Drum corps, a composer and widows in India!

by Steve Rondinaro

This article originally appeared in the March 2009 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 37, Number 12).

This is quite a story. I hope that I can do it justice.

The drum corps part begins in 2005. Carolina Crown played Joy and Call of the Mountain by composer Joseph Curiale. The Troopers played another Curiale piece called Gates of Gold.

DCI had to pay royalties for use of those pieces on our DVDs, CDs and digital downloads.

Fast forward to December 2008 when DCI’s Dan Acheson received a letter at the office pertaining to royalty payments. Normally anything having to do with royalties and rights fees is bad news. Those payments account for a huge part of DCI’s operating expenses.

The letter was from Joseph Curiale himself and concerned the royalty payment he received from Drum Corps International in 2006. Dan shared the letter with me.

The best way I can tell the story is to share the letter with you. In Joseph Curiale’s own words:

In March of 2006, I saw a segment on CNN that touched me deeply and motivated me to take action. It had to do with farmers (in India) committing suicide in large numbers due to their hopelessness and the hardship this caused the widows and children left behind.

I contacted CNN and arranged to pay the debts of one of the widows that touched me most.

Her husband left her with a debt of $1,100 that she said was impossible to pay for two reasons; she only earned 50 cents a day rolling cigarettes from morning until night and because of what I later learned was an interest rate of nearly 450% the corrupt moneylenders charged.

Though I made the commitment to pay her debts on inspiration alone, I did not have the money, since in addition, I knew I would have to fly to India to do this.

A few days later I got a royalty check from DCI for $1,600 and it seemed “heaven sent.” I knew that money was to erase the widow’s debt and I proceeded to India a month later and paid the moneylenders face to face and freed the widow of her financial burdens.

Soon after, I started a foundation, and with the help of some very kind donors, paid the debts of many widows and set up fixed deposit accounts from which they can draw monthly for food. I also became involved in supporting a girls orphanage and now I am personally raising and educating four orphaned girls . . .

Many times during the past three years I have thought how magical it is that music saves lives in many ways. I am very grateful to DCI for being a part of that magic.”

Wow, what an amazing story.

In the words of DCI’s Dan Acheson: “All too often we get caught up in our own silliness and forget how far-reaching what we do really is in the world. Perhaps there are thousands of more worthy activities ahead of drum corps that impact the lives of people on the planet.

But, as Joseph Curiale states . . . on his Web site, all too often people are so overwhelmed with all that needs to be done in the world that they do nothing. He chose but a small part that he could play and remained focused. The impact is simply amazing.”

Amen. In the TV news business, I often read stories on the air about people’s misfortunes and family’s tragedies. I also have to report on a lot of inhumanity and violence on a regular basis . . . the kinds of things that make you wonder about the state of human decency.

Then I am regularly amazed and touched by the way our viewers respond to help complete strangers in need. The outpouring, time after time, is amazing and heartwarming. It’s been the same in every market that I’ve worked — Rochester, Miami, Orlando, Wilmington . . .
And that’s the balance in the human equation.

Joseph Curiale saw a human tragedy half a world away and took it upon himself to help make it right. The fact that he used our DCI “seed money” to make it happen is the all the more    special.

For more information, visit: www.JospehCurialeFoundation.com.