The 8th Annual U.S.A.R.D. 2017 Convention.

If you were at the 8th Annual USARD 2017 Convention…Thank You…and if you were not, Thank You as well, as it is your annual dues that makes this all happen. It was another outstanding event enjoyed by all. The festive atmosphere, coordination, flow and continuity was evident throughout the entire weekend.

Our U.S.A.R.D. Business Partner Sponsors were on hand, through the tireless efforts of Joe Gillotti, lending their most valued support, that being the Cooperman Drum Company of Bellows Falls, Vermont, Black River Music of Benson, Vermont, and Calderwood Percussion of Avon, Massachusetts and a partial sponsorship from HaMar Percussion. All were present with product display tables and it is to these fine sponsors that we owe our gratitude for that support.    

To open our convention, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance keeping us grounded in that we are still ever faithful to our great nation for providing the many freedoms that we have. Our Canadian friends respectfully and gladly joined us in that effort.      

The New England Chapter of the U.S.A.R.D. presented by Gary Gillotti and Phyllis Gillotti opened our Friday evening session with their expert rendition of ancient style rudimental selections.

It will be mentioned here in this article a few times as to how important it was for this group and others to perform in the time slots that they did.  Three of the members in the New England Chapter are U.S.A.R.D. Executive Committee members. This is so noted because having so much to do during the weekend, it made perfect sense for them to perform on Friday, thus enabling their Saturday involvement to be more flexible. Excellent performance New England Chapter as usual, excellent indeed.                  

As to not forget those who went before us, six tributes were the next plan of action for Friday evening. In order, they were to: Al “Cisco” Colleameno of the Boston Crusaders performed by Bill Putnam, George Hayek of Hawthorne Caballeros by CADRE, Arthur J. Kirwan, of Most Precious Blood

Crusaders, Boston Crusaders, Lt. Norman Prince and the Beverly Cardinals of Ma. by Steve Wolpe, Dick Brown snare drummer from Skokie Indians, a Central States Judge and a Chicago Royalairs Drum Instructor by Bill McGrath, Jr., John Dowlan drum instructor for the U.S. Air Force Drum Corps by the U.S. Air Force Drum Ensemble, and to Marty Hurley of the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights and Drum Instructor of the Phantom Regiment by brother Jimmy Hurley.

Mass drumming was then performed playing eight Ancient Rudimental Drum selections keeping us connected to our roots.  These are fun and relatively uncomplicated but they also hold us to the common language of drumming.  There were nearly 50 rope snare drummers and 6 rudimental bass drummers.

Our Saturday morning portion of the convention opened with the “Middle River Ancients” and the “Air Force Drum Ensemble” both taking on the task of performing in the two earliest time slots.  That is highly commendable as it requires much personal sacrifice on their part. Pointing out, in a respectful manner, that even though these two groups saw themselves as the senior element of the convention and who espouse not being as quick handed as they once were; that was just not the case!  Although they were somewhat more senior than much of the rest of the participants, there was most certainly a level of speed, accuracy, range and complexity that all younger players could greatly respect. These two presenters are in the category of great skill and high drumming value any day of the week. They filled the air with the self-deprecating humor, of being the elders but to say the least, don’t let them kid you…they still got it.       

This year, the Middle River Ancients had a fifer accompany them making the tunes more easily identifiable.  That was a great help as we often hear these selections without melodic content.          

Kevin Donka, the 2013 D.C.A. Individual Snare Drum Champion, delivered a fine presentation depicting the effects of playing on different drum head surfaces and unveiled some very interesting tricks of the trade on how to join the ranks of the “Elite in Drumming.”  It was very interesting to say the least and had the audience, with sticks and pad in hand, to challenge one’s self to opening new avenues of thought and rehearsal techniques.  It was a delight to see a real drummer’s drummer.       

With an accent on youth, “once again”, the individuals contest was a hit encompassing Jr. Snare Drum and Jr. Rudimental Bass Drum categories.  Participants were comprised of those who had not reached their 22 birth-day, as of the date of the convention. Winners, all with respectable scores, in both categories were… Snare Drum: 1st Chandler Anderson, 2nd Jason Malli Jr, 3rd Jeff Prosperie Jr.  Rudimental Bass Drum: 1st Matt Cuccia 2nd Dominic Cuccia, 3rd Miles Malli. 

Bill Putnam and Joe Fontana as a duet called,” From One End of New York to the Other” performed a piece written by Putnam called “A Bit More Hellish.”  These two are well-seasoned players.  Putnam, a West Point Hellcat Alumni Drummer, wanted to write a piece with a West Point slant to it.  Fontana a long-time New York Skyliners Snare Drummer, and many time individual and duet champion partnered with Putnam to execute this tricky syncopation oriented piece flawlessly.         

Representing the N.Y. Chapter of the U.S.A.R.D. Bill McGrath, Jr and Bill Putnam performed solos from a corps of the 60’s known as the Emerald Cadets Jr. Drum and Bugle Corps of Rochester, N.Y.  These selections were written for this field competition corps by Doug Kleinhans, and modified by McGrath. These pieces were played in the respective order of the competition years of 1964, 65, 66, and 67 of which McGrath and Putnam were corps members. 

In a second selection in this segment, McGrath and Putnam performed a new piece written by McGrath just last year, titled “The Fifth Measure Treasure.” This piece contains drumming inventions of a hybrid style of standard and newer rudiments intended to portray a variety of sticking and unusually rare effects. 

Willard J. Putnam also has the proud distinction of being a student performer at the Eastman School of Music in the Preparatory Department from the early 50’ to mid-60’s performing in the orchestra, chamber music society and the Eastman Wind Ensemble studying under Hugh Robertson and John Beck.        

What could one possibly say about CADRE that has not already been said.  CADRE which stands for…Canadian Association of Drumming Rudimental Excellence is an internationally known drum ensemble of the highest order.  Their quest for excellence is unmatched being many time Canadian and American International Drum Ensemble Champions of one kind or another. They never fail to exude confidence and precision while performing. 

This year CADRE played the competition piece that they will perform at the 2017 Individuals and Ensemble competition at the D.C.A. Championships on Labor Day weekend in Rochester N.Y.  Taking advantage of the opportunity to perform their piece, at this forum, just might be the right formula for success at DCA time. They also performed a medley of drum solos which they call "The Rudimental Classics" which is a collection of great drum solos from well-known competition corps.  The control and precision of this fine group is outstanding.              

Phoenix Connection is a drum ensemble that evolved into a quartette for the purposes of this convention.  The ensemble was invented by John Flowers for introducing new writing ideas.  One of these new ideas was in the form of a medley of the Standard Army 2/4 as a warm up adaptation.  One of these selections was a piece titled “Diddler on the Roof.”  Performers were Bill Mojica, Bill Strickland, John Pepe and Joe Fontana.  This unit had a strong command of playing skills and their excellent contribution was well received.      

The winners of the individuals contest which took place earlier in the day were asked to come back to display their winning ways. That was Chandler Anderson, who won 1st place in Jr. Snare Drum and Matt Cuccia who won 1st Place in Jr.   Rudimental Bass Drum.  

Mark Beecher spoke of the newer day N.A.R.D. which stands for the National Association of Rudimental Drummers and told the audience of how one could join and handing out pamphlets for further information.

Mark who teaches at Drexel University brought a group with him called the “TROUBLEMAKERS” of which all members belong to the N.A.R.D.  They were as follows: Ancient Rudimental Snare: Mark Beecher, Lilli Beiduk Middlebrooks, Steve Gillespie, Steve Kirkpatrick.  On Rudimental Bass Drum Thomas Middlebrooks.

The “Troublemakers” put on a demonstration of Ancient Rudimental drumming tying the teachings of Billy Reamer through to what is happening today.  Mark also made the connection of how some well-known, easily identifiable, set drumming excerpts on popular top 40 hit recordings are right on the sound track with a strong rudimental base to them.  Now that was quite interesting.

 Clinicians Steve Fidyk and Dominick Cuccia, both having Degrees in Music from Wilkes-Barre University of N.E Pa., demonstrated how the rudiments relate to both set drumming and individual snare drum performance. They described and demonstrated the traditional breakdown of selected rudiments, shared warmup and exercises beneficial to mastering selected rudiments, compared a marching approach to drum set, developed drum set grooves related to rudiments, shared odd meter usage of rudiments, performed new work for marching and drum set ensemble, and concluded with "USARD all-star's" joining Dominick and Steve with a few U.S.A.R.D. members in attendance.  These were two very fine gentlemen of the highest order and provided a great deal to the class to the overall event. What a wonderful job by these two outstanding individuals.

Presentations, awards, and acknowledgements were next with the Lifetime Achievement for 2017 going to Army Veteran Sam Evans. This Lifetime Achievement was suggested by Gary Rockwell and presented by long time Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps Veteran Jim Coffee. There was an acknowledgment of New Lifetime Members going to James Marshall Digmon and Christopher French.  Bradford Burgher was acknowledged for his donation of $100 in place of annual dues.  Ken Burbulak upgraded his annual membership to Life Membership. 

The Warren Lee Foundation Award of $400 enabled by Nann Lee was given to a drumming and percussion arts student JoshuaCohen.  The 2017 Sonny Lyons Memorial Student Award was presented by Joe Gillotti to Nathan Campbell.  

Wolpe’s Warriors were a mega-huge big hit and displayed how the top level of range of complexity can be performed and appreciated and yet still make it look easy. They performed several, top of the line, solos made famous by open class competition corps of the late sixties and early to mid-seventies. This high-end group was another high point of the convention…and…wow…can these guys play!

Member ensembles from all over the U.S.A.R.D. were present showing their wares for all to see.  The final Mass Drumming was, yet another hit, having drummers taking up such a large presence that we could just barely get all of them into the large ballroom at once.

At the annual meeting, just after the convention, David Noell, retired drummer from the United States Army Old Guard, was elected External Vice President and David Smith, retired Professor of Percussion, Western, Ct. State University was appointed to the Advisory Board.

I would like to thank the Executive Committee, Joe Gillotti, Gary Gillotti, Gary Rockwell, Phyllis Gillotti, and Charlie Kammer and the Board of Advisors, John Bosworth, Bob Zarfoss, Nick Biscotti, Ron Church, Doug Morrow, and John Flowers for their fine efforts in making this year’s convention successful.  

Bill McGrath, Jr. 

President U.S.A.R.D.


An addendum to the recently posted notes from the 8th Annual U.S.A.R.D. 2017 Convention

At the 2017 U.S.A.R.D. Convention, there was a tribute-performance dedicated to Private Lee Rigby of London, U.K. written by Ron Church entitled “White Gloves.”  It was performed by the “Middle River Ancients” of Baltimore, Md.  

That segment did not appear in the notes sent earlier to U.S.A.R.D. members and unintentionally left out in a quest to complete these highlights in a timely manner regarding what occurred.    

Pvt. Rigby was the British Soldier who was murdered by extremist terrorists on the streets of London in May of 2012.  This 25-year-old Fusilier Drummer from Middleton, who was brutally murdered in Woolwich, Southeast of London, was a member of the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

We at the U.S.A.R.D. honor the fact that the world is a safer place when soldier’s like Private Lee Rigby are on duty.  We also thank the “Middle River Ancients” for helping maintain a sense of decency in this often times tumultuous world.

Bill McGrath, Jr.

President U.S.A.R.D.