For nearly 15 years, Marty Hurley was part of the team that developed the identity of Phantom Regiment that still exists today. His percussion arrangements and rudimental instruction helped lead the corps to four runner-up finishes at the DCI World Championships, and many of his students have gone on to be leaders of the activity as well.
On Aug. 7 this year, the Phantom Regiment legend will be inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Indianapolis. The 2012 class also includes George Bevilacqua, Scott Johnson, Michael Klesch and Mel Stratton.
“His percussion design in programming and educational techniques changed the face of the drum and bugle corps activity. I can see his influence to this very day,” said Dr. Dan Richardson, who hired Hurley in 1976. “Marty has positively touched the lives of thousands of students both in the Phantom Regiment and his beloved Brother Martin High School, where he is idolized by all those who have had the opportunity and pleasure of working with and under his tutelage.”
Hurley died of complications from a stroke in September 2011. He was 65.
After serving in the United States Air Force, Hurley would go on to an illustrious career in education. For 36 years he was a band director at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans and was inducted into the Louisiana Music Educators Association Hall of Fame in 2010.
He taught the Stardusters, Bleu Raiders and Black Knights in the early 1970s, but it was his hiring by Phantom Regiment in 1976 that would make the biggest impact.
The design team of Hurley, brass arranger Jim Wren, drill designer Norm Wheeler and program coordinator Dan Richardson would lead the corps to three consecutive runner-up finishes at the DCI World Championships from 1977-79. Later, color guard designer John Brazale would take over as drill designer and the corps would again finish as runner-up in 1989. Brazale and Wren were inducted in the DCI Hall of Fame in 1993 and Richardson in 2011.
Many of Hurley’s students would go on to great careers in music and drum corps, all of them noting their mentor’s influence. Among them are three former Phantom Regiment percussion caption heads: John Wooton, a percussion professor at University of Southern Mississippi; Jeff Prosperie, a member of the United States Military Academy’s Hellcats and a DCI adjudicator; and Mike Mann, the director of wind and percussion studies at Union University.
“Marty not only taught ‘drumming’ but instilled qualities of discipline and loyalty into his students,” Wren said last fall. “In fact, I would say that his students are his memorial, not his competitive results — even though he was a fierce competitor.”
He was a graduate of Neptune High School in New Jersey and received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He was a member of the Hawthorne Caballeros and Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights.
Hurley is the seventh person with Phantom Regiment ties to be inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame, joining Wren, Brazale and Richardson, who also were inducted for their accomplishments with Phantom Regiment. In addition, Michael Cesario (many years on the design team), Michael Klesch (brass arranger in 2000 and 2001) and Freddy Martin (several years on the brass staff) have had key roles for Phantom Regiment over the years.
Here are some comments by his friends and colleagues after his passing last year:
“Marty was a professional. He had very high standards for himself, his students and those who taught along with him. And all benefited greatly from their association with him. He will be missed.”
Dan Farrell, Phantom Regiment program director and alumnus
“There is not much that I could say about Marty that everyone doesn’t already know. So many people have told me that Marty was the most influential person in their lives. He was of course for me, too. But he was also a great friend and part of my family. My children called him “Uncle Marty.” He never took shortcuts and thankfully believed that our education was much more important than any trophy.”
John Wooton, music professor at University of Southern Mississippi, former Phantom Regiment percussion caption head and Phantom Regiment alumnus
“Marty was an icon, a mentor, a great educator and a loyal and dedicated member of the Phantom Regiment family, uncompromisingly defending us even when not directly involved in instructing the corps. He was a strong gentleman when he argued for us, a kind and gentle soul when he praised the members for their success and a parent figure when he comforted them and us during our failures. His percussion design in programming and educational techniques changed the face of the drum and bugle corps activity. I can see his influence to this very day. Marty has positively touched the lives of thousands of students both in the Phantom Regiment and his beloved Brother Martin High School, where he is idolized by all those who have had the opportunity and pleasure of working with and under his tutelage.”
Dr. Dan Richardson, Phantom Regiment member, instructor, program coordinator, director, board member since 1956 and a 2011 DCI Hall of Fame inductee
“Marty not only taught ‘drumming’ but instilled qualities of discipline and loyalty into his students. In fact, I would say that his students are his memorial, not his competitive results – even though he was a fierce competitor. To me, he was a great friend; we could always communicate and cooperate. I was fortunate to spend time with Marty this past summer. I found him as enthusiastic and optimistic as ever. He was considering retirement from Brother Martin High School but thought he would stay for one more year (at least). He was a lifelong teacher and mentor to so many.
Jim Wren, Phantom Regiment member, instructor, brass arranger, board member since 1956 and a 1993 DCI Hall of Fame inductee
“I had the pleasure to first meet Marty in person in 2006. From my very first conversation with him, I learned that the experience we as teachers provide for the young people was the most important thing we did. His demeanor and ability to communicate was amazing. Plus, he was a great entertainer. I can imagine his students loved going to his class every day. I know I would have.”
Rick Valenzuela, Phantom Regiment executive director
“My first interaction with Marty was in 1987 when I joined the corps after a 13-year absence. As a part-time visual instructor, I had the time and enjoyed watching the brass and percussion rehearsals. It was easy for me to see that Marty was the consummate teacher and, more importantly, an exemplary example for the young people in the corps to emulate.
“It probably never occurred to Marty that I also learned from him. His dedication to his craft and to his students was an inspiration to me and was integral in my decision to accept the invitation to become director of the corps in August 1988.
“There are many others who can more accurately sing his praises and list his many accomplishments. My best message to everyone is that Marty was a man I respected and admired. He will not be forgotten.”
David St. Angel, former Phantom Regiment director and staff member
“After meeting him this past year, it was very easy to understand the impact he had on his students and the activity.”
Shane Gwaltney, current Phantom Regiment percussion arranger and caption head
“Marty and I shared a long and unique history: we’re both Jersey guys and, as kids, we were both taught the rudiments and technique by the amazing Bobby Thompson. Marty was a better player than I and marched in Sac and Hawthorne while I turned more toward drumset and jazz. I was awed by how well he played on the Drummers Heritage Concert at PASIC and how true he had stayed to Bobby’s style and approach. His passing, along with the tragic stroke suffered by Steve Beck in January, should give all of us pause. He was a fierce competitor, as I discovered while he was teaching Phantom and I was teaching the Bridgemen. He always gave 100 percent and brought so much to the ‘marching’ table.”
Dennis DeLucia, Drum Corps International Hall of Fame and former Bridgemen percussion arranger
“I’m sorry to hear about Marty’s passing. I’ll remember him as an expressive performer, demanding pedagogue and fierce competitor. They don’t make them like him anymore.”
James B. Campbell, Drum Corps International Hall of Fame and former Cavaliers percussion arranger
“Just heartbroken to hear of Marty’s circumstance and passing. He taught us all so much. I will miss his unique way and unwavering standard.”
Thom Hannum, Drum Corps International Hall of Fame and former Cadets, Crossmen and Star of Indiana percussion arranger
“Marty was a proud and fierce competitor. The fact is, he never thought that anyone was better than us and he fought tooth and nail to make sure everyone knew that we were the best. He sparred with judges and even occasionally with another instructor or two, but never backed down to the pride of being in the Phantom Regiment and even reminding us of what an honor it was. We’ve lost a treasure.”
Mike Mann, Phantom Regiment alumnus, former percussion instructor, caption head and arranger
“I didn’t know Marty well, but each time I met him I found him to be genuinely kind and wise. It’s easy to see how his influence has spread so far, and I’m certain it will continue past our own lifetimes as well.”
Jim Casella, former percussion arranger for Santa Clara Vanguard and Cavaliers
“I feel honored I was able to get to know him more at John Wooten’s Summer Camp for a couple of years. It was great to see the teacher side of Marty vs. the drum corps caption head. As everyone is saying, I, too, saw him as a fierce competitor. He made us all work harder! Seeing his sincere interest and caring for every student was truly heartwarming. I took many notes while I was around Marty; I’m sure we can all say the same. Thank you, Marty, for always giving your all to the drumming community. You were a legend in life and will continue to be in passing.”
Matt Savage, former percussion arranger for Velvet Knights, Bluecoats and Dutch Boy
“It all began in 1976 after my ageout year that Marty asked if I would be part of the percussion staff. It was the beginning of a great friendship. Then in the middle ’80s when I was a tour manager Marty continued to help and support me in so many ways. He was the constant for the corps during tour.”
John Baumgartner, Phantom Regiment alumnus, former percussion instructor and corps director, current board member
“When I think of the Phantom Regiment I immediately associate it to Marty Hurley. To me, Marty was the sound of the corps. From the writing to the tuning, it was unmistakable.
“After taking over the percussion program in 2003, I thought it was extremely important to reintroduce the members to the history they were now a part of. Having them get to know Marty helped them realize they were part of something bigger than just a single season. They were now part of a tradition essentially started by Marty. It gave them a feeling of upholding a standard of excellence that spanned back four decades.
“All the members looked forward to seeing Marty every year, and I loved seeing them listen to all the stories.
“I knew Marty since the early ’90s and always admired how much he loved what he did. He was so passionate and demanding that he formed the strongest possible bonds with his students.”
Paul Rennick, Santa Clara Vanguard percussion arranger and former Phantom Regiment percussion arranger (2003-2010)