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Drum And Bugle Corps Stages Comeback

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Alumni from the VIP Drum & Bugle Corps of the 1960s hope to bring the group back to DC.
Robert Jackson
Alumni from the VIP Drum & Bugle Corps of the 1960s hope to bring the group back to DC.

By Rebecca Sheir

It's been almost 40 years since D.C. boasted a vibrant drum-and-bugle corps scene. Alumni from the city's only all African-American group are trying to bring back the band.

In the VIP Drum and Bugle Corps, Edward Dalton played the bugle.

"The biggest bugle ever made," says Dalton. "Contra-bass is what they call it."

Robert Jackson played the tenor drum.

"I was on the drum line!" says Jackson with a fond laugh.

Joining them were at least 7-dozen other African-American youth who learned diligence, dedication and discipline, says former VIP chaperon Michael Hawkins.

"The group taught them how to be young men and young ladies," says Hawkins. "That is some of the things that is missing in our kids today."

That's why a handful of VIP alumni have formed the non-profit VIP Group, to re-establish their beloved Drum and Bugle Corps.

A white priest in Southeast D.C. founded the VIPs in the mid-1960s, to get inner-city youths off the streets. The VIPs went on to win national competitions despite racial backlash from their mostly white rivals.

The VIP Group says it will take several-million dollars to launch the group, but Shirley Lathern, a member of the VIP color guard, says it's worth it.

"Some of the kids today, they're missing something," says Lathern. "We have so much pride in what we accomplished, that we feel we can offer that again."

The VIP Group hopes to start recruiting by next year.

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