Cozys Corpsdom Brass Shop treks 28,000 miles
Similar to the television commercial comparing the Mac to the PC, corpsdom's "P.C.," Paul Collins, is the guy who has been around many years, no fancy bells and whistles, but a guy who just gives and gives to so many drum corps. Does he charge for his repairs? Of course, but Collins' prices are typically far less than storefront music shop repairs, based on quotes Collins gave me during an interview at the DCInternational Atlanta meeting in late January.
The first time I encountered Collins was at an Empire Statesmen rehearsal in the early nineties. Since then, I've run into Collins seemingly everywhere, from DeKalb, IL, to Centerville, OH, to Powder Springs, GA, to Orlando to Madison to Rochester. It takes all of us to make corpsdom click. Collins and BAC Horn Doctor Mike Corrigan, www.horndr.com, are the only two touring repair services. Collins and Corrigan are typical examples of the gypsy lifestyle so many endure on summer tour.
Collins shared his past and thoughts on the future:
CB: Tell the DCP readers about your drum corps experience.
PC: My drum corps experience started in 1953 (age 8). I saw my first drum corps show, Syracuse, NY, Pageant of The Drums, (with) Brigadiers, Geneva Appleknockers, Auburn Purple lancers, Gabarina Post Skyliners and others.
I was in amazement of what they did. At that time I did not even play an instrument, but started the next school year on trombone. From 1953 to 1962 I saw many shows and was able to get involved as a playing member in a small parade corps in Sidney, NY, called the Royal Aires. That corps plus another parade corps led me to the Syracuse Brigadiers in 1965, instructed by the very talented Al "Corky" Fabrizio. He was 21. (This scribe was fortunate to attend as Fabrizio was inducted into the DCInternational Hall of Fame, presented by his daughter, Beth Fabrizio, at the DCI Atlanta meeting Jan. 27. I've been lucky to play Corky's charts and to march with Beth.)
That ran until the '71 season at Syracuse; then, I was transferred on my job to Rochester, NY, and joined the Rochester Crusaders in the fall of '71 and marched there until 1983, '84. (My knees and back gave out.) I saw instruments repaired in my early years with a drumstick.
YES! I dropped my brand-new valve-rotor bari and crunched the bell. Corky repaired it right there, during a parade.
With the Crusaders, I started tinkering with the corps horns, doing the needed repairs to keep them working. I started on a piston slip-slide horn and played up to the three-valve horn YEARS later.
After leaving the marching part behind, I started traveling to DCA and DCI shows to be a spectator, and in Hamilton, Ontario, DCI Canada, there was a major collision of contra basses (10) (which) were all banged up, and I thought how are they getting them repaired? Upon inquiring, I found that they did the best they could with mallets and sticks. At that time, I really discovered that horns were kept playable with wire, duct tape and other goods, as to get them into a shop during tour was not feasible and VERY costly.
Thus, the thought: What If? What if someone could travel during the summer tour and repair horns so the playing members could perform at their best without having to think or worry that the horn was not working well and, at the same time, save the corps money and provide quality repairs?
After many inquiries with corps folks like Gayle Royer – Gayle looked at me and said, "YES, if you are a little crazy." – Vince Bruni and others in DCI and DCA, it was deemed that it would work, and I could STILL be involved with the activity that I was so active with. The Brass Shop was born as a part-time endeavor.
Working a fulltime job at Eastman Kodak and trying to find a place to get the proper training proved to be somewhat of a challenge, as repair schools were two years and I could not leave my job for that long. I found through my suppliers that there was a teaching overhaul shop in Wisconsin. I contacted them and discussed what I would like to do (custom class in brass repair) and what for. After taking two weeks vacation and heading to Wisconsin for some custom brass repair training, I started the Brass Shop.
The intent was to do general play conditioning repairs, but, as I soon found out, it was MUCH more than that. I worked 12-hour days for two weeks straight training.
After returning to Rochester, NY, I stopped at the office of Vince Bruni, the Empire Statesmen. I told him I was ready to go. He gave me a key to the equipment and away I went. 2007 starts my 17th year, 6th fulltime.
To date, since I started marching in 1962, these have been my most rewarding years – From the friendships I have gained, the life lessons learned, and the additional knowledge learned in repairing.
CB: What are your future plans?
PC: The way the activity is today, the need for the Brass Shop is there; however, with all expenses going up, it is getting difficult to keep the Brass Shop going out every year and keep my repair costs down.
An example would be a tuba major repair, dented, three major braces broken, had to disassemble the bell, replace braces with new, straighten and roll the bell and remount the bell to the horn body. The charges were $425.
Taking digital shots of the horn and then having estimates done at major shops the estimates were $1200 to $1500 for the same job.
I am mailing to all corps with my tour schedule a flyer with pictures and these same estimates.
Collins is a dealer for Dynasty and repairs all brands and types of instruments, including Dynasty, Kanstul, Yamaha and King, even double-reed woodwinds. With his vast contacts, Collins brokers used Bb and G marching brass, www.thebrassshoponline.com.
Publisher's note: As part of the continuing partnership between DCP and DCWorld, part of the Paul Collins Brass Shop interview appears here. Refer to a later issue of DCW for the remainder of the Collins interview. If you're not a DCW subscriber – you'll find an 'introductory offer' of a one-year subscription price of $45.00 for new subscribers (which includes 18 issues per year) at the DCP Store. Check the DCP Store for this and other offers.
Cozy's Corpsdom features updates from the world of drum corps as only Cozy Baker can deliver ….. in his own unique style and presentation. A featured Drum Corps World reporter and contributing columnist for many years, Cozy travels the country as a competitive marching member, instructor, observer, and commentator on the state-of-the-activity. The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author. You may write to Cozy directly at mailto: Cozy [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com?subject=Question%20from%20Cozy%27s%20Corpsdom