Vincent Bruni (Mr. B)
Founder and Director
Empire Statesmen Drum and Bugle Corps
World Drum Corps Hall of Fame
During more than 50 years of participation and commitment to the drum and bugle corps movement in North America, Vince Bruni - better known around the world as 'Mr. B'- became one the most respected and admired figures involved in the activity: and he earned the awards, trophies, testimonials, titles and lifelong friendships to prove it!
He passed away on August 29, 2003, on the eve of the annual Drum Corps Associates Labor Day weekend championship tournament.
In addition to his lifelong involvement in drum and bugle corps activity, he was a United States Navy veteran, and a career teacher in the Rochester, New York area school system.
The whole drum corps community across North America was Mr. B's extended 'family'. He was surrounded -and supported- closer to home by his immediate family, which includes a son and four daughters all living in Rochester; several grandchildren; one sister (three brothers are deceased); and various aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews across the country from New York to California.
Vince first became involved with drum and bugle corps activity in the late 1940s, when he joined the local corps in Brockport, just outside Rochester. A few years later, the corps founded by the Hilton fire department hired him to help lead the way from street parades to field contests. This unit became known as the Hilton Crusaders, founded in 1947 and still active today as the Rochester Crusaders. The Crusaders quickly became a highly successful unit, competing against corps from New York State, Province of Ontario, and beyond. The Crusaders became national American Legion champions by the 1960s. Under Mr. B's direction, the Crusaders were one of the rare super corps by the mid-1960s, winning the American Legion national title in the so-called “Golden Age” of drum corps, when junior and senior corps flourished in almost every community, and contest circuits, state and national level contests kept corps members on the move from late May until well into October.
Mr. B's strong commitment to community involvement began to emerge as early as the late 1950s, when Vince organized and directed three junior corps at the same time, while also serving as corps director and drill writer and instructor for the Crusaders. He established an umbrella group called United Drum Corps to handle the business management and other affairs of all these groups. The organization became the administration model later adopted by Drum Corps International and Drum Corps Associates. The local junior corps - the Statesmen, Alpine Girls and Pardee Pacers - gave city boys and girls the opportunity to take part in drum corps activity together, long before sports and other recreation activities offered girls and boys the same chance to participate and compete on even terms.
Youngsters from Rochester's inner city who are now members of the Empire Cadets marching band (sponsored as a community outreach program of the Empire Statesmen) enjoy the same benefits. The organized drum corps activity has also, of course, helped all these youngsters foster a life-long love of music. All these corps flourished, and traveled extensively throughout the North Eastern US and southern Ontario. Vince helped many corps outside Rochester rise to new heights because of his instruction capabilities and organizational skills.
He was a consultant and instructor with the Toronto Optimists during their unmatched string of 11 consecutive Canadian championships. He also taught drill for the Canadian Commanders senior corps, when it was the largest corps on the circuit.
Many marching bands flourished under his touch. A long-standing relationship with the Burlington (Ontario) Teen Tour Band began in the 1960s when he helped the Burlington boys and girls prepare for their first appearance in the Philadelphia March of Champions contest. No other Canadian band had ever been invited to compete. Burlington won the contest handily. The Band acknowledged Vince's continuing support in the mid 1990s, by naming him an honorary Teen Tour Band member...making him the oldest teenager in North America, and just the second non-Canadian to ever receive the honor.
The skills and attitudes that Vince developed during his long career as a school teacher helped him stimulate and improve the drum and bugle corps activity. In the mid 1960s, he began several years of service as president of Drum Corps Associates (DCA), which now, of course, regulates the activity of senior corps across North America. His dedication to fair play and honest dealings between organizations helped DCA flourish, so that the DCA final tournament held each September replaced both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) tournaments as the real U.S. national championship contest.
Vince always believed that strong competition on the field is good for the activity. He had a long history of supporting other organizations by lending equipment...as large as buses and trucks in some cases...providing organizational and business advice, performing at no cost to support festivals and special events, hosting parties and special social events for other groups and by encouraging his own corps members to get involved in the community. That's why, today, members of the Empire Statesmen are involved with a dozen area high school marching bands, and inner city youngsters are practicing and performing with the Empire Cadets.
The contributions to the activity of more than 400 men and women who share a passion for drum and bugle corps music and motion have been recognized by their induction to the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame. These Hall of Fame members include, of course, both Vince and David Bruni, and many other members of the Empire Statesmen family in the United States and Canada. Vince is the founder, and served as president for a quarter-century after the Hall of Fame was established in 1976. At the turn of the millennium, he spearheaded the introduction of a new associate Membership category, so that contributions of men and women in Canada and the United States could be widely recognized.
After more than 25 years of service with the Crusaders and other organizations, Vince took a short break from the activity in 1978, but returned with a new vision in 1983, when he founded the Empire Statesmen. For 20 years, the Statesmen reflected Vince's determination to offer members the opportunity to perform at the peak of their abilities, to expand performance opportunities beyond the contest field, and to foster a strong sense of good citizenship among members. Obviously, his vision became reality.
The Empire Statesmen:
- Were chosen the senior corps of the decade of the 1990s by the Hall of Fame.
- Won DCA world titles in 1991, 1994, 1997, 1998 and 2004.
- Won American Legion national titles in three consecutive years in 1997, 1998, 1999 and in 2004.
- Broke the tradition of only competing on the field by scheduling major concert tours during the height of the summer contest season. These tours have taken corps members to such locations as Norway, Mexico, Brazil, Barbados, Holland, England, France, Bermuda and Canada.
- Performed in Washington DC in the Inaugural Parade for President George W. Bush.
- Extended activity to a year-round schedule by staging winter and spring concerts, many in support of local community groups.
- Have remained committed to the philosophy of pleasing the audience, not the contest judges or instruction staff members.
- Won the World Show Band championship in London, England in 1998, with the highest score ever recorded.
- Is the only corps in history to win the Triple Crown: the American Legion, DCA, and World Show Band championship titles all in one year.
Showmanship is the key ingredient Mr. B demanded from his corps when they perform in front of thousands of people annually, whether it's as close to home as Highland Park, or as far away as Europe or South America. The Statesmen are entertainers: they give the audience a show they can enjoy as they watch, and talk about for days after the event.
Part of this showmanship involves letting the audience watch the faces of corps members as they perform. That's why Mr. B's group doesn't wear hats. The Empire Statesmen are the only drum and bugle corps in North America that doesn't include a hat or cap as part of the uniform. DCA recognized Mr. B's knack for entertaining the audience by creating a showmanship award presented each year during the DCA finals. It's called, of course, the Vince Bruni Showmanship Award.
This record of high caliber performance year after year has helped attract members from far beyond Rochester and western New York. Members have come from Canada, New Jersey, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, and across the Atlantic Ocean, from Holland!
Mr. B dedicated his life to the drum and bugle corps community, but the lessons he taught all of us extend far beyond the contest field, concert stage, or parade route.
He became a leader not by lecturing, but by setting an example we can all try to adapt to our own lives. He taught us the joy taking a genuine interest in others, and caring for their interests and activities. His interest included providing the level of support needed as events occur in our daily lives.
He remained friends with all his acquaintances, even those who did not share his opinions: there is plenty of room in the relationship between friends for differences of opinion.
His generosity was legendary. He loved to share not only his thoughts and enthusiasm, but anything else that was needed at the time.
He was always been a teacher, not only in the classroom during the days when he was a school instructor, but throughout his drum corps days. His interest in teaching young people, and adults, has improved the lifestyle and outlook of thousands of people across the continent.
These are all qualities we saw in Mr. B.
But perhaps his greatest quality is what he saw in us. He had the rare ability to peer into our personality, and bring out qualities we didn't know were there: he believed in our abilities, then nurtured, nudged, coaxed, and badgered us as required to bring these qualities out in the open so we became richer, stronger, better individuals.
He compelled us to become better individuals.
By being himself, he made each of us a better person, and that's the greatest gift a man could give.