About Us - Our Story

There is little outward similarity between the Charles W. Dickerson Fife, Drum & Bugle Corps of today and the simple Boy Scout Band which made its first appearance in May of 1929. Yet a single spirit, an underlying rhythm as persistent and controlled as the rudimental drum beats and as irresistible as the elemental power of music itself can be discerned throughout all the changes this group has undergone as the Corps emerged from the shadow of its early sponsors to establish a unique and significant identity.

 

This spirit finds its historical expression embodied in the people who had a vision of what the Corps could be, and who had the imagination and perseverance to command that vision to take shape. The formation of Boy Scout Troop 16 (1929) to serve the Black community of New Rochelle, NY, brought about by the efforts of Elmer Hall, Mary Boddie, Donald Grant, Sr. and Dr. Scott, was a significant achievement in its own right; the formation of the band was a brilliant inspiration. The Corps, initially under the direction of Scoutmaster Elmer Hall and later guided by Scoutmaster Byron Martin, became a favorite of the people of New Rochelle from its very first appearance on Memorial Day 1929. It was not until the arrival of Sanford "Gus" Moeller (1935), however, that the band began to acquire musical sophistication. Moeller, an accomplished musician and acknowledged authority in that field of music which features the rope tension drum, was well known for his professional rigorousness and personal tenacity in affairs musical. With an expanded repertoire and the discipline demanded by the perfectionist Moeller, the Corps entered competitions and began to make a name for itself far beyond the confines of a small New Rochelle neighborhood. It wasn't long before the Corps outgrew the resources of the Boy Scout Troop Committee. Seeking additional support for the band, the Committee entered into an agreement with the Maceo Bacon VFW Post 2882 by which the Post covered the expenses of fielding the Corps under VFW direction while the Corps members remained active in the Boy Scout Troop. It was while performing under the auspices of the Maceo Bacon Post, with the inimitable Gus Moeller as teacher and composer, that the Corps achieved its highest competitive honors: New York State Senior Fife, Drum & Bugle Champions (1939); International Rudimental Snare Drum Quartet Champions (World's Fair 1939); International Bass Drum Champion (World's Fair 1939).

 

The spirit first manifested in the dedication of the Corps' founders and teachers had thus, throughout the years, come to reveal another powerful aspect - the pride, the ability and the aspiration of the Corps members themselves. By the fall of 1949 the Corps had declared independence from Maceo Bacon VFW Post 2882 and had taken on a new name in honor of a member lost in World War II - the Charles W. Dickerson Fife, Drum & Bugle Corps. Faced with serious problems due to the loss of instruments and equipment as well as financial backing following its decision to sever ties with the VFW Post, the Corps rallied such strong support from members and friends that it was able to maintain, as it had during similarly troubled times in the past, uninterrupted operation. Association with various volunteer fire companies guaranteed the new Dickerson Corps a dependable source of financial support without endangering its independent status, while the continuing efforts of Gus Moeller and the Corps' members guaranteed its reputation for musical creativity and excellence. By the time of Moeller’s death (1960), the Corps had mastered an incredible diversity of musical techniques on instruments once thought to have very limited range. This impressive mastery of its craft led the Corps to achieve the same high distinction as a marching band with the fire companies that it had previously attained as a competition corps. Particularly notable are the innumerable trophies won during the Corps' association with the Cortlandt Engine Company No. 1 of Montrose, NY - a partnership whose 50th Anniversary was recently celebrated in 2004.

 

The spirit of the Charles W. Dickerson Fife, Drum & Bugle Corps finds in all its expressions a strong strain of the imaginative and innovative - a strain clearly illustrated throughout the Corps' long history of struggle to attain and then protect its independent identity and original musical style. Not surprisingly, then, the Corps' interest have by no means been restricted to those activities which brought it early recognition and continuing tributes. Rather, the Corps has always sought out new ventures to expand and complement existing activities. One result of this trend has been the Corps' participation in the field of traditional "ancient" fife and drum music. Although its appearance and music do not, for the most part, conform to those that are loosely termed the "ancient" corps, the Corps was offered and accepted membership in the Company of Fifers and Drummers (1965) in view of its long-standing contributions in the broad category of fife and drum music. The Corps has indeed enjoyed resounding popularity at every ancient function it has attended, including the nationally recognized Deep River Ancient Muster, and has shown its interest in preserving the "ancient" style by being among the first to lend support by its attendance to many new events such as the first Company of Fifers and Drummers expedition to perform at the St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Ireland (1971), the first International Muster held in London, England (1989) and by hosting two ancient musters in New Rochelle, New York (1966 & 1967). As the Dickerson Corps has developed new dimensions to its music over the years, so has it nurtured new and ever-expanding audiences. Long known for our willingness to travel great distances for a chance to entertain the uninitiated, the Corps went a notably successful step further with the release of three recordings - "Dickerson on Parade" (1966); "Bits & Pieces" (1972); "60 Years" (1989) - so that the sound of the fifes, drums and bugles has now been spread throughout this country and is not unfamiliar in several others. Yet even with nationwide recognition the Corps remains very much aware of its neighborhood origins, and takes an active interest in New Rochelle and greater New York community affairs.

 

The spirit of the Charles W. Dickerson Fife, Drum & Bugle Corps is not fettered by the chains of its long and noteworthy traditions, but it’s rather bound to this tradition by strong ties of love and respect, ties such as bind a disciple to his teacher who he may far surpass by building upon the insights that teacher has provided. Tradition is a heritage shared by experienced Corps members, some of whom have been active in the Corps through good times and bad since its inception and new recruits alike. The Dickerson Corps has seen many changes in the years since those Boy Scouts first marched at the head of the parade, but the spirit that guides the men of this corps, the underlying rhythm of determination and independence can be perceived as strongly now as ever before. The rhythm rises and falls with echoes of the past and portents of the future, and undulating ribbon woven of the fabric of men's lives, and the spirit finds its final expression in the style and sound which is Charles W. Dickerson.

 

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