"raise enough money to get started and to field the corps."  "Never go in debt and stay within
budget."  "Find a continuing source of income outside of drum corps such as bingo or
sponsorship."  "Don't disappoint young people by allowing your corps to go broke."

Jim Mason, Director, Star of Indiana.

     Jim was born in Cedar Rapids Iowa on February 3, 1954.  Jim knew very early that music
would be a part of his life.  He joined his first corps when he was seven, began arranging for
drum corps at age twelve, started his own band in junior high school, and aged out with the
Madison Scouts in 1975.  He attended college and then was offered the directorship of Colts
where he remained for eight years.  During his tenure with the Colts, they became known for
their wonderful "big band" sound.  One of Jim's favorite programs was the "Mississippi River"
show where Greg Blum was at his best with his screaming trumpet.  Greg's ability to make a
soprano howl is still remembered by those who heard him.

The Winter of 1984.

     During Jim's first visit, he told me that he didn't know whether or not it would be possible
to field a corps in '85 and talked about what was needed--4 buses, two semis, equipment,
uniforms, staff, and a headquarters were all mentioned.  "The staff is the key to success and if
we can hire the right people, we may be able to teach the corps how to get on and off the bus the
first year."  I didn't know what Jim meant until we began gathering equipment and hiring a staff.
     The Monroe County school board had just advertised a surplus grade school for sale.  It
was located 7 miles North of Bloomington and there were only 6 houses in a three mile radius. 
We went out to have a look at it and we talked about leveling the playground for a practice field. 
Two weeks later, the Brown School was purchased for $225,000, and the following week bull
dozers began leveling the play yard.  In the meantime, Bob had found three MC-9 buses that
were for sale at Badger Bus in Madison.  We bought two of them for $19,000 and the other one
for $26,000.  A few weeks later a semi-trailer was purchased for $2900 and Eric Lund gave the
"Blue Star" equipment truck plans to two carpenters--their job was to prepare it for instruments
and uniforms that was not even purchased yet.  In December, a cab-over tractor was purchased
for $16,000.
     That same week, Jim introduced me to Michael Cesario who would design the uniforms
and serve as a consultant for the corps.  Michael was enthusiastic about this new project and his
enthusiasm encouraged Jim and me.
     Jim emphasized the importance of recruiting instructors and a support staff that could
take the corps down the road.  Both of these groups were equal in Jim's mind.  I want to
recognize their contribution because they were responsible for making Star a reality in 1985.
     The key instructors and creators were: Larry Kerchner,  John Simpson, Dennis DeLucia,
Bob Dubinski, Steve Suslik, Marc Sylvester, George Zingali, and Mike Cesario.  It is interesting
to note that every man accepted and the question seemed to be: "will we get paid?"  The support
staff members, who came to Star that year, were Moe Latour, Eric Lund, and Dave Crouch. 
Moe's friendliness and ability to run the corps on the road made Jim's job easier.  Dave came
from Phantom Regiment and was our head bus driver; he managed getting us down the road
superbly.  Eric Lund is still an integral part of Star today.  Quietly and efficiently, he drives the
equipment truck, repairs and maintains all of the instruments.  Again, drum corps
experience--Eric aged out in the Blue Stars.
     When Star began, there were many corps that were having financial difficulty.  Several
of the prospective staff members, whom we interviewed, had not been paid for one and
sometimes two years.  It was very difficult to convince them, as a group, that they would be
paid; however, they accepted our word that they would.  Some of them were bitter and some of
them were hurt by the perception that they had been previously taken advantage of.  If there was
any single hurdle that Jim had to overcome with Star's first year staff, it was trying to get the
staff to believe that they could trust us and that we would meet our commitments to them.
     In October, Jim decided that it was time to get new members and to name the corps. 
When the corps was incorporated as a 501.c3, the original name on the charter was "Hoosier
Assembly."  A contest was suggested for naming the corps and an advertisement was circulated
through the Bloomington newspaper and our company.  Hundreds of suggestions poured in but
in the end "Star of Indiana" was selected and the winner was Larry Kerchner's wife.
     The 1985 membership poster and advertisement were put together.  Jim told me: "all I've
got to sell is hot air!"  He designed the ad with pictures of the new caption heads surrounding
Bob Knight, Indiana University's basketball coach.   What Bob Knight had to do with drum
corps, I still don't know!  Hundreds of leaflets and posters went out to high schools and colleges
in four states with a note from Jim saying:  "Band Directors, if your students do not have a
summer music program, will you loan them to us?"
     Some of the Directors were quite hostile because in the past, they had lost students to
drum corps during their summer programs. They did not trust Jim that Star would not siphon
their best students.
     After Star's first open house, Jim got a call from an Indiana band director who had six
students attend.  He said to Jim that he was counting on them for his summer program and
asked: "what are you going to do about it?"  Jim called all of the kids and encouraged them to
stay with the band program instead of marching with Star.  The band director was shocked and
called later; this time he asked what he could do for Star.  As a consequence, Star received his
graduation list resulting in eight more, experienced players.  Star's first camp had over 150
people who auditioned.
     Although events proved otherwise, in September, there was an indication that the
Bridgemen were going to take a year off.  A couple of former Bridgemen instructors were let go
or refused to return.  In addition, the members were told that their corps would not be able to
make it another year and so a contingent of Bridgemen found their way to Indiana, including
drum major Karen Ruschman.
     By May, it was clear that some additional members were needed.  During that month,
Pride of Cincinnati announced that they would not field a corps in '85 and shortly afterwards,
Ron Poole, Director of Pride,  called Jim and asked if Star had any openings.  On the following
Saturday, a Star bus headed to Cincinnati to pick up the Pride members who would become part
of Star's drum corps backbone.  And so the misfortune of two corps enabled Star to field the '85
     The first season Star had a total of fourteen seasoned drum corps members out of 131. 
These veterans were crucial--they helped establish how we got on and off the bus and what was
expected from a drum corps.

The Summer of 1985.

     There is a nasty side to drum corps and little did any of us realize the hostile environment
that we would be entering.  Rumors mixed with fact began circulating that Star raided other
corps of staff and members.  Some corps alumni and members alleged that Star ruined their
corps or stole their staff.  And even before the corps performed its first show at Normal Illinois,
drum corps pundits were stating that "Star was the best corps money can buy" and "the Mickey
Money Corps;" Star was born to be disliked!  When 1985 was complete, Star had a tenth place
finish and the next rumor circulated was "Cook bought the finals."
     These are perceptions; why did the corps receive such a response?  First, there was never
any question that Star would be adequately financed.  Even though criticized, our company made
a commitment to drum corps.
     I actually believed that other companies would soon follow our path and either start a
corps of their own or sponsor a corps.  Such was not the case; in 1993, Star remained the only
fully corporate sponsored drum corps.  I wish that others could appreciate the value of this
activity and its impact on young people who participate.
     In addition, I believe that Star's apparent efficiency honked many old timers.  How did
we achieve this?  Simple--Star was built around an experienced staff and seasoned veterans.
     From the beginning, Star was operated as a business.  Buses and trucks were to be
maintained, corps equipment was to be cared for, and the corps was always to be well fed and
housed.   Later, we found that it was better to use professional drivers, to have a trained nurse or
fitness director, and a professional cook.  Personal safety of the membership was an absolute
     Several years before Star began, Bob Lendman shared a secret with Jim which was to
fake a bus break-down.  Sure enough on Star's maiden voyage, Jim pulled this trick.  The
members and equipment from the 'broken bus" were transferred to the other two buses which
continued on to Normal, Illinois.  After the driver of the broken bus had a cup of coffee, he
started down the road and arrived five minutes after the corps.  The purpose of this exercise was
to have
the corps learn through experience what life on the road is like.  We also arrived a day early in
Normal so we could practice going over to the stadium, unloading, warming up, and even
marching to the entrance gate.  Good practice for opening night and it paid off!
     On June 16, 1985, Star took the field at Normal Illinois for the first time; the scores were
Cavaliers--76.9; Phantom--74.4; and Star of Indiana--73.6.  Star won their first high brass award
at that show.  Mickey Mouse was born!
     Because Star was not a member of DCI, we had to find our own shows; sometimes we
performed for free or for $375.  Many nights, we had to travel hundreds of miles in order to find
work.  For example, we traveled from Springfield MO to Durham NC without stopping except
for fuel and from DeKalb Illinois after DCM on July 27 to Corning NY for a performance on
July 28.  We were national nomads migrating to any sponsor who would have us.
     We arrived in Allentown for the DCI East Championship, placing 13th in prelims behind
the 27th Lancers, and missing finals for the first and only time as a drum corps.  After the prelim
scores were announced, Jim stood next to the wall at Hamilton Stadium scratching the concrete
aimlessly while pondering what needed to be done to motivate this new corps.
     As the year progressed, our scores were still not going up and the separation from corps
above us kept getting larger.  On August 6, Freelancers were ahead of us by 7 points, Madison by
13, and Santa Clara by 24.  Apparently, we had stalled and it appeared that we would place
anywhere from 13th to 18th at championship.  But we knew that if we could hold on until we
reached Bloomington for the August 12 "Pride of Indiana" show, the hometown crowd and new
revisions might be enough to makes us competitive again.  When we arrived in Bloomington,
our drivers were dead tired but Jim asked several of us if we could go out to Pennsylvania and
pick up the 27th--two of their buses were down.   If my memory serves correctly we met them
some where in Ohio and they made the performance.
     During finals week, television stations and newspapers were asking for interviews.  On
one particular interview, the reporter asked me: "I heard that you are called the Mickey Money
corps;" at the time, this question did not anger me but unfortunately I shot back (my misspent
humor,) "yeah, it's the best corps money can buy."  At the time this question and comment
seemed so innocuous but those words have haunted the organization and me to this day.
     Because Star was not a member of DCI, we had to go through prelims, quarters, and
semis before we would know whether or not we would perform at the Saturday night
championship.  Star won prelims with a score of 84.1 followed by Les Eclipses with an 80.3; in
quarter finals we scored 86.7 followed by Troopers, 85.6, Les Eclipses, 82.4, Skyriders, 81.1 and
Colts, 80.9.
     Early in the year, Jim had booked a hotel for our annual banquet on Friday--none of us
thought that we could make finals on Saturday. After our semi performance "in the sunlight," the
buses were loaded and we headed for the hotel.  No one could keep their mind on the banquet;
very little food was eaten while we waited for semi scores.  Finally at 11:00 p.m., Jim came over
to Karen Ruschman and my table and told us: "9th place, Troopers, 87.9; Velvet Knights, 86.8;
Freelancers, 86.8; Freelancers, 85.9; and Star, 87.5.  It didn't sink in; we thought that we had
gotten 13th and then Karen went ballistic.  She went to the podium and took up the microphone
and repeated Jim's report.  We had made finals, unbelievable!
     The final night was bittersweet to some of us because we knew what George Bonfiglio,
our friend, was thinking.  The semi-final performance would be 27th Lancers last as an open
class corps.  For Jim, it was particularly sad because he idolized George.  His relationship with
and respect for him continues today.
     Star's magical year was over but the legacy of that year would both exhilarate and haunt
the corps until it left DCI membership in 1994.

The PBS Television Broadcast.

     On the morning of the 1985 championship, I met Don Pesceone, Executive Director of
DCI, and he asked if our company would be interested in sponsoring the championship telecast
in 1986.  I answered that we would be interested.
     From 1986 through 1992, our company was either a co-sponsor or sponsor of the
championship telecast.  Since there was no one with television experience at DCI, Don later
asked if I would produce it and I accepted the job of Executive Producer.   I remained Executive
Producer until 1992, but our sponsorship continued until DCI took over the responsibility in
1993.  I'm very proud of these telecasts and had many intelligent people to rely upon.  Tom Blair
and Keith Klein or PBS are two indispensable individuals who  taught me that excellence could
exist in the production of a DCI championship.  These are the men who made the DCI
Championship a highlight for PBS.  Steve Rondinaro, Michael Cesario, Charles Webb (Dean of
IU School of Music), and Curt Goudy all gave freely of their time.  Most of these men worked
only for expenses which says much for people who are more dedicated to the activity than they
are to self-interest.  The television broadcast looked professional, was expensive to produce, and
these men gave of themselves to make it happen.  For the record, the broadcasting of the
championship cost between $150,000 and $200,000 depending upon the year.

The Summers of 1986 and 1987.

     In 1986, Jim Prime and Donny Van Doren became new staff members and I might note
that they are still with us today.  1986 was the year of "Star Wars".  George Zingali mandated
that there shall be giant wheels rolling over the green.  These wheels appeared in two shows,
were actually used in one, and then relegated to a sink hole near the corps hall.  This was the
year of glitz and glitter!.  For those around drum corps, you may have noted that the music book
became more difficult and more emphasis was placed on a musicianship.  The color guard put
on weird wigs and the corps tried to bore holes in the air with sound.  We moved up two spots to
eighth place.
     1987 was the year of "Circus;" circus wagons appeared as backdrops and the corps spent
most of the summer trying to make the props work.  Again, glitz was the name of the game and
Star folk were learning the hard way that huge props were next to impossible to utilize in drum
corps.  Some of the members were hurt unloading them.
     Frustration is the best word to use for 1987 because so much time was spent trying to get
visuals integrated properly; in retrospect, time would have been better spent perfecting drill. 
When the season was over, many Star folk, including Moe and me, were seen beating the circus
wagons to a timely demise--we should have wrecked them in June.  A valuable lesson was
learned this year--props are difficult to utilize and they detract from practice in other areas.  We
tied for 7th with Velvet Knights with a score of 90.

The Summer of 1988, the year of change.

     The 1987 season altered Jim's programming philosophy.  He decided to "play the game,
win the game, and change the game."  Jim asked me if I wanted to take a different direction with
Star.  I asked him to explain and he indicated that the corps had enough experience and maturity
to eventually make them championship contenders.  He knew that the level of difficulty for the
drill and the arrangements had to increase if we were to break into the top six and then top 3.  I
liked the idea because for the first time, Star would be given a difficult objective to achieve--to
build for a championship.
     At this point, we needed stronger technicians. Todd Ryan who had helped Scouts win
their championship was looking for a new challenge.  He was asked if he would risk coming
with Star to further develop the marching caption.  He accepted the challenge, and so Len
Kruscecki, Steve Brubaker, and Steve Suslik had a person who could look at the performance
with new eyes.  Todd knew how to fix feet and clean without destroying the design.  Few props
were used in 1988; the color guard were dressed as southern belles.  This was the year that Carl
Ruocco became Assistant Director.  And so in the summer of 1988 Star played and marched to
Porgy and Bess, made a trip to California, and placed 7th place with a score of 95.5.

The Summer of 1989.

     1989 was another frustrating year for Star; we were improving, we knew we could
execute, and our brass and percussion lines were scoring well.  Star had better marks in
marching and visual but we just couldn't seem to get beyond the competition who were ahead of
us.  In retrospect, I would say that we executed and we had the stamina to win but I don't believe
that Star's "British invasion" had enough difficulty built in to put us into the top 3.  We placed
6th with a score of  95.3.  1989 was a very strong year for morale; it was the year that Star
realized that they could be challengers and were no longer considered as the little pink corps
with funny uniforms.  (The fuschia uniforms had made their last appearance in the beginning of

The Summer of 1990.

     This was Star's year for a leap.  Playing William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, the music
had a flavor; it was recognizable but yet difficult to play and execute.  George's drill was superb
and Jim Prime's arrangements were haunting, seamless, and dark.  The members loved the music
and wanted so much to please the audiences.  The large scrim intrigued people: "what does
MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN" mean?  It drove the old timers nuts because the corps
sounded different than a drum corps and it didn't quite look like a drum corps.  Glitz and sparkle
were all a part of the slight of hand.  Many thought that the corps had new uniforms, but in
reality only a sequin over-the-shoulder piece was added along with a purple sash.  With an
incredible mellophone line and some great drill moves, we moved finally into 3rd place with a
score of 96.5 and winning high brass for first of four consecutive times.

The Summer of 1991.

     Everyone in the corps began to believe that this was their year.  It was amazing to me to
see these young people go out and perform Jim Prime's "Roman Images, the music of Respighi." 
And for George Zingali, it was his life wrapped up on the field; his images of Christianity were
woven throughout the pictures which came and went as Star executed for him.  Our members
knew that George was dying and they knew that they wanted to give him a monument, a
memorial in life.
     As sick as he was, he was the backbone and spirit of the corps.  He was driven by desire
that few will ever understand and his will went out to touch us all.  On August 4th, Star arrived
in Boston.  With the help of his care giver, George arrived at the stadium to meet his corps. 
Something happened to him that afternoon--he seemed transformed, energized.  His strength had
returned--it was the "old" George on the field that day--"You've got to be shittin me!"  "That's
wonderful!" "Cupcake, you were terrible!"  Late in the afternoon, he told Jim--"the new closer is
not right."  A few minutes later, he left the stadium.  None of us knew where he had gone or if he
would be back.  About eight o'clock, George returned and said:  "we are going to have two
crosses at the finish instead of one."  The next five hours were unbelievable.  He ran from one
section to another telling members where they should be at the end of the final cross.  He wanted
them to count measures--"count and run around until time to make your final set."  Hour after
hour, the corps tried and failed but finally, at 2 a.m. the next morning, the cross was seen.  The
next night in Lynn, Star put in the new move; needless to say, there were more than a few wrecks
at the end but we won over SCV by 1.9 points.
     Star's greatest performance that year was not at finals but in Little Rock Arkansas on
August 12.  Most of the staff had gone ahead to Dallas, so the corps was on their own and
relaxed.  What they did that night will always be a memory for me.  To this day, that
performance remains my favorite while they competed.  The word electric fits it best.
     The championship week was anti-climatic because the corps knew what had to be done
and were confident that they could do it.  Even though they were expected to win, they were
focused, relaxed, and determined.  In retrospect, I wish that the field had been cooler (it was 124
degrees) and I wish that they could have moved a little more slowly because I wanted to hear the
sound that I heard that cool night in Little Rock.  We became champions of DCI for the first
time with a score of 97.30.  A truly magical year for a corps that once wore a pink uniform and
were branded as a rich man's toy.


     That winter George Zingali passed away, but in the hospital he said: "Bill, the
championship was the most wonderful night of my life."  George still remains a part of the fabric
of Star and I know that other corps cherish his memory as well.  What more can be said of
George except he lived to create, inspire and teach.

     I would like to digress a moment and talk about what it takes to win a championship. 
First, a corps must have experience, a work ethic that goes beyond saying "I worked hard"
because working hard on the wrong things will eventually ruin a corps hope for success.  I
believe that staffs win championships.  A corps director must instinctively know where to place
the emphasis and the staff must have a music and drill book that is sufficiently difficult.  A
championship book must appear to be seamless--it must flow and the members must be
sufficiently accomplished to make their actions appear easy.  If the spectators perceive the work
as being easy but executed to perfection, then the staff has done its job and the corps has learned
their lessons well.  Physical conditioning also is an integral part of the success formula--every
member must be able to finish.

The Summer of 1992.

     Jim and the staff wanted to try to make Star more accessible to the public.  They were
ready to go back into time and perform a book that would hopefully be identifiable.  And so
"American Variations" was designed.  Jim wanted to experiment with a form of visual that
utilized body motion, executed by the entire ensemble.  This experiment was tried in only one
number, "Amber Waves" and it appeared that motion had a favorable impact on the audience. 
To the folks seeing the show for the first time, body sculpting  appeared be a gimmick, but as the
year wore on we knew that visual body movement should be explored further.  It had to wait
until 1993.
     Star folk loved this show; it was beautiful and many fans identified with it.  The last
week, a giant scrim was thrown up; a 40 feet high by 60 feet wide Lady Liberty covered the front
of the entire corps.  It was a great visual but not one that was universally accepted (said with a
grin).  We ended our season with a third in Madison and a score of 96.7 behind the Cadets of
Bergen County and the new champions, the Cavaliers, who had a score of 97.5.
     Another friend and staff member left this life in 1992--Wesley Johnson.  His easy smile,
beautiful agility, and his love of teaching will be remembered by all of us who were privileged to
know him.

Jim Mason's psyche in 1992.

     For Jim, 1992 was a pivotal year because the show was designed for a broad audience
appeal and the result was a hostile crowd.  At that time, he decided to explore different
directions.  His frustrations led him to the 1993 Medea program be cause he wanted to give the
organization a vehicle where they would be in control of their performance from beginning to
end.  Looking back at Medea, there were no opportunities for the audience to react until the
show was over.  This concept made some of the audience uncomfortable and created even more
controversy.  I guess that was Jim's vengeance.  Also at that time, he began to contemplate doing
something other than drum corps with the Star of Indiana.  Perhaps the seed of Brass Theater
was planted during this period.

The Summer of 1993, the year of the bitch.

     The "Medea" show was music by Bartok and Barber.  Again, Jim decided to experiment
with body motion executed by the entire ensemble.  He asked the visual people to design a stark
show which would be portrayed by contrasting colors and shapes--triangles and straight poles. 
The 1989 uniforms were replaced with a cream and black uniform.  He did not want visuals to
detract from the drill or body sculpting; the music was to be arranged to enrage and anger.  It
was not supposed to be sweet and lilting.  Suffice it to say, the audience responded properly but
the raw discordant sound grated on me at the beginning of the season--I was  irritated after each
performance.  When the show was finished, it was beautiful to watch.  And today, the 1993 show
stands out for me as my favorite.
     The drill intensity, blatant bursts on the horns and discordant percussion were intriguing. 
I'm probably nuts but I actually enjoyed getting irritated--Medea was truly a bitch.  Our final
score was 97.3 for second behind the Cadets with a 97.4.

Retrospect, 1993.

     I'm often asked and I'm sure the members are asked:  "Didn't you think that you should
have won?"  Hey, I think that Star should always win but that is not the way life is played.  The
beautiful part of drum corps is that there can only be one champion and in 1993 it was the
Cadets.  Now, what about the members?  Were they disappointed?  Come on--sure they were. 
But after a few tears were shed, most of them headed for supper and a few of them were looking
for rides back to school.  Like many other corps, we were all glad to leave Jackson--it was hot, it
was humid, and it rained!
     Championship week for Jim and me was bittersweet.  The week was exciting and had the
best of what drum and bugle corps has to offer.  But our future was already charted; we would
go with the Canadian Brass--win or lose.
     When we came back to Bloomington, we announced at our annual banquet that Star
would be leaving drum corps, would be playing on b-flat horns, and would be performing "Brass
Theater."  It seemed like 1985 again when Jim "sold hot air."  He described "Brass Theater" to
the members, and then he casually mentioned that they would have to prepare for two types of
shows, one performed on a small stage and one performed on a basketball floor.  He explained
that the repertoire would exceed two hours in length, that percussion and brass ensembles would
be featured during various parts of the show.  When he finished, I felt warm and fuzzy but I'm
not exactly sure how the corps felt except confused.  After this meeting, I have been asked what
the corps members thought and I can only answer--anxious but understanding.

Star's association with The Canadian Brass.

     1993 was the year of Star's swan song.  In the early spring, Star, Glassmen, Chicago
Vanguard, and Pioneers gave a stand still performance at Indiana University's Auditorium in
Bloomington.  The night before, all of the corps attended a performance of the Canadian Brass
ensemble; the auditorium was filled and the crowd received them with the enthusiasm of brass
music lovers.  That evening, Jim and I had been invited to a reception for the five CB which was
hosted by Harvey Phillips, Dr. Tuba Santa.  During a conversation, Chuck Daellenbach of CB
asked us if he and two other CBers could stay over and watch our drum corps show on Sunday
afternoon.  He didn't need to ask; we would have begged him to do it.  In any event, they
attended the performance, and afterward Chuck broached the subject of how Star could
participate with them.
     The following Monday Chuck called to ask if some of Star's percussionists could play on
their 'Broadway' CD.  During the time of the recording, ideas started to develop; several weeks
later, we met Chuck and Gene Watts in Florida and began discussions on how we could perform
together.  At the time, I did not believe that the corps could learn two hours of music and play it
with the precision necessary to satisfy audiences that had very high expectations.  But Jim, Gene,
and Chuck thought otherwise.  In June we signed a letter of intent which resulted in a contract
that was signed in September.
     We thought that our members deserved a chance to perform at some of the best venues in
the world, to try to reach a level of excellence that is uncommon for young people and to be a
part of a new genre.  The program had to be two hours in length with twenty-two minutes of drill
plus solo features for both brass and percussion little did we realize what a challenge this was
going to be.

The Summers of 1994 & 1995, the years of "Brass Theater."

     When Jim Mason described "Brass Theater" to the corps and staff for the first time, none
of us actually could visualize what it was.  After two years of watching and listening, I believe
that "Brass Theater" is designed to entertain--it is not designed to score points nor is it designed
for a football field.  It is not a drum corps performance nor is it a band concert.  Elements of
corps exist in this genre but it is not drum corps.  There are elements of opera, Broadway
musical; circus, and symphony, but even these idioms only partially describe "Brass Theater."
     The term today has come to mean -- an ensemble that performs on a sixty by
one-hundred foot stage.  The music is selected for audience appeal and the visual enhancements
include marching, dancing, color guard work using flags, poles, rifles, sabers, and other tools
found within the colorguard armamentarium.  Electronic amplification and synthesis are used as
well as theatrical lighting, back screen projections, and other props to enhance the
performance.  Music and the visual elements are designed to elicit emotion from the audience.
     The ensemble has had to learn two separate shows; one show is designed to be performed
on small stages--this is an "in-concert" formation and it is NOT "Brass Theater."  "In concert"
formation is performed on small stages where marching and color guard work are not practical
or are minimized.  On the other hand, a "Brass Theater" performances includes all of the
elements mentioned previously utilizing both G-bugles and B-flat horns including trombones,
tubas, and french horns.
     The venues have differed greatly during the last two years.  Concerts have been
performed at Tanglewood, Ravinia, Wolf Trap, Lincoln Center, Hollywood Bowl, Interlochen,
Columbus Zoo Amphitheater, Joliette Quebec Amphitheater, Tanglewood (Winston-Salem NC)
and several other outdoor concert sites generically called "sheds."
     "Brass Theater" is normally performed on a basketball floor converted to a stage.  These
venues permit the use of stage lighting and large backdrops.  Examples of the "Brass Theater"
venues are Indiana University Assembly Hall, St. Paul MN Arena, Cedar Rapids Iowa
Conference Center, Buffalo New York Memorial Arena, Illinois Normal Arena, and other
facilities where seating is tiered and the total capacity normally exceeds 15,000.  CB/Star's
largest crowd to date has been 18,000.
     These last two years for Star members have exposed them to entirely new audiences that
are primarily made up of families and music patrons who have little exposure to drum corps and
who attend musical events regularly.  The crowds have been enthusiastic and have responded
typically with three and four standing ovations.  We were favorably adjudicated by several
newspaper performing arts critics and I will be happy to send anyone an e-mail of these
critiques.  Because either concert is performed only once in a city, critics did not always attend.
     I saw every performance during 1994 and 1995 and I can only say that they have been
thrilling to watch.  In 1994, I gave Star/CB a final score of 99.5 and in 1995, a score of 99.8. 
(Nobody is perfect so I couldn't give a perfect score but if we all keep trying, we might get it
right someday).  In summary, these were not stressful years for the corps because there were no
competitive pressures.  The pressure came from wanting to perform perfectly for an audience
that would impartially adjudicate them.

Contributions to DCI and other corps.

     From 1985 through 1993, Star, Jim Mason, Cook Group, and I tried to make a difference
in drum corps.  Jim, the staff, and I served on task forces both as members and advisors to DCI. 
Jim was the official member of DCI and I served as an advisor from 1987 through 1992.  When
we left DCI, Star or the Cook Group had contributed over $1.5 million to DCI and to other
     Star sponsored all four DCM All Star appearances at the New Year's Cotton Bowl,
Orange Bowl, and Fiesta Bowls (twice)  in addition to the first Macy's Thanksgiving parade
appearance of the DCM/DCE All-Stars; the appearance of Phil Driscoll at the Kansas City
World Championship who played the "Star Spangled Banner," trumpet solo; the appearance of
DCA's Steel City Ambassadors at the 1990 World Championships in Buffalo.  Jim headed the
All-Star drum and bugle corps that played two "Star Spangled Banner" renditions in both
Madison and Kansas City.  (These corps consisted of 1200 and 1500 members respectively.  The
first one was under the direction of Pepe Nataro, a friend who is gone.)
     Corps that have received either prizes, grants or loans from either Star or Cook Group
are: Colts, Troopers, Phantom Regiment, Magic of Orlando, 27th Lancers, Crossmen, Velvet
Knights, Spirit of Atlanta, and eleven other organizations.   The amounts ranged from a
minimum of $1,000 to $150,000.
     In addition,  Rick Snapp, a Cook computer manager, and I wrote the financial, sales
order, and championship ticketing  programs that DCI has used since 1990.  DCI's three
computers were given to DCI by Star.  Cook Group Companies sponsored and produced the DCI
World Championships for five years.
     Star founded on behalf of DCI the DCI Foundation which still maintains an office in
Bloomington and administers such scholarships as those given in the names of the Americanos,
George Zingali and others.
     Employees of Cook Group and a large contingent of former corps members from all DCI
corps staffed the hospitality tables stationed in five to seven hotels through the various
championship cities.  For all of us drum corps was not just Star, it was the entire activity.  Yes,
this information has not been discussed until now, but Star members and their friends deserve
this explanation.  If there must be an epitaph for Star, for Jim, for me, and for Cook Group, it
should be--we tried!

A personal philosophy.

     I believe that all humans are to some degree competitive, moody, happy, sad, angry,
tranquil, and cooperative.   The Drum corps experience is guided by association with many
different personalities who have joined together in an attempt to achieve and possess the above
traits to a greater or lesser degree.
     I believe that drum corps organizations can only point the route but not predict the
     I try never to fear change, I enjoy risking the unknown, and I try to seek guidance through
previous experiences.  The path to a goal is not always clear and instead of 'Ready, aim, fire!," it
may be better to "Ready, fire, aim!"
     I believe that a human should be prepared (ready) to act, then act (fire), and finally
analyze what was done (aim).   Instinct exists in all of us but so often we fear the unknown to the
extent that we are incapable of action.  I ask readers:  "do we always need to analyze and discuss
before acting or should we learn how to react based upon circumstances and cumulative history
of the past?"  (Invention is based upon instinct and then trial but status-quo is based upon
     I believe that if one goal is reached, there should be another goal waiting.  If failure
results, try again and again.  You have all heard this before but "do you believe it?"

A personal perspective on drum corps.

     I believe Star and other corps members strive to be better humans as a result of their
drum corps experience.  I believe that Star and other corps members are products of many points
of view and they are surrounded by teachers and people who care about them.  Within their
organizations, they are respected for what they are--young people seeking their way in life.  In
return, they are loyal and very proud of what they have accomplished.
     I believe that Star and other corps teach pride in personal accomplishment which is
achieved by honesty and work.

Star's staff, 1984-1995.

Jim       Ancona, Percussion Instructor/Arr, 93-95
Charles   Anderson, Caption Head, 88
Bill      Armstrong, Star BoD, 91-95
Dave      Asa, Brass Caption Head, 87
Kristi    Avilla, Auxiliary Staff, 91-92
Chris     Bartholomew, Brass Instructor, 89
Tim       Bartholomew, Brass Instructor, 88-89
Eric      Beck, Brass Instructor, 94-95
Lee       Beddis, Percussion Instructor, 93
Denise    Bonafiglio, Color Guard Instructor, 93
Carol     Brown, Uniforms, 85-90
Steve     Brubaker, Visual Des/Caption Head, 88-89
Philip    Burton, Vis Designer/Stage Dir, 93-95
Pat       Butler, Visual Instructor, 87-94
Sandy     Butz, Visual Design Consultant, 87-90
Allen     Casey, Guard Instructor, 87
Michael   Cesario, Costumes, 85
Alyssa    Cimino, Guard Instructor, 85- 86
Mark      Cole, Production Staff, 95
Wanda     Conway, Guard Instructor 85-86
Bill      Cook, Star BoD, 84-95
Gayle     Cook, Star BoD, 84- 95
Jeanne    Coonan, Brass Instructor, 92
Jonathon  Corley, Percussion Instructor,91-93
Ray       Cramer, Conductor, 94-95
Dave      Crouch, Transport/Ass't Dir, 84-94
Sadie     Cummings, Guard Instructor, 85-86
Darin     Dalton, Visual Instructor, 90
Gerardo   Davila, Percussion Instructor,90
Dennis    DeLucia, Percussion Caption Head, 85-89
Barry     Doss, Costume Designer, 95
Nancy     Dreher, Executive Secretary, 84-95
Bob       Dubinski, PercInst/Caption Head, 84-95
Alicia    Elliott, Ass't Choreographer, 94-95
Cindy     Epson, Promotional Assistant, 86
John      Evans, Percussion Instructor, 87-89
Lee Ann   Evans, Color Guard Instructor, 91
Trent     Evans, Brass Instructor, 89-91
Steve     Ferguson, Star BoD, 84-95
Clark     Gardner, Percussion Instructor, 95
Jeff      Gooch, Visual Instructor, 94-95
Charlie   Gumbert, Guard Instructor, 93-95
Jonathon  Gurney, Percussion Instructor,85
Phil      Haines, Brass Instructor, 86-88
Thom      Hannum, Perc Arr/Caption Head, 90-95
Matt      Harloff, Drum Major/Brass Inst, 94-95
Phil      Hathaway, Star BoD, 85-90
Tim       Heck, Guard Caption Head, 86
Jim       Heckman, Production Staff, 84-95
Craig     Hedden, Brass Instructor, 86-93
Luther    Henderson, Arranger, 95
Rhonda    Henderson, Wardrobe, 95
Wendy     Hicks, Visual Instructor, 86
David     Higgins, Technical Staff, 94-95
David     Hochoy, Choreographer, 94-95
Todd      Horton, Guard Instructor, 87
Dan       Hostetler, Percussion Instructor, 86-90
Barry     Hudson, Brass Instructor, 89-94
Bobby     Hullett, Drum Major/Visual Inst, 91-93
Jim       Jeffries, Brass Inistructor, 85-87
Matt      Jenkins, Brass Instructor, 89-95
Melisa    Jobe, Visual Instructor, 90
Carl      Johnson, Drum Major, 86
Wesley    Johnson, Auxiliary Designer, 91-93
Stephen   Jones, Brass Instructor, 94
Bill      Jurberg, AuxDes/Caption Head, 93-95
Ken       Karlin, Visual Instructor, 90-92
Joe       Keays, Visual Instructor, 90-95
Kay       Keays, Kitchen Support Staff Head, 87-95
Larry     Kerchner, Brass Arranger, 85
Len       Kruszecki, Visual Director, 88-92
Moe       Latour, Tour Dir/ Corps Mgr, 85-87
Chris     Lee, Percussion Instructor, 91-92
Allison   Lendman, Star BoD, 84,-95
Bob       Lendman, Star BoD, 84-95
Karen     Louk, Promotion, 95
Eric      Lund, Transport/Ass't Dir, 84-95
Lori      Lund, Merchandising, 94-95
Jim       Mason, Director, 84-95
Bruce     McConnell, Percussion Instructor, 85-86
Jeff      McKnight, Viaual Instructor, 89-90
Colin     McNutt, Percussion Instructor, 93-95
Jenny     McVey, Visual Designer, 95
Bob       Medworth, Visual Instructor, 87-95
Steve     Meikle, Visual Instructor, 86
Jim       Miller, Percussion Instructor, 85
Chris     Minges, Instructor, 87-89
Brent     Montgomery, Percussion Instructor, 91-94
Tom       Newell, Percussion Instructor, 89-90
Walter    Niekamp, Photo/Production, 84-95
Joan      Noble, Color Guard Instructor, 88-89
Todd      Parker, Perc Inst/Mus Dir, 85-86
Susan     Patton, Medical Support, 95
Ron       Perez, Color Guard Instructor, 85-86
Paul      Perniciaro, Stage Direction, 85
Charlie   Poole, Percussion Instructor, 87
James     Prime, Jr., Brass Cap Head/Arr, 86-95
Greg      Radcliff, Percussion Instructor, 89-90
Mario     Ramsey, Percussion Instructor, 92
John      Robertson, Production Staff, 95
Joe       Roche, Visual Instructor, 93
Carl      Ruocco, Perc Inst/Ass't Dir, 85-89
Karen     Ruschman, Drum Major, 85
Todd      Ryan, Visual Des/Caption Head, 89-93
Eric      Sabach,  Vis Inst/Stage Direction, 85-86
John      Sanchez, Stage Direction, 85
Rob       Santa, Star BoD, 93
Matt      Savage, Percussion Instructor, 90
Kenneth   Schermerhorn, Conductor, 95
Mark      Schleihs, Vis Instrr/Caption Head 86-93
Lori      Schnieders, Wardrobe Dept, 94-95
Kevin     Schussler, Visual Instructor, 89-93
Mike      Schwandt, Technical Staff, 95
Pat       Scollin, Percussion Instructor, 87-91
Steve     Scully, Brass Inststructor, 85-95
Jeff      Secor, Brass Instructor, 85
John      Simpson Brass Instructor, 85
Barbara   Soules, Wardrobe Dept, 93-94
John      Steinke, Brass Instructor, 87
John      Steinke, Promotions, 90-92
Judy      Steinke, Promotions, 90-92
Phil      Stiers, Program Guide, 85
Jim       Stock, Merchandising, 85-88
Tom       Strachen, Visual Instructor, 90-92
Kirsten   Streib, Wardrobe, 85
Steve     Suslik, Stage Direction, 85-91
Mark      Sylvester, Stage Direction, 85-86
Josh      Talbott, Brass Instructor, 94,-95
Asley     Tappan, Drum Major, 89-90
Philip    Tartalone, Visual Instructor, 87
Tina      Tartalone, Visual Instructor, 87
John      Tatgenhorst, Arranger, 95
Dave      Tippett, Brass Instructor, 85
Linnea    Trippiedi, Auxiliary, 94
Peggy     Twiggs, Color Guard Instructor, 86
Marilyn   Tye, Program Guide, 85
Jon       Vanderkolff, Viaual Designer, 93-95
Don       VanDoren, Brass Caption Head, 86,88-95
Jay       Webb, Musical Direction, 85-86
Mo        Webber, Brass, 95
Peggy     Webber, Production Staff, 96
Todd      Whisler, Visual Instructor, 86
Al        White, Technical Director, 94-95
Marc      Whitlock, Brass Instructor, 93
Becky     (Wood) Hudson, Drum Major/Corps Mgr, 86-95
Jeff      Wroblewski, Vis Inst/Caption Head, 87-92
Linda     Wysong, Production Staff, 95
George    Zingali, Visual Designer, 85-92