Meet Paul Willson, director of Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps in Macedon.



When did the Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps originate?

“I came up with the idea in 1977,” said Paul Willson, director of Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps in Macedon. “Our first parade was in 1978.”

Willson was 18, when he started the Corps and had previously marched with a different group. Early on, his father dealt with insurance and book work.

What was your motivation for starting the Fife and Drum Corps?

“I’m a drummer by trade,” said Willson, who has taught privately and at Braselton’s Music for many years. “I enjoy performing the drum in front of people.”

The Corps gave him that opportunity.

The educational part of it is also important, he said, teaching members to play instruments.

What keeps you going?

“It’s a case of starting something, working with it and watching it grow,” said Willson, who has directed the Corps for 33 years, but has been involved with fife and drum corps groups for close to 50 years. “Sometimes I’m astonished at how well we do. We’re so big and loud and so good, people just stand there with their mouths open. That and my wife keeps after me,” he quipped.

The Corps wants to be the best, said the director, who started with a membership of 20 kids in middle school and junior high 33 years ago and now boasts 118 members, half youth and half adults.

What keeps members coming back?

“We’re very professional,” he said. “We give a good performance and parade. It leaves everyone with a feeling that we did well.”

The group also travels a lot, he said, which people like.

“We’re tight knit, like a family,” he said. “People like the camaraderie.”

Even after their children grow up, some adults remain part of the Corps.

What were performing highlights for you?

The Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps was a featured band in Gasparilla, a pirate festival in Tampa, Fla. in January.

“It was so loud, I couldn’t hear myself hit the drum,” Willson said.

Another highlight was marching down Broadway in the Macy’s parade in 2004.

“There were so many people there,” he said. “It was amazing.”

But, his all-time favorite was performing in Savannah, Ga.

“I fell in love with Savannah,” he said. “The people were wonderful and the performance was great.”

They marched in Savannah’s St. Patricks Day Parade, the second largest parade in the United States.

The Corps has also performed at Disney World and Epcot Center three or four times; played at the White House in 1979; and at the National Master, a gathering of fife and drum corps groups from across the country.

They’ve been invited to play at a fife and drum corps festival in St. Tropez, France in September 2011 with groups from all over the world.

“We will be the first American corps to perform in the festival,” Willson said.

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