by Bob Fields, Drum Corps World staff
This article was originally published in the June 2009 (Volume 38, Number 3) edition of Drum Corps World.
I first set foot on Allentown’s famed J. Birney Crum Field back in 1976. I was traveling with the Concord Blue Devils as a reporter for the Concord Transcript newspaper, and, even though I grew up in a local California corps (publisher’s note: the Pinole Princemen), traveling on a national tour was just a dream come true.
We visited many places that summer, but there was just something special about this place that made it stand out from other shows we had visited. In retrospect, there was sort of a religious feel to this beautiful spot and at the time I wrote that this seemed to be a kind of Mecca for the drum corps activity.
Perhaps it was how the stands looked down on the beautiful valley below. Or perhaps it was the lovely park across the street with the corps warming up in it next to the small lake, while geese were landing in the water after circling the valley during the show.
But as a Californian starting up conversations with the Allentown locals, I soon discovered that it was the people themselves who made a stranger like me feel so welcome and that made this place special.
Years later, I met and married a Crossmen girl, Terry, and we moved to her home in the Philly area to have our daughter, Leighann. Through the years, we have attended DCI East year after year, discovered in the fall that they actually use if for football games (who knew) and I have been a volunteer show coordinator on that field for USSBA marching band shows for the past eight years. But there was always a constant each year in Allentown — the people.
Here is the story of one person I met years ago who I have to put in the SUPER VOLUNTEER category.
If you have read Drum Corps World through the years, you might have noticed I am very partial to people who take the time to volunteer to help keep the activity going. One of those people is Cecily Kulp Siegfried. Whether you know her name or not, you have undoubtedly seen her year after year at DCI East and many other pageantry events.
She’s that woman who sells you show programs when you come through the gate or the lady at indoor shows who spends hours climbing up and down the stands selling 50/50 tickets for one good cause or another. She is that familiar smiling face everyone knows who you can always trust to help out. It really doesn’t matter what corps people are with, they all know or have met Cecily and look forward to that smile and a hug each year.
She told me she watched drum corps as far back as she can remember. “They were all TALL men, or so they seemed compared to such a small girl.” She was in local marching bands and a performer in Wal Mar and that touring performing group “Up with People” growing up.
She also marched indoor guards with Creed and the Sentrymen. Both were sponsored by the Emmaus, PA, Sentinels Drum and Bugle Corps. She said, “The Sentinels told me I could see the world (from a bus) if I marched drum corps, so I joined the corps and marched color guard!”
Her volunteering started as early as she can remember, too. She did collections around the neighborhood. She sorted Red Cross supplies to send to the victims of Hurricane Agnes. Whatever needed to be done, all her friends were a big part of it.
“When I started marching, the Catholic Church played a big part in the drum corps activity”, she said. “They always encouraged youth to help and give back to the community. So through the years I have always felt that it is my turn to give back wherever I can!”
Marching and later teaching was the obvious direction that it would take her as she grew up. “Years ago, there were a lot more marching groups and lots more kids participating. Many kids were in corps, bands and indoor guards. Indoor guards were the most dangerous, using steel sabers with grounded tips and throwing rifles over your head in such a small space. Plus, to make matter worse, there were judges right there on the floor with you.
“Most of the moves were across-the-floor exchanges with things constantly flying through the air at you,” she said. The first of many instructor jobs was to teach her own high school, Whitehall, as their first guard instructor. These were in the transition years when they went from straight military marching to recorded music, then to dance moves for indoor.
Thus far she has taught color guard for over a quarter of a century. She has taught every level of color guard from special education to high school. This included in 1996 when she taught a marching guard made up of participants of the Berks County, PA, Special Olympics.
Guard has not only been a part of her teaching experience. She has been a marching member and taught cymbals, choreography and visuals for the Reading Buccaneers senior corps. She taught the cymbal line and marched the popular Westshoremen senior corps. She taught cymbals and marched with Allentown’s Chieftains and later the New York City Skyliners and she helped the Sunrisers in 2007 when they won the 2007 DCA Class A Championship.
If you have met Cecily, you will notice that she has had problems with her legs. “As a kid, I had juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which sort of cut my dance career short! Years ago, when doctors operated, they cut everything as their way of curing you. In the very early 1970s, I had numerous operations to “reset the legs” due to damage from the arthritis.
“To make matters worse, in 1980 I had a major car accident after the DuBois, PA, show. I almost lost the leg and it has been a series of reconstructive operations to this day,” she said. “I probably have more metal in my leg that there is in some cars. But years of cymbal playing have also taken a toll on my shoulders, resulting in surgery on both arms.”
Cecily has been a volunteer for DCI East since the very first year. She started out answering a phone at the corps gate that had an extension from the Field House outside the stadium. During that time she has been on dozens of committees and has certainly been an integral part of Bob Bennett’s DCI East committee. But volunteering at East is only a small part of the hundreds of events she has worked.
Her husband, Thomas, is also involved with local high schools and senior corps as drum instructor. Their son, Sayre, is a drill designer and music arranger, while youngest son Tyler is also a percussion instructor. And it’s not a big surprise that each year the whole family can be found working the show at DCI East.
But the East Coast was not the only place she has spread her volunteer magic. Like Johnny Appleseed, she traveled West to spread her light during the Pasadena DCI Championships.
“Rich Dissinger from Pacific Crest was the person I spoke with that was looking for help,” she said. “Pacific Crest was the corps that was to get volunteers to help with all the DCI Pasadena shows. He introduced us to an older gentleman who was in charge of the volunteers,” she continued. “I can’t remember his name, but he was a sweetheart and had his hands full trying to coordinate all the people needed to cover the shows.
“We did the programs for them [DCI gave Pacific Crest money for their help and efforts], we answered crowd questions, we did a lot of crowd control, plus whatever else needed to be done. I had a great time. For me it is like a big party, with great entertainment, except we never get to see any of the entertainment.
“Earlier that winter, I was out with the Anaheim Kingsmen. We did their raffle for them and helped fit the corps with their new uniforms. It was exciting when they were all finally outfitted and then they played. Kingsmen held their show the week of DCI Pasadena and we helped with ticket sales, information and then did the 50/50 for them. I will tell you that was one busy week! I got to see Crossmen and Blue Devils from the end zone and Kingsmen from the first row. I got to help Kingsmen exit the field. I think I was pretty much everywhere in the Rose Bowl that week.”
In my opinion, if there has ever been anyone who deserves the coveted “Friends of DCI Volunteer Award,” it would be Cecily. After all these years she has not lost her enthusiasm.
“I love people and I love how this activity builds character and friendships. With some afflictions and after the accident, you realize how precious everything is. You think back to all those people who have given of themselves and made this world and activity what it is today. You certainly want to be a positive example to others and hope that your actions will encourage others to give of their time as well.”
Cecily’s list of accomplishments seems endless. Not only has she volunteered at literally hundreds of events selling programs or chances — often for scholarships so that others could march — but as a senior corps performer she has won four DCA World Championships. That includes twice with the Reading Buccaneers, once with the Westshoremen and once with the Class A Lehigh Chieftains, as well as several second places with Reading and Westshoremen.
She is one of the first of two girls who marched in the Reading Buccaneers’ drum line. She is a charter member of the Buccaneer Alumni Association and a past vice president of that group, as well as being secretary of their association from 1989 to 2005.
She was a member of the Macy’s All-Star Drum and Bugle Corps in 1991, 1992 and 1994. She was inducted as an associate member of the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame in 2002 and, in 2005, became the first women and first inductee of the Pennsylvania Drum Corps Hall of Fame. And by the way, this is by a young woman who the doctor told, after the 1980 auto accident, that she would probably never walk again.
After her Pennsylvania Hall of Fame Award presentation, Chet Doboe of the Hip Pickles Percussion Ensemble wrote, “When you see Cecily each summer, you know that this woman exemplifies the passion of drum corps. All of us lifers have the passion, but Cecily shines her light for all to see.
“I can’t help but be inspired by her sense of volunteerism and her spirit of the drum corps activity. I am hoping that someday Drum Corps World will run a story on her!” Well, Chet, it is years in the making, but here is the story of my personal hero. After moving from a house to an apartment, I lost most of my notes to write this article and just found them again. So I am sorry it took me over three years to finally put it down on paper. But what a great story of a person who loves this crazy activity.
The volunteer spirit of Cecily is infectious. I just got back from Dayton, OH, where I was a volunteer for several 18-hour days at the WGI Guard Championships. I have enjoyed knowing Cecily for many years as a volunteer at DCI East and I somehow always seem to be one of those who step forward like Cecily, and say, “Sure, I will be glad to help!”
I hope that after reading this, YOU might also find your local guard, drum line, drum corps, corps show or other marching event that could use your help. The more hands there are to help, the longer we can keep building this activity.
Why not volunteer for a weekend or week with your favorite corps! Can you flip a burger? A drum corps travels on their stomachs and they will even provide the apron.
Drop me a line. Tell me your story.
Happy Trails. DCW year 33!