Mario was born in NYC and raised in Corona, Queens. Music became a huge part of his life early on when he decided to pick up an alto sax and a clarinet. At the age of 19 he hooked up with the former tenor sax player for Tommy Dorsey named Stan Stanley. They formed a seven man Jazz band called “Stan Dixie Stanley”. He toured for three years and in 1950 went his separate way to get married. This musical experience would serve as the backdrop for his passion for Drum Corps. Mario always said what attracted him to Drum Corps from the very beginning was the similarities to the “brassy” style of his idol Stan Kenton.
Settling on Long Island and raising five kids with his wife Phyllis, his hands-on involvement with his kid’s youth activities was evident from the start. When his boys joined Little League Baseball, it wasn’t enough to sit in the bleachers and watch. He had to go ahead and volunteer to manage the team as well as be the league’s equipment manager. I’ll never forget how every time the garage door was opened; bats, balls and bases would come spilling out. When his boys joined Little League Football the same trait held true. Mario wasn’t content to sit in the stands; instead he became head referee for the league. Can you see the pattern here?
When he brought his sons, Mario Jr. and Mike, down to a Babylon Islanders Drum and Bugle Corps rehearsal, that “brassy” sound along with the discipline and dedication had them hooked.
In 1961 Mario signed them up as corps members along with sister Linda And Yeah, Mario signed himself up as the quartermaster and eventually assistant director. About 1963 the Islanders transitioned from a parade corps to an m&m corps and by 1967 had disbanded. In ‘67 Mario Sr. and Mario Jr. joined St. Joseph Patron Cadets. Mike followed suit 1969 when the Brassmen were formed. With the Brassmen, Mario became Business Manager, setting up competition dates and booking hotels. His job also entailed being second father to many members and guard duty at hotel stays. At one particular stay over at a Jacksonville Fla. Hotel Mario was standing guard in a chair near the pool most of the evening and as night fell he decided he needed some rest himself. To keep the illusion going that he was still enforcing the curfew, he made a dummy wearing a baseball cap propped in his chair. It wasn’t until morning that the seasoned members realized they’d been had.
Mario’s passion for drum corps continued even after the Brassmen disbanded in 1974. Mario passed away in September 1999 and is sorely missed by his family, friends and all drum corps associates that knew him.