In the spring of 1994, Tom Blair, producer/director of the telecast of DCI finals on PBS and ESPN2, asked me if I would consider joining the on-camera broadcast team. I welcomed the opportunity to work with Tom, Michael Cesario and, of course, Steve Rondinaro.
Fifteen years later, we’re still doing it although in 2008 we will be in theaters only (for quarterfinals) and not on television.
Rondinaro is, in person, exactly as he is on television: warm, articulate, knowledgeable and passionate about drum corps and network news. Rondinaro joined the Squires Drum and Bugle Corps when he was 9 years old and stayed until 21. At the same time, he pursued a broadcast career. At 15, he began on radio, then worked his way through television. In 1995, Rondinaro and his wife bought a radio station in Boone, N.C., then sold it and bought a local television station. Last year, he took a job as anchor for an ABC affiliate in Wilmington, N.C.
I asked Rondinaro about his experience on the DCI telecast.
DD: When did you become involved with the DCI telecast?
SR: 1979 in Birmingham. Five hours live on PBS! It was hot and exciting and challenging, to say the least.
DD: How different is the broadcast on ESPN?
SR: The main difference is that ESPN wanted us to explain the competitive side of drum corps much more than PBS, so our commentary took on a more analytical tone.
DD: Last year The Cadets’ George Hopkins pulled the corps off the field while you were live to movie theaters. How did you handle that?
SR: I changed to “breaking news” mode, and my brain split many ways. We watched the field live not knowing exactly what was happening; we watched the monitor to see what Tom was sending to the theaters; we talked about the situation in the booth; I created questions for you and John Madden; and I listened for info in my earpiece. Whew! By the way, I do think that George did the right thing for the safety of his corps.
DD: Any highlights and/or lowlights?
SR: The highlights have to include Maynard Ferguson playing a soprano bugle, Rita Moreno’s enthusiasm about drum corps, Curt Gowdy’s professional aura and the surprise ceremony commemorating my 25th year on the broadcast. The only lowlight is not having a telecast to do this year!