Ben's Story

Ben Fong

In the Summer of ’65, I witnessed a concert of brass and percussion that would unknowingly change the course of my entire life. My career with the Mandarins started as a percussionist. After only a month of practice, I knew I really wanted to become a member of the hornline. I started on soprano and progressed through french horn, and finally ended up on mellophone. My fondest memories of those years were of fellowship, friendships, travel, and competition. It mattered not what placement we received, but the friends we made.

In 1970 and 1971, I marched with the Freelancers and in ’73, I marched with the Stockton Commodores. We were fortunate enough to make the top 12 at DCI Finals that year. I was also fortunate enough to learn under the guidance of people like Jim Ott and Wayne Downey. I knew then that I wanted music to become my career. As the Brass Instructor/Music Arranger for the Mandarins, it gave me a great opportunity to develop my teaching technique and to work with such fantastic students like Brian Mar and Danny Fong. It was also the perfect vehicle for me to experiment with orchestration, arranging, and even composition. When my brother Joe died, I felt compelled to compose, so I composed the closing number for the corps and dedicated it in his memory. Does anybody remember that?

After graduating from CSUS with a degree in Music Education, I taught Instrumental Music for three years in the Sacramento area, three years in the Philadelphia area, and then ten years in the Atlantic City area. I’ve been able to capture two state championships and take my band to numerous places in the United States and Canada. I am also a member of the National Judges Association, adjudicating marching band programs not unlike drum corps.

My wife, Kathy, has no drum corps experience but has grown to love and appreciate the talent and the pageantry. My two sons, Benjamin and Kristopher both love music, but right now would rather be rollerblading. Drum Corps has given me self-confidence, the ability to focus, friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime. It made no difference what place we took because scores and trophies are lost through time. All that matters and all that we remember are the journeys we take together and the relationships we develop along with way. I follow the corps’ activity each and every year. Good luck to all of you in the future. Keep the faith!

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