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The 1990’s, Back in the mix and a 40th Birthday!...
The dawn of a new decade brought with it optimism and promise. The Hurricanes felt they had weathered the storm. Hooray for those dedicated members! They had overcome the challenges of those dark days, of the uncertainty that plagued the Corps during the second half of the 1980’s and had refused to cave. They had persevered, and by riding the will and pride of a small nucleus, had saved the Corps from extinction! This gritty group of survivors gave new meaning to the mantra, “Walk proud and tall”… and had every reason to!
1990 brought the return of Bob Bradley as Executive Director with Bill Duquette assuming the duties of Administrative Head and show/program coordinator. The duo of Bradley and Duquette stayed at the helm through 1992 with the express mission of revitalizing the Corps and returning them to the fold as a premier unit. They went to work and brought in a new creative staff consisting of John Arietano on brass, Joe Gaudette on percussion and the venerable Neal Smith returning to write the visual. To add to the excitement, a new uniform was unveiled. The uni consisted of a white cadet style jacket w/red piping and a black lapel, folded down from the breast panel. A red sash crossed the chest with a green cummerbund on the waist. It was topped by a black shako w/green plume and black pants and shoes, and not to be overlooked…black gauntlets bearing the signature lightning bolt. Those Hurricanes were resplendent in their new uniforms and eagerly marched into the fresh decade with invigoration, resolving to reclaim their stature in the upper echelon of the DCA. It was around this time that the “evolution of drum corps” obliged corps’ to tailor their shows to a theme. The theme of the 1990 corps was “Pictures of an Exhibition”, a good show that ultimately garnered 10th place at the championships in Allentown. Was it a great corps?...no, but the Hurricanes were certainly respectable and used 1990 as a springboard for some satisfying seasons to come.
Bill Duquette brought back Mickey Kelly as Show Coordinator for 1991. The inspirational Kelly put his head together with John Arientano on brass, Gus Barbaro on percussion, Steve Brubaker on visual and Jeanne Bibeault now charge of the color guard to produce one of the most popular Hurricane shows in quite awhile, themed, “Magic.” For 1992, Mickey and Arietano now teamed with Jim Miller on percussion and Jay Murphy on visual to conceive a “Gospel” show. Powerfull, entertaining and competitive, the Hurricanes were once again having fun! This resurgence continued in 1993 and 1994 under the guidance of new director Kevin Hassan and coordinators Mickey Kelly and Joe Vizzo respectively. The theme for those two years “Ben Hur” featured selections and pageantry from that movie. The brass now fell under the direction of Buddy Bibeault with the percussion under the tutelage of Bob Vitti and John Oddo with a visual program written by Jay Murphy in 1993 and Joe Vizzo in 1994. The Hurricanes of 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 had indeed re-established the Corps as a top DCA corps, landing in the prestigious top five in each of those years…5th in 1991, 4th in 1992, 5th in 1993 and 4th in 1994. These memorable years certainly would not have had the same luster without the contribution of the Hurricane color guard, the pride of the Corps since the “transformation” in 1977, under the guidance of Jeanne Bibeault, they performed at their utmost!
The year 1995 was a milestone year for the Hurricanes….marking 40 years of field competition! And what a celebration it was! New director Rich Mastrioani endorsed the sentiment to go with a “Hurricane” show reminiscent of bygone years. Buddy Bibeault on brass and Jeff Moore heading up percussion, teamed to arrange a wonderfully dynamic show, one dripping Hurricane green, that delighted every audience; “Stormy Weather”, a Gershwin medley of “Rhapsody in Blue/Concerto in F,” “Maria” and of course “Hang em High/Magnificent 7.” Neal Smith chipped in too….designing a dazzling, fast pace visual program, beginning and ending with the Corps shield and a few lightning bolts! Perhaps his finest design for the Hurcs! And once again in 1995, the Hurricanes finished in the top five in 5th place, logging a final score in the 90’s for the fourth time in five years.
The successes of the 1990’s to date, were due in large part to a burst of alumni, coming in and solidifying the membership. Returning veterans, among them; Larry and David McLennan, Ray “Rosey” Flowers, Rickie Averill, Joe Nicholson, Mike Kasper, Tommy Brady, and Gail Bottilo bolstered a dedicated nucleus consisting of such talent as; John Glynn, Doug Oravez, Rich Yelenick, John “Junior” Curran, Danny Stafieri, Pete Propfe, Helen Rosado and Cheryl Curran et al. The level of achievement would not, however, be sustained. Following the 1995 season, the promise and success the Corps had demonstrated over the past six years began to slip. Beginning in 1990 many veterans returning to the Corps gave them a necessary lift. Not to be misunderstood, these people performed as they had in the past; at a level of excellence they clearly understood. They were, however, still only a band-aid. A solution for sustaining continuous recruiting opportunities remained elusive. Thus at about this time, when the vets trickled out, their numbers and talent could not easily be replaced. Recruiting efforts geared toward local school bands was yielding limited results…but a formal strategy for recruiting had yet to be developed and would take time to refine and mature.
In 1996 Rich Mastrioani assembled a team consisting of; Buddy Bibeault on brass, Hurricane phenom
Dave Dion handling percussion, Danny McBride coming in for the visual program and Bob Godbout handling the color guard. The show featured selections from the musical “Lion King”. In 1997, Bob Bradley, who succeeded Rich Mastrioani as director brought back the venerable John Arietano on brass, Dion on percussion and McBride designing the visual program. Bert Serrano was a significant addition to the visual staff, choreographing for, and imparting his talents to the always “solid” color guard. This creative team took a different direction by choosing a jazzy selection of Duke Ellington tunes. Bradley, recognizing that the uniforms (circa 1990) were no longer serviceable, needed a cheap solution. He resurrected the double knit white tops from the 1970’s and complimented them with a black cummerbund and red sash. Although this was not the best look the Corps ever had, it served its purpose; filling a void until new uniforms could be purchased for 1998.
Pete Propfe assumed the directorship in 1998 and set about a winter of fund raising to acquire those new uni’s. The uniforms arrived in time for Memorial Day. What a welcome site to see the Corps decked out in crisp new uniforms sporting a fresh “Hurricane” look; Kelly green jacket, adorned by a white citation cord and silver buttons, a black and silver lightning bolt across the chest, white pants and shoes and the black Hurricane “cop” hat topping it off. An eclectic show of “Baroque Samba,” plus “Stella by Starlight” and a revived number, “Swing Swing Swing” was produced by a holdover creative staff. Since the 1995 season, the Corps had indeed busted tail, never loosing their enthusiasm or desire, yet they had slipped into the second division, placing 9th, 6th and 7th in 1996, 1997 and 1998 respectively.
Following a disappointing conclusion of the 1998 season, the Corps looked towards new direction. Al DeSantis was appointed director. Al got an immediate boost in his quest to bring the Hurricanes up in the standings with the hiring of Jim Dugan Jr. as Show/Staff Coordinator. Jim, the son of popular Hurc Hall of Famer Jim Sr., had been pursued for some time, as he possessed a wealth of proven talent and experience. He got right to work and brought in Laurie Kunzle to arrange the brass, Carl Boos as drill/visual designer with Bert Serrano guiding the guard and the ever reliable Dave Dion to write the percussion book.
Jim’s show concept for 1999 was one of genius…….the “Magnificent Seven Suite” with a little “Hang ‘em High” tossed in! In this, the era of themed shows, it is perhaps, one of the finest shows the Hurricanes have ever done. The Corps performance level progressed slower than desired but after a somewhat slow start, it continually gained momentum. Week after week they got better and better and peaked at the DCA championships scoring a 90.10, good for 6th place. Thus ended the 90's.
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