by Jeff Ream, DCW staff
With the recent growth and surge in popularity of senior corps and DCA, I recently was able to interview DCA President Gil Silva. I made sure I asked honest questions on the minds of fans and I was pleased he responded so candidly and openly. With his permission, here is the entire interview.
Jeff Ream: Gil, I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. For those out there not familiar with you, could you list a brief resumé of your drum corps background?
Gil Silva: I joined a neighborhood drum corps in Providence, RI, called the Holy Rosary Caballeros in 1957 as a tenor drummer. After four years, I switched to bass baritone. In 1969, I joined a new corps that eventually became the Rhode Island Matadors and, along with being a horn player, I also served as a marching instructor, assistant director and business manager over the 20 years that the corps competed.
During that period, I also wrote and taught numerous corps and high school bands in the New England area. In 1990, I was elected vice president of DCA. In 1996, I was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame.
JR: You took over the presidents role in DCA following the death of Mickey Petrone. Replacing a legend is never easy and I am sure you felt like you had to live up to expectations. What did you feel were the most immediate concerns when you inherited the president’s chair?
GS: As you said, following a legend is never easy, and following someone who led DCA for 28 years like Mickey did was a daunting task. The cooperation from the directors of DCA and the leadership that Mickey had instituted with Red Corso as treasurer and Dan Rippon as secretary made the transition possible.
As far as the most immediate concerns, I would have to say making sure that the key people we had in place would stay and to add to the mix new people who shared the DCA commitment to entertain the fans. Once that was in place, I felt secure that we would at least get through the challenges we faced.
JR: What was in the best shape when you took over?
GS: I would say that the DCA Championship Committee was the group that had it together the best. People like Dick Eschenmann, Glen Johnson, Doc Sebastianelli, Dan Rippon, Red Corso, Donna Ernst and, of course, Tom Peashey. The dedication of these people and so many more made the first championship under the new administration a success. I would be remiss if I did not credit the wonderful corps that participated as well.
(Author’s note: Donna Ernst recently passed away and will be greatly missed. She handled the I&E events.)
JR: DCA is exploding in terms of growth. Right now at least 30 corps have registered to participate in DCA open class and class A. If that many show up, it’s easily a record for corps attendance at DCA. To what do you attest this incredible growth spurt?
GS: The growth in the all-aged corps has been incredible. The reason for it might be that exposure to the different areas of the country such as the South — with Heatwave, CorpsVets, Carolina Gold, and the West with the emergence of the Renegades and others — shows that drum corps life does not end at age-out from the junior corps.
Also, the all-aged corps appeal to the people who cannot give up the time and commitment needed to participate in a DCI corps. The DCA experience that is shared by the performers is both gratifying and challenging. Whatever the reason is, we welcome it and will do anything we can to encourage its success.
JR: We have had DCASouth for two years, and now we see the birth of DCAMidwest. In time, it’s easy to expect the birth of DCAWest. DCA has traditionally been in the Northeast, but at some point, someone is going to put in a bid to host DCA outside of its traditional area. What are your views on this?
GS: The fans in the Northeast have been with DCA since its inception. They have been loyal and supportive. I hope that they would be excited and happy to increase our fan base if we were to have the championship out of the area.
JR: With all of the growth these last few years, what do you envision for the future of DCA?
GS: One of the things we have done is set up a Strategic Planning Committee to answer that question. I have learned in my 33 years with DCA that everything is possible when we are all on the same page. So, as soon as we do that, I will be able to answer that question.
JR: What is the current status on the relationship between DCI and DCA?
GS: We have a good relationship with DCI. I respect what they do and how they do it and wish them continued success.
JR: Many are touting the success of division II and III corps appearing at DCA shows and are saying this could be the springboard for DCA to step up and help the non-member corps competing in DCI. Many others say that DCA is growing in ways never imagined and needs to focus on all-aged corps specifically. Where do your thoughts lie and what direction do you see DCA going with this?
GS: DCA has always helped division II and III corps whenever we have had an opportunity. We already share shows with them and will do whatever we have to do to promote drum corps. When and if the II and III corps feel they need DCA, we will address the issue. We approach growth in an orderly manner and the all-aged corps are always the priority.
JR: In 2003, Bb brass was voted on by the member corps with literally no pre-Rules Congress fanfare. This year, I will admit to seeing a copy of proposals and I put a few of them online for the world to see. One of the few things DCI does that a huge majority say they do a good job with is announcing upcoming Rules Congress proposals. My question to you, why does DCA not announce them?
GS: Until you announced them on the Internet, we did not perceive this as a problem, but it became clear to us that publishing rules proposals in advance is not what we want to do. Many proposals are discussed in the individual caption caucuses and are reworded or modified in some fashion, incorporated into other proposals, or even dropped altogether before they ever get to the directors for a vote.
A rules change proposal is just the first step in a process. Announcing them in advance this year whipped up controversy unnecessarily.
JR: Also, as one of the proposals this past year was amplification (which did not pass) and this is such a hot-button issue for many fans, members, instructors and directors alike, do you foresee amplification or electronics being utilized in DCA down the road?
GS: I personally do not believe that amplification belongs in drum corps. With the Rules Congress over, I know that for at least the next two years we will not have amplification. If it comes up again, I will be against it. However, as to what the future will bring, the directors of DCA will have the last word on this issue.
JR: Gil, I’d like to thank you for your time and your openness. I know you’re very busy and your time is valuable. DCW, the DCA fans and I thank you for your comments.