by Tom Lizotte

Where would drum corps be if Don Angelica were still alive?

I think Don would applaud the progress we have made in improving performance levels (he NEVER accepted substandard performance), but would be disappointed in the direction the activity has taken creatively and in terms of the state of judging.

He stood for great music. In the early ’80s the Cadets were doing things such as “Rocky Point Holiday” and Bernstein’s “Mass.” He supported that tack, and George Zingali’s work, because although in the formative stages, this approach was a major improvement and the activity’s future direction. If the visuals were a bit messy, the activity could not afford to lose the genius.

Without Don’s vision, we would be doing drill that is only marginally creative and music just a step above Sousa marches. Through his strong vision (and the judges he hired) he pushed the activity markedly forward. He supported those judges, who weren’t always right but who had passion and guts.

Has the process been messy? Absolutely!

Worth it? Yes!

If Don were still alive, there would be two differences. Corps would be playing better music and judging would be better.

He was first and foremost a music educator. He understood and embraced different styles, but stood for quality. Like Dr. Baggs, he understood that there are differing musical standpoints. “What is the quality of what you’re doing? How well are you doing it?” was their viewpoint.

I think he would hate the traveling music that is so much of drum corps today. He’d say something like, “You’re shoveling fog” to the emperor’s new clothes programmers of today. (If he were that polite.) And .. he’d win, because he was right!

Don Angelica - Drum Corps News 1962

Today’s drum corps is upsetting because there is so much unrealized potential. This is something that Don would never have accepted.

Judging would be better because the courageous voices might still be with us,

Don invested in a group of people who were tough, but who knew what they were doing and were tough enough to be truthful. Think he ever suffered a complaint about Sandra Opie? And Jim Unrath (who was irascible, but a great mind) or Dave Richards (a wonderful GE judge)? And. .. he supported them.

Today, PC is in, big-time. Critiques are more peaceful, but the discourse isn’t necessarily more beneficial to the process. People are more civil, but more often disingenuous. At times the current process can make your skin crawl.

Life with Donald was sometimes pretty messy, but as a teacher you always got better.

Donald would have taken us to an area close to where we are today, but with much more of an artist’s view. He appreciated technique, but loved art. The success of the early 1980s Cadets competitively would not have been possible without his vision and courage.

Looking at things with the benefit of experience and time, I can say Don was one of the activity’s real gems, and a significant influence on me. His message was tough, but his intellect was first class and his love for the activity undeniable.

As a young teacher, I didn’t want to hear his message. As young teachers, we are looking for validation. With Don, you got validation when you really achieved. That achievement may be years off. So … whatever kudos you received from him were gold.

He was the most loved and hated person in the activity, but WE MISS HIM!!!