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|History for Mandarins||Sacramento, California|
|Active Junior Corps (World Class) founded in 1963||Did you march Mandarins?|
|Other names: Ye Wah|
In February of 1963, Roy Wong, Frank Lim, Thomas Fong, and Yuk Fong met to discuss the possibility of forming a drum and bugle corps for youth in Sacramento, California. A letter to the Sacramento Chinese community one month later asked for support to establish a boys and girls drum and bugle corps. With the numerous festivities and parades taking place annually in Sacramento and neighboring locales, certainly the Chinese community, with all of its traditions and color, could participate in a way that would be uniquely its own. A youth drum and bugle corps, founders believed, would be a wonderful symbol of community interest, civic consciousness, and cultural pride. |
The initial meeting was held on March 23, 1963, at the Sacramento Confucius Church. On that rainy day, eleven youngsters attended, along with a few parents and others interested in the project. The goals seemed hopeless, but this group went to work anyway, using reconditioned equipment and some instruments furnished by the Chinese Benevolent Association. Uniforms cost $5.85 each, consisting of short-sleeved white shirts, white continental trousers, black shoes, black Chinese hats, and a magenta sash. By July, 1963, the new 47-member Ye Wah Drum and Lyre Corps was ready for its first performance, the Oak Park 4th of July Parade.
By August, 1964, the corps had performed in over 17 parades and official receptions. A color guard, new in 1964, brought corps membership to about 75. Staff and parents held a successful fundraiser for the Ye Wah Drum and Bugle Corps, to keep pace with then-current trends and to encourage competition with other drum and bugle corps. By December, the Ye Wah was on its way to becoming the "new corps on the block."
Gradually, the corps improved in quality and became more highly regarded for fine performances. The color guard joined the California Color Guard Circuit in 1965, beginning competition with other units throughout the state. They became a worthy competitor, winning a circuit championship and numerous other awards.
The organization changed its name to the Mandarins Drum and Bugle Corps in 1967. By now, the corps was well recognized in community performances, and was beginning to make itself known in drum and bugle competitions as well. The Mandarins continued to progress, performing in events throughout Northern California, and gave their first Southern California performance in 1970.
The Mandarins have performed around the world, representing the City of Sacramento and the State of California well. They played for Taiwan's 1972 and 1978 presidential inauguration ceremonies. In 1974, they marched in Hawaii's King Kamehameha Parade, and in 1975 began performing in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Their first "major league" competition was at the 1978 DCI Championships, in Denver, Colorado, where they finished 12th in Class A competition.
In 1983, corps director Ray Mar and his assistants Nanci Jan, Phyllis Mah, and Linda Fong began the Mandarins' transformation to a nationally recognized organization. Since that time, Ray has continued as director, earning the corps a reputation for consistent quality and excellence. Competitors and audiences admire the Mandarins, which has been featured in numerous newspaper and television spots. Other units point to the Mandarins as an example of a successful, well-run organization that has produced finalists in countless competitions. The corps has won numerous first place awards, including Drum Corps International Division III World Champions in 1987, 1988, 1992, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999, and Division II in 2001, as well as Drum Corps International Member Corps in 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2000. Additionally, the Mandarins are recipients of the prestigious Spirit Of Disney Award, signifying outstanding achievement and excellence in educational and entertainment programs for youth.
Since its inception, the Mandarins have been sponsored by an all-volunteer booster club of parents and supporters. In the early years, operating funds were raised through a combination of candy and bake sales, car washes, Monte Carlo nights, and food festivals. Bingo games began in 1984. Managed first by Harry Mark and later Janet Wong, the games have helped the Mandarins achieve the success they enjoy today.
As a youth program, the drum and bugle corps activity places second only to the national Scouting program. The Mandarins are the only American competitive junior drum and bugle corps with an Asian heritage, and ranked 16th of all corps nationally in 2001, the year that marked their 38th year of providing a wholesome, worthwhile activity for community youth. They finished 19th in 2002.
The Mandarins has endured and prospered through the years perhaps because of its philosophy: that the activity must be fun as well as rewarding, and that the focus must not be merely on winning but on each member doing his absolute best. Perhaps it is the ideal balance of personal time, education, and drum corps activity. Perhaps it is the blending of Asian traditions with drum corps. Whatever the reasons, the Mandarins have taught thousands of young men and women the values of leadership, discipline, and good citizenship, values which carry through to school, careers, and back to the community, with a true sense of purpose.
Celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2003, the Mandarins fielded their largest corps ever at more than 90 marchers. Their first performance of the anniversary year was a televised appearance in the Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco, playing 'Russian Christmas Music.'
The Mandarins' 2003 show, 'Black Market Bazaar,' was their inaugural venture into Division I, where they finished in 18th place. The group's heavily percussive 2004 show, marched by about 68 members, was called 'Samurai.' Mandarins took 20th place in DCI Quarterfinals that year, despite the most spectacularly horned drum major costume seen in years.
[www.mandarins.org; DCW, 4/03, p.17; Dave Strickler]
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