St. Peter’s Govenaires Drum and Bugle Corps returned home from its Labor Day weekend efforts in Rochester, New York, with a fourth world championship.
For veteran drum major John Mayer, this one was special.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Mayer said. “But this was by far the most technical and intrinsically delivered. And the quality of the drum corps was the best it’s ever been.”
Mayer wasn’t real excited when corps organizers agreed on the concept for this year’s performance for the annual Drum Corps Associates (DCA) world competition, “Outlaw.” The country-themed effort veered a bit from the Govenaires’ past performances.
“The concept of us trying to show that we were an outlaw presented some challenges,” he said. “We’re notorious for doing happy shows.”
The Outlaw performance blended the country themes in several mini-selections and apparently proved plenty good enough for judges and fans, bringing the Govenaires top scores first in preliminaries, then again in the finals the next day.
“We always have to worry about being entertaining,” Mayer said.
The DCA competition is divided into two classes, the open class and A class, which is for drum and bugle corps with 65 marching members or less. The Govenaires, currently with 64 marching members and three drum majors, continues to excel and dominate the A class, having also winning world titles in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
Along with Mayer, the Govenaires other two drum majors – Charley “Tuna” Sjostrom and Aaron Hartwell – have a combined experience of some 90 years. The Govenaires organization has been in existence for 89 years.
Mayer said the 1,000-mile trip to New York can be taxing. While it helps unite the corps members and develops camraderie for the group, it is no simple commitment.
“Groups like the Govenaires have been compared to a band of Gypsies,” he said. “It really says a lot about our organization. And we were able to put together our best performance in the finals.”
And while the organization has been tightly linked to Mayer’s bar-restaurant business, Patrick’s on Third, its members are spread throughout the Upper Midwest. Program coordinator Bobby Bonslater is from Chicago, but he has joined the Govenaires for its annual Memorial Day ceremony, playing taps for the patriotic celebration.
Bonslater wouldn’t have it any other way, he said, agreeing with Mayer that drum and bugles corps becomes a way of life. And the Govenaires, he said, is the best of the A class.
Mayer said his goal has been to see the Govenaires move up to the open class, but competing at that level won’t be easy. Of the 19 total drum and bugles corps in the New York competition, the Govenaires finished 12th overall. And it would also likely mean raising additional funds. Currently, the Govenaires operates on an annual budget of about $200,000.
“We’ve been dominant in the A class,” Mayer said. “Pretty soon we’ve got to make a decision. We’re close right now. If we grow by a few more members, we’ll have to move up. It’ll be a curse and blessing together.
“With growth comes new challenges,” he added.
For now, the Govenaires will savor in another world title. But Mayer and others will begin off-season recruitment of potential new members. Some members participated in the weekend Pride event in Mankato, while the complete corps likely won’t perform again until Memorial Day.
“The process of being in a corps takes quite a commitment,” he said. “This is ongoing."