After 35 years with The Cavaliers, corps director Jeff Fiedler (left in photo) retires and hands over the reins to former assistant Bruno Zuccala. Both directors speak about the past, present and future.
Jeff Fiedler has participated with The Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps from Rosemont, Ill., as a member and instructor for the past 35 years. During his 17 years as director, the group won all seven of its Drum Corps International (DCI) World Championships and grew to be a major powerhouse in the drum corps world.
Bruno Zuccala started with The Cavaliers as an instructor in 1985 after marching in the General Richard Butler Vagabonds Drum and Bugle Corps from Lyndora, Pa. He most recently served as assistant director of The Cavaliers.
As the corps celebrates its 60th anniversary this season, Fiedler and Zuccala reflect on the corps’ past successes and future goals.
Halftime: Talk about your history with drum corps and The Cavaliers.
Fiedler: I started with the corps in our cadet corps in 1973. At the same time, I was starting in high school and just starting on the trombone. Two years later I moved up to the A Corps as a baritone player for four years. [In 1979 and 1980 Fiedler served as drum major.]
I was part of the instructional staff, color guard and visual staff and, in 1985, became the personnel director. Around 1988 I moved up to the assistant director position, and in the fall after the 1990 season, I became corps director. [The Cavaliers also won all seven of their DCI Championships while Fiedler was director.]
Zuccala: I started out marching as a kid. I marched in a drum corps in western Pennsylvania. I actually started teaching and ended up with The Cavaliers in 1985. I did some visual tech and started teaching the color guard, going from a tech to a caption head, and also was the assistant director prior to being the director.
Halftime: What’s your favorite memory with The Cavaliers?
Fiedler: Probably the most memorable is all the staff and members and volunteers that you work with. Watching those guys grow up, the staff members going on to bigger and better things, becoming a part of the world of music education and performance. It’s great to see those guys achieve like that. They all recognize the corps as part of their experience.
You could cite DCI championships— different ones—but there’s just too many great memories to cite just one as a favorite.
Halftime: Can you comment on Jeff Fiedler’s career with The Cavaliers?
Zuccala: He was an excellent leader. He set examples for hard work and determination and making sure that the corps always came first. I think that’s probably the biggest part of his contribution.
Halftime: What are your plans for the corps? How will you build off of recent successes?
Zuccala: First of all, it’s always been a partnership. Jeff and I have worked together for a number of years. I always looked at it as: We were a really good team. The staff is pretty much intact. The volunteers are pretty much intact. We have two different management styles, but overall the corps is great. We’re going to continue being a great organization.
Halftime: Why were you chosen for the job?
Zuccala: First of all, my background is in education. I’ve been in the public school system for 30 years, so I think that’s probably a good component. Also, I think I’ve set a good example for the young men in The Cavaliers, and I think that my reputation and my treatment of the guys has always been that the guys come first.
Halftime: What has drum corps taught you?
Zuccala: Wow. Well, this is my 41st year doing drum corps. I was 9 years old, and now I’m 50. I would say the biggest thing it’s taught me is the value of friendship. I’m still friends with guys I marched with. Most of it is learning about people and how to treat people and respect people and differences. That’s the most important thing that I’ve learned.
Fiedler: One of the things I learned is you get more out of people when you treat them as individuals and you know their name and are able to reference who they are. … People have to trust you, and they have to believe in what you have to say. Engaging people into your vision makes things that much more credible, and you get more people on your team that way.
Halftime: Who/what inspires you?
Zuccala: There are a lot of people that I would say are important. I would have to say that probably Steve Brubaker inspired me the most. The people that he actually started out in the activity are very successful. … He used to be the drill writer for The Cavaliers when the corps started toward their success in the mid-80s through their first Drum Corps International Championship in 1992. He taught and wrote for many famous winter guards and drum corps, but The Cavaliers were always his number one priority in the activity. He taught me a lot about how to set up the program.
Fiedler: Working with our board and staff, there’s just been some great progress. The corps is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The fact that we kept moving things ahead was really a large part of it.
It’s more than just coming back every year and having another corps, another show. Bruno has been the assistant director for 12 years. He’s got the passion and the drive to move everything ahead.
Halftime: You were recently hired as CEO for Santa Clara Vanguard. What does this new position entail?
Fiedler: It’s a little bigger organization. … It supports a number of performing organizations. There are two drum corps, a winter color guard, a number of dance programs, and they also offer a number of things musically that aren’t necessarily related to drum corps.
Two months after I retired, I was in the middle of my search for an institutional advancement position, and there’s sort of a parallel between what the Vanguard does—and really all of drum corps—and institutional advancement.
It’s about engaging the alumni and the families and the community into what you’re doing.
Halftime: Do have any advice for other directors and corps?
Fiedler: I think drum corps is a great experience. … It doesn’t make you a master of one thing—it makes you a jack-of-all-trades. If students and directors use this as an experience to further their work ethic, further their experience, it can be invaluable later on. … Take as much as you can from it, not just performancewise, but educationally. They’re experiences that will last a lifetime.
Note from the Editor: Click here to read more about Fiedler’s new career.