by Jim Hager
This article was originally published in the February 2011 issue of Drum Corps World.
Publisher’s note: Jim and I met back in 1974, but hadn’t stayed in touch. When Paul Jasionowski passed away on January 4, Jim contacted me about contributing this piece on his good friend. Paul and I never met, but we did correspond as I prepared to put together the DCI history book, “Drum Corps International: The First Decade, 1972-1981.” Paul work with author Nic Waerzeggars who wrote the book’s text. Some of Paul’s quotes from that chapter are included below.
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Some time in the late fall of 1979, the 27th Lancers had announced that they would be performing at the opening and closing ceremonies at Lake Placid, NY. As a member of the drum staff — and being a Lancer alum — I had my doubts that it would ever happen. Even as we were boarding the busses I still had my doubts that we’d ever get there.
With that news, the corps’ normal winter program of small numbers in every section suddenly swelled. And I dare say, the staff was recruiting alumni to perform as well. Heck, there was no age limit, It was the Olympics and we were afraid of not having enough members to represent ourselves, the city of Revere, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the entire nation– and all of drum corps.
As luck would have it, we did get many new members to walk through the doors at corps hall and Revere High School. It was a very rare occasion when a single member would walk through the door. It was usually two or more kids from a corps, locally or nationally. We were also fortunate the local drum corps scene was still flourshing.
I remember the groups of kids that joined. The kids from the ValleyAirs in Northbridge — two snares, a tenor and a cymbal player. From Athol/Gardner area and the Simplex Minutemen we got Michael Lore and Paul “Jazz” Jasionowski on snare and Jim Polana on tenor. While I am certain the defection from their former corps was criticized back in their home town, this was a huge contribution for the 27th Lancers. All of these kids were very talented, all were ambitious, all were respectful and hungry, they were “ripe” to be brainwashed into the Lancer world of corps.
I remember all of the characters from these two corps in particular. They were from small towns in central Massachusetts and the transition to Revere was as much of a culture shock to them as it was for us to meet them. There was a sense of a “time warp,” although these communities were within 50 miles of each other.
Paul in particular was well-positioned to play. Bill Jamsa never received the credit he deserved for getting those Minutemen versed in the art of rudimental snare drumming. Paul also had a superb stance when marching with his snare. In every picture of the Lancers’ snare line, Paul stands out remarkably due to his great posture, shoulder and arm/hand position. He was an avid learner and certainly earned his spot in the line.
Lake Placid was part 1 of our 1980 season. Perhaps as many kids quit after the Olympic experience as had joined. And although we had learned our summer routine, it was as if we had to re-teach the show to another corps before the season began. I can say, however, that none of the kids from Athol/Gardner or Northbridge left the corps. These guys were true blue collar workers and were there for the season.
Paul and Michael and Jim not only survived, they also flourished in the competitive enviroment. It wasn’t just the kids who were performing at a world class level — winning and winning and winning that year. The staff had never expereienced such success. It was as much of a new experience for us, a staff of complete alumni. We had been competitors when we marched, but none of us had experienced the success that we were training these young people for. They competed so well, in the drumming subcaption and overall score. Not many kids can ever say they actually beat the Blue Devils, but those members can say it proudly.
Paul wasn’t ever satisfied with just learning/playing. He was curious enough to ask for help, for clarification, to have a better understanding of why something should be done a certain way. I believe Bill Jamsa deserves credit for making Paul feel comfortable doing that and I’ll take credit (along with many other Lancer staff members) for giving Paul the courage and stamina to instill confidence and, with his ability, to become a great success at it.
I have no doubt that 27th had a positive affect on his life. But he is the one who deserves the pat on the back for taking the tools presented to him and putting them to good use. His love of music and percussion (are they two separate things?) and the self-descipline from drum corps, surely allowed him to excel in college and to earn his Master’s Degree. His ability to judge, to verbalize and critique, and to evaluate with numbers — that courage comes from within, but the confidence is gained over years of effort and personal experience. I know he was a great influence and I am certain there are many others whom he affected, but have not chosen music as a profession.
There was an expression I heard many years ago — “No one knows how far a teacher’s influence goes.” It suggests that we all take something from our previous experiences and those mentors perhaps learned something and we in turn use those tools. I have no doubt that [those who went through the Lancers] are using lessons or remember techniques learned from Paul, who perhaps learned from me or Jack Cash or Charley Poole or Bill Jamsa . . .
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Paul J. Jasionowski
Pine Lake, GA
July 20, 1962 – January 4, 2011
A native of Massachusetts, Paul Jasionowski received a Bachelor of Music from the College of Music at the University of Lowell and a Master of Music and teaching credential from California State University at Long Beach. During his graduate studies at Cal State-Long Beach, he was a teaching assistant and the recipient of performance scholarships, and chosen as one of the winners of the 1989 Concerto Competition. He also pursued additional studies as a scholarship student at the Aspen Music Festival and the Music Academy of the West.
Paul held percussion positions with various regional symphony orchestras, big bands and theater shows in the greater metropolitan areas of Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. He toured extensively and performed 12 times at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble.
Paul recorded for Columbia Artists and appeared on local Los Angeles radio and television, as well as the Australian Broadcasting Company. He also performed under the batons of film composer John Williams, Lawrence Leighton Smith, John Alexander and Donald Neuen.
In 2003, he performed on the world premiere of Paradigm Shift by Raymond Chase, with the Cincinnati Horn Connection at the International Horn Symposium, Indiana University School of Music at Bloomington.
In May 2005, he performed with the Cincinnati Horn Connection on the world premiere of Cor Magnificat by Raymond Chase.
Besides his involvement with orchestral and big band percussion, Paul was a member of the famed 27th Lancers Drum and Bugle Corps from Revere, MA, from 1980 to 1983. He was on the percussion staffs of the DCI-member Spirit of Atlanta and the Anaheim Kingsmen. He also wrote for and taught various high school and college marching bands in Massachusetts, California and Georgia. He was an adjudicator and clinician for Drum Corps West, the American Drumline Association, Southern California Marching Band Association, WGI Regional Percussion, Drums Across California and other circuits.
After moving to Georgia, Paul performed with the Savannah Symphony, Orchestra Atlanta, Gainesville Symphony, DeKalb Symphony, Cobb Symphony, Augusta Symphony and Macon Symphony, where he played on the recording “Bravo!” In August 2005, he was named principal percussionist of the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra.
He also branched out into conducting, leading wind ensembles at Georgia Perimeter College, the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and the Atlanta Concert Band. In February 2004, he was named music director/conductor of the Atlanta Lawyers Orchestra.
At the academic level, Paul held teaching positions at the elementary, middle school, high school and college levels. He was most recently a music specialist at Smoke Rise Elementary School in Decatur, GA, where he taught chorus, eurythmics, general music, music theory and percussion. In 2003 he served as chairman of the DeKalb County Elementary Honor Chorus Festival. In August 2005, he joined the board of directors of the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde.
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The following comments are about the 27th Lancers’ performance at the 1980 Winter Olympics performance in Lake Placid, NY, from an article he provided for the DCI history book released in 2010.
The temperature was around 30 degrees when we performed the opening ceremony. Our equipment manager, Wayne Kelly, used antifreeze on the brass instruments to keep the valves from freezing.
During the recap of Folk Song Suite toward the end of the performance, my snare drum head shattered and my stick broke, flying off into the back of the stadium.
Thank God the performance was finished.
During the closing performance, we had to march out on to the ice. In order to keep us from slipping, Kelly put sand paper on the soles of our marching shoes.
Moses Pendleton, the choreographer, wanted us to roll around on the ice. George Zingali kept asking, “What? You want everyone to roll around on the ice?”
Moses kept saying, “Yes, yes! I want everyone to roll around on the ice.”
Moses and George were like Abbott and Costello, telling everyone to roll around on the ice. No one was complying. All of a sudden everyone erupted in protest. Gerard Dwyer, the drum major, shouted, “Corps, ten-hut!” Everyone went to attention. There was silence in the rink. Moses turned to Gerard and asked, “How did you do that?”
A compromise was made. Instead of rolling around on the ice, the entire corps — without our instruments, rifles and flags — made a large circle by leaning over and putting both arms around each other’s shoulders, then rotated the large circle across the rink. Every four or eight counts, we rose up and gave a big laugh.
As the athletes from the different countries marched into the stadium during the opening ceremony, I was able to stand inside the entrance and watch them march by. When the U.S. team marched in, the audience erupted into cheers and applause. When the Russian team entered, the audience booed them. I was standing right next to them. I could see their faces.
After taking some pictures near the speed skating rink outside on the football field of Lake Placid High School, I walked up to the entrance of the ice hockey rink. Suddenly the doors burst open and a large crowd of people came running out with the U.S. hockey players. I managed to get stuck right in the middle of the crowd.
The hockey players still had their skates on. One of the players had the U.S. flag draped around his shoulders. They were spraying champagne and beer in the air and on each other, including me. I asked, “What is going on?” Someone answered, “You don’t know? The Americans just beat the Russians!”
These comments by Paul Jasionowski are from chapter 15, pages 191-192, of “Drum Corps International: The First Decade, 1972-1981,” produced for DCI by Drum Corps World and published in June 2010.
This book and a companion volume, “Drum Corps International: The First 35 Years in Photos,” are available on the DCW Web site — www.drumcorpsworld.com — currently priced as a package for $35.00 plus shipping and handling.