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The Price Of The Ticket

By Reg Henry



He encouraged us. No, he insisted that we always represent the corps in a manner that would not tarnish its image. We were to act like ladies and gentlemen at all times. Carman Cluna had an attitude of no retreat, "take no prisoners", and let the chips fall as they may. This is the way it is going to be done… his way! His way was always putting the best interests of the corps ahead of everything else.

Some of Carman's detractors may say that he was stubborn, narrow-minded, and over the top. Through the years, I heard comments like …"Carman Cluna was the kind of man who would read an article in the New York Times and then proceed to inquire about the type of ink being used to print the article". That may be true, but the overall point is that he was reading the Times and not the National Enquirer or Daily News!

The Eastern Drum Corps Philosophy

Carman was one to stand up for the Eastern drum corps philosophy: when you perform at a show, you are there to "knock their socks off". Not to impress the audience by the manner in which you move at super speeds across the field or extend a musical note only for the sake of doing these things. Not to lull them to sleep by performing little minute details with your hands or fingers or giving the audience that bright grin from ear to ear on the field, that even someone sitting in the first row wouldn't be able to see (or care to see, for that matter)! Nor would you show how subtle you could be in the delivery only for the purpose of being subtle! Subtleties, for the sake of being subtle, are not going in the direction of knocking anyone's socks off.

Other Carman detractors said that "we" should have played the game more, not get upset with bad judging (bad being either inept or political)… aka don't rock the boat. Go along to get along. My question would be: how much and how long do you play the game, how much do you water down your drill or your music for the sake of playing that game? When do you "say when", enough is enough, this far, and NO further?



Well, I said all of that to say this…  Being the leader that he was, Carman saw where DCI was taking drum corps (as far back as '71). It all started with DCI telling the leading drum corps that if you band together and back us, we will give you uniformity in judging. If corps A, B and C are judged by DCI judges at a show in New York one day and in Florida the next day, the results will pretty much be the same because of the consistency in the judging.

The 1973 CYO Nationals

The Brassmen were invited to the 1973 CYO Nationals competition.  We paid for the chartered bus service, traveled to

Massachusetts, and practiced all day on a nearby field. Later on that night, one hour before the start of the show, we found out that there was a chain-linked fence in the backfield where The Brassmen made their field show entrance.

CYO Nationals, as with most big shows in those years, used DCI rules. Carman had written his field shows based upon the rules and regulations of DCI. We were told that if we could somehow regroup on the field after the show had started, the judges wouldn't judge us for the first 20 seconds to "allow" us to make adjustments. Carman suggested that they cut the fence. They did not, and the rest is history. We went home and did not compete! How many other drum corps directors would have made that choice for their corps, and face the consequences that went along with it? Taking a stand was a hard decision to make!

He Did It “His Way”

When all is said and done, I guess Carman could have "given in"… gone along to get along. He could have written easier drills; he could have directed Hy and Eric to write easier musical scores. In doing so, that great Hy Dreitzer music would have been "something" other than Hy's music. Those great Eric Perrilloux drum arrangements would have been "something" other than Eric's music. Moreover, we would have been "something" other than "The Brassmen".





His stand, above all, was to have all corps display their individual styles and not try to fit any corps into a box of what they must do or not do to get "the score". Uniformity, for the sake of uniform judging, does not promote individuality.

In 1987, Carman wrote a series of articles in Drum Corps World called "My Life In Drum Corps". In the last installment of the series, he ended it, not by quoting a word or line or two from the musical number "I Did It My Way" but by writing every word and every verse of it. I hear it loud and clear… Carman letting the world know how he made the choices in his life! I will miss Carman along with hundreds of his other students. Carman Cluna was a leader among leaders. Right or wrong, he took a stand in life; and, sometimes, that can be a very lonely position to take. James Baldwin, a famous author, once wrote: "In life we all must pay the price for the choices that we make, each and every day, each and every one of us."

Let's all hope and pray that somewhere out there is a future Carman Cluna who is willing to stand up to Big Business (aka DCI) and be the person who will bring drum corps home to what each and every drum corps does best of all… being themselves! Carman and the corps paid the price for his stand…our stand.

Carman Cluna has now passed on, but he kept his soul (paid in full). By doing so, the souls of The Brassmen also remain intact!

"For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"

   Excellence and Perfection

My memory of Carman Cluna is that of a person who was committed to excellence and perfection. I wish I had a nickel for every time we "attempted" to get through the OTL / Off The Line (aka the first number of our show), and he would blow "the whistle". This meant that everyone would stop dead in his or her tracks. He would yell at a section or a person as to why we stopped, and that was usually followed by another yell of “Formation A" (hit the line), which meant back to the "starting line".

Formation A was not: a casual walk back to the starting line, time for a smoke, or talking with your friends as to why we were going back. You ran as fast as you could back to the line, each and every time! The purpose was to save 45 minutes to an hour per rehearsal. This type of information was explained to us by Carman as "why we did things a certain way". As for me (a 12˝ year-old future "engineer"), I loved it and ate it up … the details, the details.

Carman was a man who was totally consistent in his philosophy and style and in his expectation of you while you were with the corps. As an example, rehearsal-starting time was exactly at 8 o'clock during the week, not at 8:01, not at 8:05; I mean exactly at 8 o'clock horns were warming up.