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Crusader Band History

The Brother Martin High School Crusader Band has consistently been a military-style organization and has entertained and enriched all types of crowds and generations of students throughout its history. It strives to play current music, participate in events designed to assess its degree of excellence, and train its members to continue playing music long after they have graduated. The band has the strong support of alumni who expect the Crusader Band to remain a strong supporter of the school, its members, and the music community.

A history of the band is closely related to the lineage of its directors. Brother Martin High School was derived from two powerful Sacred Heart schools. The story begins with Professor Joseph A. Taverna, director of St. Aloysius College. “Prof” Taverna directed the band from 1931-1961 and was responsible for the famed “Fight Song” first performed circa 1947. The St. Aloysius Fight Song developed into the Brother Martin Fight Song, which is played at the conclusion of some sporting events such as football.

Clem Toca replaced Taverna in 1962 and started a stage band program that won national acclaim, winning the Tri-State Music Festival in Enid, Oklahoma, in 1964. From 1965 - 1967, the band department was led by Joe Hebert, who would later serve as Director of Bands at Loyola University for 50 years. Future Archbishop Rummel band director Maurice Varnado was band director 1968-1969.

Following the merger of Cor Jesu High School and St. Aloysius in 1969, Cor Jesu’s band director, Brother Virgil Harris, became the first Brother Martin High School band director. From 1969 - 1973 Brother Virgil led the band, which wore regulation Navy dress blues consistent with the school’s uniform. Assisting Brother Virgil for the band’s first year was Roy Valenti. He was followed by Keith Keller. It is interesting to note that the band department has consisted of a director and an assistant director since its inception. When Brother Virgil retired in 1973, Keller became the head director with Arthur Hardy as the assistant. Later Hardy would go on to become a member of the local media as the publisher of the annual Mardi Gras Guide magazine. Hardy was the first in a line of men who would each lead the band for periods of at least 10 years.

1974 would usher in the team of Hardy and Hurley with a new uniform, one that would sport the Brother Martin High School crest, an addition that remains to this day. The crimson coat and pants, with the “Q-Tip” shako (hat), were heavily influenced by the Drum and Bugle Corps background of Hardy’s assistant, Marty Hurley. The traditional military style continued but was influenced by drum corps such as the Stardusters Drum and Bugle Corps (Arabi, Louisiana) and the Phantom Regiment (Rockford, Illinois). Hardy and Hurley would contribute significantly to high standards of instrumental excellence and each was inducted into the Louisiana Music Educators Hall of Fame. (Brother Martin is the only high school in the state that can claim this honor). The concert and marching bands were consistent winners of superior ratings at district music festivals.

Marty Hurley would contribute greatly to the evolving world of percussion and teach countless young men the intricacies of rudimental drumming. Each year since that time the Crusader Drum Line has had a reputation for percussion excellence.

The band enjoyed notable performances in places such as Disney World and the 1984 World’s Fair. Beginning in the 1980s the band traveled to the Orlando, Florida, area every other year to celebrate musical excellence throughout the year. The band performed for Pope John Paul II, President Gerald Ford, at the Republican National Convention, and at the New Orleans Saints first playoff game. The Crusader Marching Band established itself as a popular unit in many Mardi Gras parades and received awards in parade band contests such as the krewes of Okeanos, Choctaw, Caesar, Excalibur, and Pegasus.  In recent years the band has performed in D’Etat and Endymion.

About 1984 the band’s uniform was changed and updated once again to include black pants, a short crimson jacket, suspenders, a black shako, and the lack of spats, as well as detachable shoulder “wings.”

The band set a precedent, receiving Superior Ratings at the LMEA District VI Marching Band Festival since the early 1980’s (now called Assessment) every year but one and would go on to successfully compete in Louisiana band contests and festivals during its history.

The lure of the business world drew Arthur Hardy away from his leadership role in 1989 and left Mr. Hurley as director, with professional trumpeter and music educator Jimmy Weber as an assistant, for the rest of the year. In 1990 Brother Martin alum Brian Dufour ‘82 continued the tradition of excellence in percussion for the next two years as an assistant to Marty Hurley. A past drum major, Dominick Caronna ’85, replaced Dufour as an assistant in 1993 and has remained there as head band director for 18 years, and presently. (Dufour, Caronna, and Bailey were all band students during the Hardy/Hurley years.)

From 2000 - 2008 Brother Virgil came back to Brother Martin to work with the band as a mentor and clinician. His past 

skills as a director and professional clarinetist were indispensable to the musical development of our students. Virgil would move to St. Stanislaus to finish his work as a music teacher.

The uniform of the band would change two more times in the 2000s from white to red, then back to white, all the while keeping elements like the black pants, black shako, and school crest. Not only would the uniform keep its similar style, cut and colors, but the band would also continue its tradition of excellence. In 2016 the uniforms featured a new shade of crimson and gold, based on the school’s newest color standards.

In 2011 the band lost Marty Hurley due to complications from a stroke, and the world lost a master teacher, mentor, and friend of all percussionists and musicians. His memorial service at school featured drum lines from the Phantom Regiment, LSU Tiger Band, USM Drumline, and students of all ages. A highlight of the service was a massive circle of snare drummers performing Marty Hurley’s Troop 77. Following his death, Dominick Caronna took over as head band director, assisted by past drum major, Chris Bailey ‘86. Bailey continued the work begun by Marty Hurley and maintains the high standard of excellence in rudimental percussion. In 2016 the band lost its founding leader Brother Virgil.  Amid the losses, the band continues to maintain its many traditions begun long ago and strives to evolve into a band relevant for today’s students and environment.

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1993 Band on Field
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1994 yearbook band photo
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Alumni Band
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