In a nutshell.
The Excelsior Brigade is an Ancient Fife and Drum Corps that also plays period correct music on instruments suitable for reenactments. By joining the group, you are loaned a first class uniform, drum or fife, and treatment at reenactments in the area, as well as opportunity to attend parades and performances to introduce the public to our craft. We teach at music schools at historic forts, we attend fife and drum musters, we march in parades and we play for reenactments. Anyone can join, we teach the instruments with free lessons from qualified instructors, and we even provide the uniforms all with no dues or association fees. You can carry the flag or march as infantry with a rifle too.
Who are we.
We are the Excelsior Brigade Fife and Drum Corps. Based in Rochester, NY, we are an intrepid band of fifers, drummers and support people dedicated to the art of fife and drum. We have many year's experience performing in public and in support of local fire companies, living history organizations and other events. Our shoes have marched many hundreds of miles in parades. We attend several living-history events each year as well as area festivals and fireman's parades. Our membership consists of families and individual members alike.
What we stand for.
Our organization is dedicated to the scientific study and performance of fife and drum field music as experienced during the American Civil War by New York State Volunteer Militia units. To the best that resources allow, we intend to perform authentic field, camp and civilian music in authentic uniforms. As it currently stands, we will focus on the music, so some non-authentic content to the uniforms will always exist. At the moment, our standard uniform includes
We also have a small contingent of Confederate uniforms so we can represent field music of the Confederate States as well!
- Union wool Kepi (hat)New York State Militia wool shell jacket, cotton lined
- Infantry shirt
- braces (suspenders that button onto trousers)
- infantry trousers
- brogans (leather boots) some have heel plates, some don't
- belt, brass belt plate (SNY), keeper
- stainless steel canteen
- Infantry Greatcoat
Again, all these items are fine quality and perfectly suitable for reenactments and living history events. They are also suitable for parades, and combining the fine quality music with the quality uniforms really benefits the group and the audience.
We are a parade corps first, reenacting corps second. This is fact because reenacting is a resource drain, parades replenish those resources whether they be musical or financial. Playing together as a corps in parades is so vital to the skills of a corps, that without it, the reenactment and other performances would not succeed.
We instruct all members in Ancient Fife and Drum style and etiquette and encourage fellowship between the several corps in our area. We also encourage considerable marching season cooperation between the groups refering each other to events we ourselves can not attend, or events outside the scope of our group.
Where and how we operate.
We operate in the greater Rochester, New York five county area, and range far beyond depending on the event. Several times a year we will drive to far off fife and drum musters for the pleasure of fellowship with other fifers and drummers and to strut our stuff.
It is our intention to perform 15 events a year based on input from all members and to use all revenue generated by these events towards uniforms and equipment. See the schedule for details.
Our books are ALWAYS completely open and ANONYMOUSLY ACCESSIBLE using original documents and statements when possible for the most accurate reporting and most open reporting of this vital information possible. Information is reported in real time, and no requests are required to view the data. You simply visit the members' only web page, and look.
Once a member of the Excelsior Brigade of Fifes and Drums, you are a real member, not an associate or a volunteer of a "sponsored group". You will vote and hold office, and never be treated as an outsider. The more you put into the group, the more you get out of it.
Who can join?
Anyone who can march can join. You can spend your time with the corps learning the instruments, performing and gaining skills in other areas, or you can provide greatly needed support carying or guarding the nation's colors at the head of the group. Everyone 10 years and older may participate, many of us are parents, so the whole family can get involved. We encourage parents to participate with their children, it shows the kids a side of adulthood they rarely get to see as well as builds their confidence when they succeed while you also succeed in your chosen craft. Non musicians (or non-color guard) can participate as infantry, camp-followers, or other personalities as situations warrant. There is a place for everyone, even those who have a healthy fear of playing music in public.
How to Join!
Show up at a weekly rehearsal in Fairport and speak to any of our friendly volunteers. Stop us before or after an event and request information. You can also call the telephone number on the main page for information.
You do not need to know how to play the fife or drum to join. Our qualified instructors provide free lessons or you can participate in supporting roles.
OK, but what is the cost?
There are NO dues. There are no other costs to join the unit. You do not have to provide the expensive Civil War wool uniform or hat and accoutrements. You do, however, have to provide black shoes (no sneakers). You are welcome to purchase a fife (it must be a Peeler standard) or thick Civil War type drum sticks from a reputable dealer or some other small items, or you may borrow the instruments from the corps. While you are learning the instrument, you will be issued a loaner fife or a drum will be reserved for you at rehearsal. Once you earn the instrument through demonstrated ability to play a selection of standard tunes, you will be loaned an instrument that you can bring home. While you are learning the instrument, the vital skill of marching is taught by putting you in the color guard. At the right time, the two skills are joined and you are awarded full musician membership in the corps.
The time requirement on your part is pretty strict. You should attend as many rehearsals as possible throughout the year and as many events as possible through the marching season. You do not have to attend reenactments or musters. Every parade or festival event is considered a best-effort event, with reenactments and muster falling under the try-to-attend category. We rehearse Monday evenings from 6:00 to 7:30 PM. During the school year, we practice in the high school music room at the East Rochester school on Woodbine Ave in East Rochester, NY. Out of the school year in Fairport at the Canal Park (route 31F).
Why so much practice? The music style reqiures us to memorize tunes and to be proficient in the instrument enough to play and march at the same time. The number of practices is required because it takes people quite a bit of time to come up to speed. It has been my experience that adults take more time than children to learn the instruments, but less time to memorize new tunes. A full year practice schedule is required to maintain proficiency. Besides, everyone needs to get out of the house at least once a week!
Excelsior Brigade Home Pages
Tune Index sheet music, lyrics