The Towpath Volunteers Fife & Drum Corps

The Towpath Volunteers Fife & Drum Corps
The Towpath Volunteers have been bringing "Our American Heritage to Life" since 1978. The goose bumps start to form with the sound of the thundering drums in the distance followed by the unforgettable sound and ring of smoke from a volley of shots from the Militia's Black Powder Rifles. Your heart starts to pound as the group's tell-tale Powder Blue Vests; part of the Colonial Style Uniforms including the familiar knickers and tricorn hat, can now be seen. You hear the shrill sound of the fifes, playing traditional Revolutionary through Civil War era music, such as The Yankee Doodle, Liberty Tree, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic, recognizable songs that people have grown up with and can hum or sing along with such as Grandfathers Clock, Mocking Bird, and Old Dan Tucker. To add to the realism, the Corps utilizes handmade wooden fifes and rope tension deep Snare and Bass Drums; like those used by the founding father of our country.

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The Awesome Towpath Volunteers
Having been part of this very special organization from the start through today, I have seen the Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps grow from a small group of middle and high school aged kids to a very large group with much more maturity and a large portion of the membership having 10, 15 or 20 or more years of experience. Our reputation of fifing and drumming excellence is backed by many videos on YouTube, captions on pictures and blogs posted on the Web by people other than our members. The one that best describes how I personally feel about the Corps called us the "Awesome Towpath Volunteers!"

What makes us so awesome??

Is it our members? Without a doubt! Our people love what they do and the enthusiasm shows in every performance. With a great mix of experience and the exuberance from our newest members, it is like a fine wine that has reached a perfect age. Nothing compares to the feeling you get when marching down the street and seeing the heads of everyone turn, including the competition when watching you march by. The love of performing is a driving force for sure. Could it also be the highly talented, highly skilled, wonderful fife and drum teachers that work with our members? Certainly! Many of our teachers, as well as many of our members, hold or are working toward degrees in music. Several are currently teaching at schools or working studio work. Could it be the group's family aspect? Without a doubt, family is what Towpath Volunteers are all about. No other organization that I can think of allows parents and children the ability to be on the same level, unlike a parent coaching a son or daughter in dance or sports. To share the excitement of new people, places and things, together as a family can bring the family unit closer together. With joining our group, your kids become our kids, and we are always willing to help in any way that we can. A Towpath family is an awesome family!

Could it be the Music...History...Patriotism????

Yes! Yes!! Yes!!! In Bringing Our American Heritage to Life as a part of the Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps, there is no possible way to separate the three areas. Playing the music that was played by our fore-fathers, on 6 hole fifes or wooden rope tension drums is a mix of music and history. Who hasn't seen Willard Archibald's Spirit of 1776 painting? Since the terrible acts of 9-11 and the revival of the American Spirit, the Towpath Volunteers have become one of the most requested bands in the area.


Every place the Towpath Volunteers go is an adventure in itself. From performing at a local festival or fireman's parade to a large parade far away, or even to a foreign country, I cannot think of a trip that wasn't the greatest trip in the world at the time we took it. From the Majesty of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (one of only 12 bands worldwide), to being the feature band marching the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates in Tampa, Florida; (not being able to hear what I was playing, much less what anyone else was playing) to Savannahs St. Patrick's Day Parade (second largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the United States, lasting over 5 hours) to the unforgettable experience of opening the Donkeys Doors to start and lead Disney's Electric Light Parade (being totally blinded by flashes from cameras), each of these performances were breath taking! The fun we had getting there, while we were there, and returning were as much fun and educational as we could possibly pack into a short time span. We have taken so many people places they would never normally have gone and done things they would never have done if it wasn't for the Towpath Volunteers.

French Riviera??

Without hesitation, the most phenomenal trip/adventure ever was attending the European Fife and Drum Festival, held in Saint Tropez, France in 2011. Outstandingly beautiful area, we were treated like kings and kept busy for 20 hours a day. Yes, participating in a wreath laying at the monument for the American Soldiers that died during the liberation of France was an emotional way to start the week. Marching in 9 parades, a long rehearsal, and performance in, the grand finale, the World Lunch where each corps prepared food from their country or regions (Our Zweigles Hots, Buffalo Chicken Dip and Smores were HITS!!), the fun parades, and playing for the kids with special needs filled our performance calendar. The sweat, the blisters and lack of sleep were well worth suffering through as we made new friends; close friends with people we had never met only a few days before. The language barrier, for those of us who spoke little or no French and those who spoke little or no English, was virtually invisible. Music truly is a universal language! The playing of the fifes and drums late into the night with groups from France, Italy, Belgium and ourselves, will always be remembered. The beaches, the food, the beauty of Saint Tropez could only be topped by the tears that were shed when it was time for us to leave. The 46 Towpath Volunteers members performed proudly, representing Macedon, New York State and the United States of America well. I could never be prouder of the efforts of all who have and will in the future, represent the Towpath Volunteers fifing and drumming excellence!


To be as blunt as possible: the Towpath Volunteers is very affordable. No cost to join, no dues to pay, no fees or hidden cost. What a deal! We provide beginner fifes and drum sticks for less than $10.00 to those who desire to be musicians. We provide the black powder rifles to the Militia members. We provide all uniform parts; tricorn hats, shirts, vest, pants and socks. The only part we do not supply is the black tie shoes which most people already have. The drums, snare and bass are provided as is all the Color Guard and Banner equipment. How can we make this sweet deal any better and more affordable?? The lessons and music to learn an instrument are free too! I have to ask myself, "Why doesn't everyone belong to this group?"

In closing, it is extremely hard to compact into words what the Towpath Volunteers have accomplished in thirty five years in this limited space. In this tough economy and with children and adults so busy and involved in a great number of other activities, it's a wonder how anyone finds the time to march at all! While other marching bands have disappeared, the Volunteers have continued to grow and excel. I guess the old saying 'Cream Rises to the Top' may be a very fitting description. One of the saddest parts of belonging to the group is the loss we all feel when a member leaves the ranks due to any number of reasons. Each, with or without their knowledge, has added to the Towpath Volunteer legacy. In the past couple of years, we have lost three members of our Towpath family who, without their efforts, make me wonder if we would be here at all. Victor Barcomb, David Payne and my father, Charles Willson, all who were original members of the Board of Directors, passed away. They will be missed! While looking to our very bright future, we will not forget our past, our roots, and what we have accomplished. Tomorrow and for years to come, our future looks bright indeed. The European groups were astounded by our music, precision and size, and many have inquired on attending other festivals on the far side of the pond. Maybe we could return the favor and hold a World Fife and Drum Festival of our own! What fun that would be!!

Paul Willson
Business Manager
Towpath Volunteers
Fife and Drum Corps Inc.

Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps Inc.
PO Box 31 Macedon, New York 14502 *
ęTowpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps Inc. 2014