Frank Van Voorhis 1932-2015
Nov 18, 2015 9:32 AM (Submitted by: Brad Furlano)

It is with great sadness we pass along the news that the founder of the Blue Stars, Frank Van Voorhis, has passed away. There will be a memorial gathering on Friday, November 20, 2015 from 4-7 PM at the Schumacher – Kish Funeral & Cremation Services, 200 West Ave. S., La Crosse. There will be no service.

Everything we have today was built on the shoulders of Frank's dream of a drum corps for the youth of La Crosse. Perhaps the best tribute to Frank are these words written in the early 80s by Dave Dummer, Frank's friend who helped him start the corps in the early 1960s.

Let me tell you about the beginning.

In the beginning, there was but one man. "The Blue Stars" were conceived in the mind of Frank Van Voorhis alone. Frank was, and still is, my best friend. He brought the idea to my attention. The time, the year, are not important. It was in the beginning.

Although I turned a deaf ear to Frank's exhortations to become involved with his junior drum corps notion, he persisted for over a year. I guess the theme that he finally utilized to win me over was this: "There are hundreds of government and privately funded recreation programs for the sports-oriented youngsters, but almost nothing for those interested in music. A junior drum corps can fill that roll." I believed him and we began to develop what was now a joint adventure.

There were always two parts to the basic concept in the formation of "The Blue Stars Jr. Drum & Bugle Corps." The first part had to do with the fact that the vehicle, the corps itself, had to be fashioned to excellence. Not La Crosse excellence, not area excellence, but national excellence. We could be competitive with the world, not just competitive to participate, but competitive to win. We felt as long as they keep score, it would be less than a good learning experience for members if the vehicle effort would be satisfied with no less than a winning performance.

To demand this type of effort of youth members dedicated a further conceptual decision. We would make sure that what we demanded could be reached with honest effort. We would not be satisfied with less than the best tools. Both tools in the form of equipment and tools in the form of instruction and leadership. The drum corps would not be started until these things were possible.

To start the ball rolling we formed a color guard and marched them in parades. Frank read, studied, researched and taught marching and maneuvering. We dreamed up the colors, the theme, and the uniform at my kitchen table using my kids coloring crayons to depict what we saw in the future...and we finally achieved financial support and produced the corps.

The second part of our junior corps philosophy and the more important in the long run, was that each member must experience a positive learning experience. We wanted the corps to be a community within a community. A community where all the citizens would have a chance to better prepare themselves for the future. If we were to play music then we would teach legitimate music. We didn't want a member to be only a bugle player, but a musician. We would use the precision needed for drum corps as a structural concept that would be projected to everything in a member's future quest to find out how he would contribute to society. We wound not practice drum corps for drum corps sake alone. That would be a hollow goal and not worthy of the time and effort demanded of all to reach the level of vehicle success we envisioned. There are a goodly number of successful people around who feel may have received some help from this part of the Blue Stars Philosophy.

That's in fact, where our price and memories dwell at this time. Certainly the fun and the success we had are great to remember. However, the traditions were meant to be built on more than that. The soul of the corps was not magnified by the efforts of Frank Van Voorhis or Dave Dummer to make a great junior drum and bugle corps. The spirit of the corps and the guarantee of the corps continuity was manifested in another way. It was found in its' leaders' dedication to the edification of its members. It was found in its' members' dedication to each other and not to personal glorification. We are not a corps of spiritual soloists. We are a group of people sincerely believing in each other and working and looking forward to the growth and success of those we worked with, and not just in drum corps. No prima donna members here, no self-centered instructors, no egomaniac directors. And the corps became great. The vehicle excelled.

There was only one in the beginning: Frank Van Voorhis. I feel proud to have been his partner and hope my contribution helped to enhance the philosophy.

Both the tradition and corner stone for a successful future are the same. It's not the phenomenal success of the drum corps, but the quality of contributions to society the members of those corps are exhibiting now. They are the proof that the soul of the program both individually and collectively constitute the reasons that some righteous privilege of membership should be made available to our young people today. Tell everyone what you stand for, what you believe your program can do, what it's done for you and others, and believe it yourself. Frank and I did in the beginning and those following us can too!

Respectfully Submitted,

Dave Dummer

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