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Cambria Heights resident elected to Drum Corps Hall

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Cambria Heights resident Eugene Bennett has reached the pinnacle of choreographing routines for marching bands and color guards. On Aug. 31, he and six others will be inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame for their contribution to drum and bugle corps.

Bennett, 62, who was singled out for setting the standards for drum corps design and drills during his 30 years of working with marching bands in Queens and Long Island, joins the more than 190 regular members and 80 associate members in the hall located in Rochester, N.Y.

“It is kind of strange because I never thought this would happen,” Bennett said. “There are so many people that I learned to choreograph from in the hall. It is a great honor to be recognized. It is a great feeling.”

Bennett said the fact that he was elected by his peers and competitors makes his entrance into the hall even more special. He has worked with those people and learned from them over the years.

Even though Bennett plays the drums, he was chosen for what in many ways is the most important role in a drum corps; he is the choreographer for the routines that a band performs.

Bennett, a retired electrical engineer, said he has been involved with drum and bugle corps his whole life. He said he started at 5 or 6 years old with his father, who ran a corps with the Scouts and in his church in Brooklyn. At age 8 he joined the Brooklyn- based Blue Jackets and began a lifetime of designing routines.

“I am ecstatic, I really am,” said Bennett’s wife, Vivian. “All his life he has been marching and teaching. It is an important part of his life.”

She said their son is the third generation to work with drum corps. He is the civilian percussion instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Founded in 1976 by Vince Bruni of Rochester, The World Drum Corps Hall of Fame is dedicated to honoring and recognizing contributions made to the field of drum and bugle corps.

Candidates are chosen for induction into the hall for their efforts in the categories of arranging, designing, instruction, administration, adjudication, innovation and contest promotion.

By the time Bennett and his wife moved to Cambria Heights in 1968, he was entrenched in the color guard. In 1948, he joined the NY Blue Jacket Guard as a drummer. He then proceeded to march with five different units around the area, including the Carver Gay Blades and the Long Island Sunrisers.

His stature in the drum corps arena began to grow in the 1960s and 1970s when he was the teacher and designer of some well-known marching units — the Long Island Kingsman, Long Island Sunrisers and the Bushwackers of Harrison New Jersey.

Working with the Sunrisers cemented his reputation as a choreographer. Bennett said they won six world championships, and a few American Legion titles.

“On the field, he rebuilt the Sunrisers of the early ‘70s into two consecutive world champions in 1977 and 1978,” said Frank Gerris, the leader of the Hawthorne Caballeros in Hawthorne, N.J. who nominated Bennett for the Hall of Fame. “He brought new life into drill design and performance standards.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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