The Beginning — Why, How and When
Prior to 1964, many attempts had been made to bring members of the Ancient community closer together. During the 1964 muster season, several members of senior corps talked about an informal gathering during the winter of 1964-65, for the purpose of at least exchanging ideas on how to improve musters in general. Among those who began to “talk up” the idea of a meeting were: Ken Dalling of the Fairfield FDC, Toni Lazor of the Ancient Mariners FDC, Dave Clark of the Westbrook FDC, and Bill Pace of the New York Regimentals FDC. Informal telephone conversations set the date of the meeting as February 21, 1965. The Fairfield FDC offered its rehearsal place for the first meeting. At the outset, it was agreed that business would be conducted in an orderly, but informal manner — this to be the spirit of the meeting itself.
The first meeting was held at the Fairfield Firehouse #1 in Fairfield, Connecticut and was attended by representatives from: The Ancient Mariners FDC of Connecticut, The Bethpage Colonials of New York, The Bishop Seabury FDC of New York, The ‘Colonial Greens FDC of New York, The Connecticut Rebels FDC, The Fairfield FDC of Connecticut, The Germantown FDC, The Governors Foot Guard, The Lancraft FDC from CT, The Minutemen of Long Island FDC from NY, The New York Regimentals FDC of New York. The Sons of Liberty FDC of New York, The 17th Connecticut Volunteers FDC, The Village Volunteers FDC of New York, and the Westbrook Drum Corps of Connecticut.
At 3:15 that afternoon, Ken Dalling called the meeting to order and what became The Company of Fifers and Drummers came to life.
The most important aims of the first get together - being a decision of ways and means to promote and encourage musters, a Muster Aid Committee was formed to assist corps who wanted to host a muster. Ken Dalling and Bill Pace were named co-chairmen and together they formulated many of the activities which make today’s musters successful. In 1968 they were replaced by John “Bluster” Frey of Germantown. Through the years Dave Hooghkirk of the Stony Creek corps, Bill Pace, and Scott Greenstreet of the Nayaug corps, Dave Boddie of the Charles Dickerson Field Music and Maurice "Mo" Shoos of the Kentish Guards also served in that capacity. Buster Frey gathered information to write a muster manual to be made available to corps who wished to host a muster, but unfortunately his untimely death prevented him from completing it. Joe Tattar of the Ancient Mariners later acquired Buster’s notes and completed the manual which is now considered the “Bible” for hosting musters. Buster was the Drum Major of the Germantown corps and in his memory his espontoon was presented to The Company of Fifers and Drummers. The espontoon was suitably engraved and for many years it was posted al musters. The espontoon disappeared sometime in 1985 and was never returned.
To encourage corps to attend musters, the National Muster was established; the first was hosted by the Colonial Boys FDC of Norwood, Massachusetts in May, 1972 and with a few exceptions it has been held each year since. Musters, which numbered 2 or 3 in 1965 grew to 22 in 1972, but the high cost of staging a muster has reduced the number in recent years. Through the years, in addition to helping corps to organize Musters, the Muster Aid Committee has, for a fee, helped communities to stage musters as a part of commemorative programs, such as centennials, bicentennials and the like.
As the discussion at the first get together continued, three temporary officers were named to plan the next meeting and to inform the Ancient community about what had taken place.
It was agreed that the temporary name for the group would be “The Committee of Fifers and Drummers” and that the organization would "be dedicated to the perpetuation of Early American martial music". The four most important immediate goals of the organization would be:
- Propagate fife and drum music to all
- Help promote and improve musters
- Encourage young fifers and drummers
- Encourage the formation of new Ancient Fife and Drum units
The most important point that the committee agreed on was that “The Committee will not sanction nor promote any form of contest as this would defeat the very idea of fraternalism which we seek lo foster, and wreak havoc with the associations which some of us support”.
Membership would be offered to senior Ancient units. Junior Ancient units would be invited to attend meetings but would not have a vote, however the Junior units were granted the vote in 1972. Ancient units acceptable for membership were described as “Fife and drum groups, which use as their primary instrumentation, the fife, snare drum, and rudimental, two stick bass drumming.”
Before the meeting adjourned, the first working sub-committee — “The Public Relations Group” was appointed with Tom Lazor and Hayden Fuller acting as co-chairmen and their first assignment was to prepare a sample press kit for distribution at the next meeting.
And so, with a jollification following the business part of the meeting, the organization was on its way.
We Begin To Roll
At the second meeting of the group, held on June 6, 1965, the name was changed from “The Committee of Fifers and Drummers” to its present name, “The Company of Fifers and Drummers” and the first suggestion that “The Company” publish a music book was made by Ed Olsen, the book to be approximately 12 tunes which are accepted as “standards”.
The organization was coming together well and it became apparent that the organization had to be expanded. A Mailing Committee was appointed, chaired by Jack Shea of the Colonials of Bethpage, New York, to assist the secretary in getting the information to the organization.
After extensive debate, dues was set at $10.00 annually for senior corps and $5.00 for junior corps who became Associate Members. Bob Cairns of the Long Island Minutemen was elected the first treasurer, bringing the Executive Committee of The Company to four members.
Corps that were accepted into membership prior to October 3, 1965 were designated “Charter Members” of The Company of Fifers and Drummers. By the time that the October, 1965 meeting cams two major fife and drum appearances n the name of The Company of Fifers and Drummers were reported. The first was the appearance of the Bethpage Colonials and the New York Regimentals at half time at a New York Jets football game, and the second was a show by eleven corps, the Mother Cabrini Choral Group and the McGowan Brothers, staged at the New York World’s Fair. Both events were a first effort by The Company and the performances were a credit to the new organization, however, some of the problems encountered led to the formation of a “Sanctions Committee” which would determine what activities The Company would sanction or give formal support.
The Company’s roots having been established, it was decided at the first meeting of 1966 that officers be elected to serve for a term of two years. Only senior corps that had paid their dues were allowed to vote and all corps were to designate a person to serve as delegate for the election. The first year had been a busy one with the cooperation and help of many, the success of the new organization seemed assured.
The meeting notes from the first Company of Fifers & Drummers meeting were recorded in 'The Drummers Assistant'.