Chapter 8

2000’s…The “Track of the Storm” accelerates!

  The new century brought with it high expectations. With the creative staff returning, Jim Dugan again designed a unique program for the Corps entitled “Celtic Pride”, a compilation of Irish tunes touted as the most original show of the year. The 2000 Hurricanes progressed much like the 1999 corps…with marked improvement, week to week, that culminated at the DCA’s with 6th place and an impressive 91.30. The year of 2001, however, brought change and disappointment to the Hurricanes. Management’s foot dragging and indecision led to the departure of Dugan. Al DeSantis continued as director and brought in a new staff. Unfortunately, some of this creative staff, although coming with years of drum corps experience, was ill-prepared to fulfill their commitment as expected….and didn’t. To make the situation worse, a portion of the staff was gone by spring and the realization that the show was less than desirable had sunk in. The state of the Corps took yet another hit on the day of the Barnum Festival when two key members abandoned their commitment, quit, and took people with them! Al DeSantis started damage control…instructors Hillary Anderson, Steve St. Mary, Bob Kogut and Dennis Banks stepped it up considerably, and promoted a positive spirit.  Veterans including Joe Nicholson, Ray Clark, Gail Bottillo, Phil Vizzo, Doug Oravez and Bernie Malesky jumped in to join a determined nucleus of members like Bob Waterhouse, Thomas Greenhalgh, Carl “Fluff” Adkins, Phil Waselic, Carrie Fenninger, Anthony D’Andrea Jr. and Danny Staffieri in an effort to salvage the season.
The “revised” goal had become to maintain status in the top ten. Hurricane pride kicked in, the corps worked hard and 10th place was ultimately achieved. It was an ill-advised, regrettable year, but the lessons learned will not be forgotten.    


   With 2001 being history, the Corps now looked to the future. Management, along with Al DeSantis, took steps they felt necessary to bring the Corps back to where they belong…among the top five corps in the DCA. Jeff Smith was hired as the 2002 Show Coordinator/ Visual Designer, Bernie Malesky was elevated to Program Director and Dave Dion was brought back as both the Brass and Percussion arranger and Bert Serrano kept the guard sharp. With the addition of some very strong members in this period of the early 2000’s, among them, Vinny Cataudella, Jess Tenka, James Haber and Joe Stefon, Erin Mclaughlin and Brian “Soap” Maroldt. The Hurricanes began the season with a familiar pattern, despite a good winter, with a slow start building towards a somewhat respectable finish. The show, titled “Fanfare for the Common Man”, ended good enough to cop an 8th place finish at the championship.

   A few noteworthy changes occurred for 2003; Bernie Malesky was named Director upon Al DeSantis’ retirement. Bernie also retained the program directors position. In addition Anthony Erevia was put in charge of color guard design. Although the Hurricanes made a dedicated effort in 2003, the show, “Viva Las Vegas” was not strong enough and resulted in a disappointing placement of 11th at DCA prelims.

  Missing the finals in 2003 was unacceptable. Changes were again in order, that elusive combination of chemistry and continuity were still evading the Hurcs. Eddie Griffin joined Bernie as Show Coordinator/ Visual Caption Head, with Chris Bernotas as brass arranger (2004- 2005), and Jack Perciful, (2004- 2005), writing the drill charts with Brian Mason arranging percussion. 2004 marked the Hurricanes 50th anniversary of field competition and the musical program chosen was reflective of those five decades. Nostalgic highlights featured an on field warm-up of “Rhapsody in Blue” arranged by Joe Genero, as well as the appearance of five veteran Hurricane buglers; Art Hlywa, Bob Glovna, Tom Eaton, Tom Brady and Jim Nestor, replete in throwback uniforms, representing the decades. They were also joined by another alum in retro uniform, assistant DM Bob Findley. The sight of these guys coming across the field, giving their all, as they had in years past was indeed a treat which added a nice touch to that tribute program! Results in 2004 were very similar to recent years…slow start building to an enthusiastic finish, however, the Corps had begun a steady ascension in the rankings toward regaining top five status. Having returned to finals in 2004 (10th) was the first step.


   Tom “Gabby” Gabianelli succeeded long time Board President Bob Bradley at the end of 2004 and began an overhaul of the Corps from top to bottom, with a stated goal of returning the Hurricanes to sustained prominence. Much to the relief of every Hurricane at this juncture, the light at the end of the tunnel was shining brighter and brighter. It seems as if the long, inhibitive recruiting dilemma has finally been successfully addressed. The high school band competition circuit has gradually gained widespread popularity. The activity, a mirror image of drum corps, consists of field competition, and is steeped with drum corps influence. With writing and instruction for the high schools as well as the college marching band scene heavily represented by the drum corps community, the talent pool for the Hurricanes has broadened dramatically and the Hurricanes took the necessary steps to harmonize with every faction of the marching arts community. Traditional, strict attendance rules were relaxed to encourage fulfillment of school and family commitments.

   The Corps average age declined, thus, appropriate codes of conduct were adopted, you see, although the Hurricanes are an “All Age” corps, they are very much a youth organization as well! The silver lining lies with the training and ability this influx of new talent possesses. 2005 also saw the inception of a youth branch of the Hurricanes…the Hurricane Cadets!....A Community Outreach program intended to opportune all youths from schools in neighboring towns, the Y.M.C.A. as well as youth from the Boys and Girls Club of the lower Naugatuck Valley a vehicle to expand and explore their musical talents and interests as well to encourage participation in the marching arts. 

   “And now to us the torch has passed, from hands that reach out from the past, to fill our hearts with lightning’s flames, all one, forever, Hurricanes!” With a plan in place, one reflecting a contemporary awareness, the Corps got to work. Guided by director Bernie Malesky and coordinator Eddie Griffin, the Corps level of performance continued to steadily rise. With reliable Dave Dion once again arranging the brass, Brian Mason on percussion (2005-2007) and Tony Deyo writing the visual, the Hurcs were being noticed.  The 2005-2006 seasons produced top ten finishes…10th in 2005 and 7th in 2006… but although the Corps was still in the second division, they had shown substantial improvement overall. Gabby and his team, including long time board member Bob Smith, remained hard at work and stunned the Corps with an extraordinary announcement following the 2006 season. The Board of Directors had positioned the organization for a major, all encompassing upgrade. Acquisitions over the winter of 2006- 2007 completely re-outfitted the entire corps! B-flat brass, new drums, new front ensemble equipment and new uniforms! The excitement throughout the winter, with new equipment coming through the door every week, was unprecedented.  The uniform is a striking, contemporary design featuring a black & white jacket with a folded down breast panel, accented by a vivid green lightning bolt, black pants and shoes, black gloves and gauntlets, also with vivid green accents and the traditional Hurricane hat. Dave Dion stepped up big in 2007 by taking on the multiple responsibilities of show/ staff coordinator, brass arranger as well as lead drum major.  Dave gave an exhaustive effort in producing the much anticipated show, “The Music of Leonard Bernstein,” overseeing every aspect. The membership responded well by logging a 92.488 score in the DCA finals performance. Although that score translated to 7th place, the gap was closing, leaving the Corps anxious to get to work preparing for 2008!   


   As 2008 dawns… the Corps is poised to make the jump. Jimmy Dugan returns. Yep, Jim came back to finish what he’d envisioned for the Hurricanes nine years ago…..Winning!!!  In true Dugan style, a new team was assembled; Dave Dion as brass arranger, Kevin Murphy took over the battery, while Tim Holcomb wrote the front ensemble music. Phil Triani was in charge of the guard and Jamey Thompson composed the visual program. One other key addition to this superior creative staff was marching guru extraordinaire, Joe Roche. The show this team produced was titled “Return to the American West”; a continuation of the successful western concept Dugan had put forth in 1999.[Text Box:]    When the 2008 season ended, it also marked the end of Dave Dion’s nearly two decade journey in green. The widely acclaimed arranger, Michael Klesch came on board to write the brass charts. On the heels of the popular western theme of 2008, this talented creative staff determined that going further “West” made sense and put together the 2009 show….”Gold Rush.” The Corps clicked on all cylinders over these two seasons, producing 1st place honors in eight shows, along with five 2nd, two 3rds, two 4ths and one 5th place. Championship competition has been fierce, with all of the top corps stepping up their game in an effort to unseat the juggernaught Reading Buccaneers from the top spot on the heels of their unprecedented 5 undefeated seasons. The DCA’s found the Hurricanes firmly entrenched in the prestigious top five, 4th (94.913) in 2008 and 4th again (95.838) in 2009. Also noteworthy, capping off 2009, was the completion of two, well deserved, consecutive undefeated seasons by the color guard, as well witnessing Rich Tardie, Captain of the Honor Guard since 1994, leading his veteran team, comprised of members, among them, Carol Bickley and Sue and Rusty Boll to their 6th consecutive “Best Honor Guard” trophy in 2009.

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