The Optimists Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1 + 1 = 1
At the end of 1975, Al Tierney was named corps director. Tierney was determined to become a DCI Finalist corps. At an Ontario Drum Corps Association meeting, he jokingly suggested to Wolfgang Petschke, director of the Seneca Princemen, that they should merge their corps. Little did Tierney know that Petschke had been trying to retire as director, but couldn’t find a replacement. The merger was arranged.
Seneca Optimists at DCI (1977)
The Seneca Optimists created their own identity with brilliant yellow cadet tunics and black trim. The new instructional staff was almost as large as some of the horn lines fielded by the Optimists in the late 1950s.
Peter Byrne and Myron Melnyk taught the arrangements by Wayne Downey. Sam Kays, Al Murray and Pat Irvine instructed percussion. Drill was designed by Gary Czapinski and taught by Greg Oxenham, Tom Furiano, Doug Coull and Gilles Paquin.
Colour guard, which was a great strength of the Seneca corps, was instructed by Marie Czapinski, Wendy Paquin and Debbie Miller.
At DCI in 1976, the corps made finals, placing 10th, still behind Oakland Crusaders, but their objective had been achieved. In the process, Toronto became the only city to ever have two corps in DCI Finals.
In 1977, Seneca became, in the eyes of many, the greatest Canadian drum corps ever fielded. The musical program of "Mahler’s Seventh Symphony", "Children’s Dance", selections from “West Side Story”, “Pippin” and "Road Ode" was anchored by a spectacular drill move involving a black and white parachute.
The corps finished eighth at DCI and became the only Canadian corps to win the US Open. They also won the Canadian Championship. It would be the last waltz.
The summer of 1978 was the final year of existence for this proud Canadian organization. It wasn’t a very good finish. The corps had lost a massive number of members at the end of 1977 and the spark was gone. They finished 24th at DCI in Denver and lost the Canadian Championships to L’Offensive Lions of Jonquiere, QUE.
During their 21 years of existence, the Optimists reached unparalleled heights in Canadian drum corps. To this day, their record of 11 consecutive national titles has never been equaled and it likely never will. This all happened a long, long time ago, but for those who were there, it seems like only yesterday.