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|History for Defenders||Rockland, MA|
|Inactive Junior Corps founded in 1958||Did you march Defenders?|
|Other names: Holy Family Defenders|
The history of the Defenders Drum and Bugle Corps can be viewed as three distinct eras. The Rockland Defenders (1959-1960), Holy Family Defenders (1960-1975), and the Plymouth County Defenders (1980-1982). |
Like many other drum corps in the fall of 1959, the corps was sponsored by the local Catholic parish, Holy Family Church in Rockland, Massachusetts. The corps competed in the Eastern Massachusetts and CYO circuits in the greater Boston area, and rose steadily through the ranks of the local competitive circuits.
The Defenders began competing in Class C in 1960 and '61, then moved up into Class B in 1962 and '63. In 1964, the Defenders finally reached the top and competed in Class A for two years, but dismal results forced a return to Class B, where the corps' efforts was again met with success.
The Defenders experienced their greatest success as a Class B corps in the local circuits. In 1963 and again in 1967, the corps won both the CYO and Emass Championships. It was during the mid-60s the corps began its feeder system. It was the success of this feeder system that catapulted the corps into the next era.
In 1968, turmoil within the management of the corps brought about the sudden demise of the "senior" Defenders. The senior corps was disbanded after the 1968 competitive season, although the junior (feeder) corps continued to practice and march in parades throughout the following year.
In the summer of 1970, the Holy Family Defenders once again took to the competition field in the local circuits as a Class C corps. Sixteen brass and 12 percussion made up the musical sections. The corps' first brass instructor was Ed Denon, assisted by Steve Dorgan. Percussion was instructed by Kevin Shea, and the visual instructor was Joe Casey.
Although the name change to Plymouth County Defenders wouldn't take effect for several years, the corps' identity and direction were notably different from that of its defunct parent corps, largely due to the vision of the new management team and staff. Under the leadership of Al King, the management recruited a diverse staff of experienced instructors like Ed Denon and Joe Caset, as well as a group of talented unknowns like Jerry Hicket, Mary Berkley, Steve Dorgan and home-grown Kevin Shea, to work with this "new" corps.
Over the years, many up-and-coming instructors would have an impact on the corps' success. Names like Neil Smith, Don McTaggart, George Zingali, Steve Covitz, Peggy Twiggs, John Sullivan, Vinn Radford, and Dale Powers contributed significantly to the Defenders' consistent improvement. This combination of experience and youth in instructors helped formulate the corps' fundamental philosophy that would prove to be the reason for this "hick town" corps' success. The difference between the new Defenders and the old was that winning was never set as THE goal to attain. The focus was on perfecting the details that contribute to the overall image; the winning would ultimately take care of itself. This attention to detail was the reason for the squeaky clean image the corps portrayed throughout the 1970s.
In 1974, the corps began competing more outside of local circuits. Although the majority of the corps was still from the greater Rockland area, a steady influx of members from outside was beginning to have an impact. Also during this period a combination of philosophical differences, less financial support from the parish, and a need for greater autonomy put a strain on the relationship between corps management and the parish.
During the winter of 1976-77, the corps severed its relationship with the parish and took on the new name The Defenders of Plymouth County. This name change signified more than just a new identity. It represented independence as well as a commitment to a new direction. Over the next several years, the Defenders would entertain audiences in every state east of the Rockies. During this travel, it was not uncommon to pick up new members along the way to fill in the blanks. These new out-of-state members were attracted to the corps by its clean image and the strong sense of family that was evident even to the casual onlooker. New members often offered reasons for jumping on board like "They were entertaining;" "They looked like they enjoy one another;" and "They know how to have fun."
One of the more memorable times the corps experienced was when it made the World Open Finals for the first time in 1977, in which they finished tenth. In 1980 through '82, the corps was able to consistently place in the top 25 at the World Open.
In the winter of 1983, after falling short of their expectation of breaking into the elite top 12 the previous season, the corps membership was at an all-time low, and the corps was deeply in debt. The corps' management made the difficult decision to disband.
[Gary Peterson, inter alia]
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