The Optimists Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Are These Guys For Real?
During the off-season, Baggs, Bell and Ferrazzutti decided to keep most of the musical show from 1958. Bell was keenly interested in what was going on in the drum corps movement in the United States and was determined to evolve the Optimists into an American-style corps with more complex arrangements and more diversity in musical styles. Ferrazzutti was equally determined to advance the style of drumming. As an organization, they also decided the corps’ level of performance would benefit from direct competition with American corps.
Optimists perform at De La Salle (1958)
In their earliest American performances, they were amazed at the reception by American drum corps fans. Prolonged standing ovations greeted each appearance. The judges didn’t agree. The fact of the matter was, the Optimists were being beaten like a rented drum.
In his “Rochester Drumbeat” column in the Chicago-based Drum Corps World magazine, Mannhardt wrote, “The talk around town in the early part of June was about the results of St. Patrick’s contest at Jersey City. People were wondering how such high scores could be racked up so early in the season and how there could be such wide spreads among the scores.
I listened to the tapes of the contest and it seems incredible that the Toronto Optimists could be over nine points behind the leaders, especially when eye witnesses stated enthusiastically that they had the best precision of any corps, senior or junior.”
To avoid a collapse of morale, the instructors continually pointed out that this was a valuable learning experience and the rewards would come with time. That time came in August 1959 at Rome, NY, when the Optimists defeated the Garfield Cadets by almost four points. Garfield, later that month, came seventh at the VFW National championships in New York City.
Fuelled by the learning in the United States, the Optimists returned to Galt, Ontario, and retained their Canadian title by a considerable margin over Scout House.