Sacramento Freelancers Drum and Bugle Corps
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The Sacramento Freelancers Drum and Bugle Corps was an American drum corps based in Sacramento, California. It was a Drum Corps International World Class top 12 Finalist. In other incarnations, the corps has been a Senior Alumni Corps, a Winter Guard and a Winter Guard International (WGI) Independent World Class percussion ensemble. It was founded in 1932 as the George W. Manhart American Legion Post #391 Drum and Bugle Corps, and later renamed the Manhart Capitalaires, the Capitalaires, the Capital Freelancers before adopting its last name.
It disbanded in 1995.
The corps was founded in 1932 as a senior drum and bugle corps and sponsored by the George W. Manhart American Legion post #391.
In 1963, Parker Silva took over the leadership of the existing American Legion Post #391 and formed the Manhart Capitalaires, an all-girl Junior Drum and Bugle Corps. The corps performed locally and regionally throughout Northern California as an all girl parade Corps. In 1970, membership was opened to males and the "Manhart" was dropped from the name. This was to be the seed for the corps to tour nationally for the first time in 1975, where they placed 18th at the Drum Corps International (DCI) World Championships.
In 1976, the corps again set out on national tour with determination. However, money was still in short supply. In fact, part of the members' motivation to do well in the show was the fact that if they did not place well, they would not collect any prize money, and the corps would not eat or go on to the next show. On the day of Prelim's, the corps woke up early to an empty kitchen and wallet. That turned out to be a sign of the strength and heart of the Capital Freelancers as that night the corps managed an incredible finish of 11th place. Through pride the Freelancers secured, for the first time, a place in DCI's elite Top 12.
In 1977 the corps landed a spot in Finals and earned a tie for 8th place with a placing of 3rd in percussion. An 11-man snare line being one of the corps high points for the year. In 1979 the BINGO Hall was established as a more stable and consistent source of funding for the corps that was growing in stature and financial need.
Another milestone occurred in 1979 as the name of the corps was changed to Sacramento Freelancers and the group began to bus members from southern California to rehearse with the members from Northern California. The Freelancers became a mainstay in DCI Finals competition in the early to mid 80's, finishing as high as 8th.
In 1981, the Freelancers returned to DCI Finals in Montreal with an 11th place finish. In 1982, the Freelancers took 9th at Finals. In 1983, the Freelancers took 8th at Finals. In 1984, the Freelancers took 9th at Finals In 1985, the Freelancers placed 12th at Finals
In 1986 the organization would not field a corps. Due to financial struggles, the members of the Board of Directors decided to make the corps inactive in the hopes of establishing a stronger future.
In 1987, the corps met in late November for the first time since folding. The year started out very slowly for the corps, with many holes in all sections, but especially the hornline. The corps did not have enough members to make learning drill viable until the Memorial Day camp. Even then, there were still over 30 holes in the hornline when the corps performed in their first DCI show of the summer. As the tour went on, holes were filled by members picked up along the way and in the end, at the 1987 DCI World Championships in Madison, WI, the corps finished a very respectable 19th place. As a note, this corps had 115 members, of which, less than a dozen, were veterans.
In 1988, the corps returned to prominence with a solid 15th-place finish in Kansas City with the first of a two-year journey back to Finals. The show that year was a stylistic change for the corps that had previously been known for playing jazz and contemporary pop music, featuring the music of John Williams and selections from ET, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi. The corps was bigger than 1987, with a full 128 members, but significantly more mature. Unlike 1987, a large proportion of this corps were actually veterans.
In 1989 the corps continued the success of 1988 with almost a full corps returning. Again, the movie music of John Williams was featured, this time selections included Adventures on Earth from ET, Cadillac of The Skies and Jims New Life from Empire of The Sun, It's A Trap from Return of The Jedi and a reprise of ET. Throughout the season, the corps traded places with corps like the Sky Ryders, Spirit of Atlanta and Suncoast Sound. At the DCI East Championships in Allentown, PA, the corps beat their rival Velvet Knights Drum and Bugle Corps of Anaheim, CA for the first time. They did not lose to them again that year. When the dust settled, the corps placed 10th at Finals in Kansas City, becoming the first corps in DCI history to go inactive and return to Finals. Sac was truly back.
In 1990 the corps dropped out of Finals at Buffalo with the music of Danny Elfman and a primarily Batman based show. Throughout the season, there were many re-writes and an entire song was dropped from the show. Perhaps a tinker too far, the corps placed 14th.
In 1991 the corps became a fully symphonic corps with the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Béla Bartók. With a very mature hornline and a beautifully written percussion and visual book, the corps placed 10th at the DCI Finals in Dallas, TX at The Cotton Bowl. Significant to this season was a vivid change to the visual look of the corps, dropping black trousers and shoes in favor of white.
The corps returned to Finals in 1992, this time placing 12th with the music of Sir William Walton. This was a very young corps as the core of members that had been with the corps since the reincarnation in 1987 had aged out. This would also be the last time the Freelancers would place in the top 12.
In 1993 and 1994, the corps returned to its Jazz roots. They placed 15th and 16th respectively. The jazz/rock fusion of Bill Chase and the group Matrix were featured in these years.
In 1995 the corps fell on hard times. With new ultra-restrictive gaming laws that gave an (many say unfair) advantage to Native American Gaming casinos, the funds generated from the Freelancers Bingo Hall dramatically dwindled. The organization was left with the difficult decision to have the corps go inactive. This was originally intended to be a temporary measure, but the drum and bugle corps was never to return to active status.
The organization did continue in the form of a very successful WGI drumline, also under the name of Sacramento Freelancers which went on to place prominently, often amongst the top half of competition for several seasons in WGI competition. 2010 was the final season for the drumline.
Later that year, the bingo hall closed its doors for the last time. The parent organization ceased operations and the hall, the busses and other equipment and any remaining assets were sold at that time.
The uniforms worn by the Freelancers from 1980–1984 and 1987–1992 were red "cadet" jackets. Although they wore black pants for most of this period, they did wear white trousers in some later seasons. spats, gauntlets, and traditional shako hats were also key elements of the corps' visual identity. One of the more distinctive features of the uniform was the white, triangular fold on the front of the jacket which was criss-crossed with a black strap and a chrome buckle in the middle of the chest. Upon aging out, the members were presented with their buckle (mounted on a plaque) as a symbol of their time with the corps. Guard members received buckles as well, although they did not wear them as part of their uniforms (post 1980).
Other uniforms worn were the original "cadet style" uniform, worn until 1979 which consisted of a grey jacket (closed) with black and red piping on the front with 3 vertical rows of buttons down the front, black trousers and shoes, a black shako with red plumage. In 1979, the corps wore red jumpsuits to coincide with their "The Wiz" production, and 1985 where the red cadet jackets were replaced with a black turtleneck and a "chestboard" that utilized multicolored triangular panels which could be (and were) changed throughout the show.
Corps members always marched their first show without the corps signature chrome buckle. The buckle had to be "earned". It was traditionally presented at the second show of the season. The buckle was perhaps the single most prized possession of the corps members.
When one aged out of the Freelancers, the age-out was given their buckle to remind them of their time in the corps.
If the corps felt slighted or disrespected by the judges, a special ritual played out. The drum major would call the corps to attention and give them a command. The corps would then execute an 8 count high mark time about face. With their backs turned to the crowd, the corps would "close their flaps"... in essence, protecting their inner selves by symbolically closing themselves off to outsiders. When they turned back around, the white triangles would be gone. This was a sign that competitors and those in the know took to mean; "stay away".
As the corps had such a strong bond with their visual identity, the integrity of the uniform was never sacrificed or disrespected. The corps members were never seen in half uniform in "public" areas. The uniform was to either be worn fully or not at all.
Freelancers were also never seen walking alone. In latter years, female members of the corps, especially those in the colorguard were to be escorted, arm in arm, when in view of the public. This led to a public image of the corps as being very tight knit and rather chivalrous.
The corps traditional rivals were those in the bottom half of DCI's top 12. Corps such as the Crossmen, Spirit of Atlanta, Suncoast Sound, Troopers, Boston Crusaders, Florida Wave, Bluecoats, and Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps were all considered rivals, but none compared in intensity and spirit than that to the rivalry with the Velvet Knights. The Freelancers held a special place in their hearts for VK and VK likewise for the Freelancers! A lot of the members of the Freelancers were in fact from Southern California especially in the area around Anaheim, Riverside, Northridge and Los Angeles... all traditional recruiting areas for VK. The corps even sent a bus or two down to LA on camp weekends to pick up all the Southern California members and take them up north to camps. Many of the members of both corps knew each other personally as many were in fact friends or classmates in high school or college. It was often said that the success of a Freelancers season could be gauged on whether or not they finished ahead of VK.
The Silva family was instrumental in upholding the traditional values of the corps. Parker Silva took over the corps in 1963. His wife Grace, was essentially the corps' "mom" and their son Don was the percussion caption head for most of the modern day (post 1980) existence. John and Paul Zimny (Paul was a former Freelancers drum major) Headed up the corps brass and visual programs throughout the '80s and '90s, with John's wife Kari as the colorguard caption head. Other notable staff included Ralph Hardimon, Pete Emmons, Rick South, Charlie Andersen and Chris Nalls. The corps also had a long-standing tradition to employ recent ageouts in "tech" positions, as these were the staff members that worked with the corps members the most, it was very instrumental in keeping corps traditions alive.
The Freelancers alumni organization was founded in 2008. At the 2007 DCI World Championships (which were held in California for the first time in DCI's history), an unofficial Freelancers reunion was held. Old friends got together and it was clear from the outset that simply rekindling fond memories was not enough. From that the seed, the Freelancers Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps was born. With the support of the Sacramento Freelancers, the Freelancers Alumni Corps strengthened and has become an independent organization as the Freelancers Alumni.
Today, the Freelancers Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps continues to foster the passion for music and camaraderie. Every year the corps keeps getting stronger with members from the Sacramento Freelancers, and from other corps and other states. Members include alumni from Blue Devils, Anaheim Kingsmen, and Velvet Knights, and individuals, such as Bill Garcia, Adam Payne, and Dawn Garcia. The Alumni Corps can be found to in exhibition at most Northern California based shows and also at the Drum Corps Associates Championships in the "minicorps" category.
As a founding member who has played since inception of the Freelancers Alumni, I have never known Bill Garcia, Adam Payne or Dawn Garcia to be members.