Meet The Mataruga Family

”  Meet The Mataruga Family “
   It has been said that ” good things come in small packages, small can be better than large, and size doesn’t matter “. This month the DCA Families in Drum Corps Tour travels to Troy, New York where we meet the Mataruga family from Excelsior. Excelsior is the smallest sized competitive corps in the ranks of DCA.


   Donel Mataruga began her drum corps journey began with the Volunteers at age eleven through age fourteen. She then joined the Avant Garde until aging out. She joined Excelsior in April of 2004 as a Charter Member along with son’s David and Dillon in the drum line and Daulton in the horn line. Donel chose DCA because Excelsior was an all age corps at the time they went competitive in 2009. The drum corps activity has benefited Donel as she found a direction and calling in her life to be a mother figure to more than just her own kids. She credits John Rustin and Larry Laugier from her first corps, the Volunteers, for reaching the point where she is today. Excelsior provides a more family oriented environment than most while still maintaining the disciplined character building culture of drum corps. A young person who Donel had to convince to do drum corps, went on to join the Hawthorne Caballeros and in 2016 aged out with the DCI World Champion Bluecoats !


   When asked what she gets out the activity her response was ” It’s not about the scoring numbers, it’s about steering the youth towards goals and living better lives”. ” We’ve saved lives, taken some members in who have lived with us for years”. ” Some have gone off to the military, while some teach marching bands, drum corps, and indoor percussion”. Her staff is also helping out in her running of the Albany City Indoor Guard. Running a small drum corps on a small budget is not easy with transportation being the most difficult part. Recruitment is also hard to do when you lack support from the local music directors. Donel would like to see more support from show hosts who do not support small corps. Much of what budget they do have goes towards their home show which they must have in order to go to another show to compete in.


   When not doing drum corps Donel is a visual effect judge for marching bands with the New York State Federation of Contest Judges. She is also very busy during the indoor season with the color guard units she teaches. Her devotion to her corps and its members is what keeps her going and as long as new members keep coming, ” they will build it unconditionally”.


   Greg Mataruga, Donel’s husband, marched with the Avant from 1975 until 1985 as a member of the horn line. Greg chose DCA because ” It was the all age thing to do “. When asked how drum corps has benefited his family he stated ” Drum Corps has been in my life and family since age eleven”. ” My mother toured as a kitchen hand and corps mom while my dad was Assistant Director amongst other roles. Greg met Donel through drum corps in their childhood. When asked about Donel’s passion for drum corps his answer was ” My wife has never done this for just the activity” ” She has a true dedication and loyalty to the members and the corps calls her Mama”. ” Over the years we have housed youth who were in need and who are still to this day keeping in contact with her”. ” She enjoys inspiring and bringing drum corps to people to change lives”. Why does Greg keep doing this? ” Regardless of the often dim looking season on day one, my wife’s vision pulls us all through and next thing you know we are a drum corps”. Greg is not sure where her drive comes from, but in the end, ” she makes us produce”.  ” If only we were bigger”. ” If only those she has trained who just felt the need to go elsewhere had the same loyalty she had for them”. ” Imagine what her vision would look like with the right numbers on the members on the field”. Greg’s sister, Lisa Mataruga, marched with the Avant Garde from 1980 through 1985 and finished her marching days with the 27th Lancers as a member of the cymbal line.


   Daleigh Mataruga, Donel and Greg’s daughter joined the corps in 2009 at age nine as a color guard member then later moved over to the horn line. Daleigh joined the corps because her mom was the director and she thought that it would be fun as she enters her eighth year as a member of the horn line. Having both mom and dad in the drum corps has created some arguments within the family. ” However, it also taught us how to accept more people into our family and treat them as such”  Daleigh stated. ” It has helped us to be open minded and genuinely better people”. ” There are cliques in this drum corps so we’re constantly around everyone and never leaving anyone out”. She keeps coming back because she personally gets more out of it than just competing and making finals. It is an experience that will last a lifetime and you can’t describe it until you’ve experienced it. Being a member of the horn line and also marching winter color guard has been challenging. She used to make fun of her color guard friends, but for some reason she and a friend in the horn line thought they would try it out. So they both joined winter guard and thought it was fun. Daleigh said ” I’m really not a good dancer so I’m not good at the whole toe pointing and not rolling of the feet thing, but I like the tosses”.


   Excelsior has seven additional family members totaling sixteen in number marching and playing together. These family members comprise fifty five percent of the total drum corps membership!! Roberta and Bill Fitzgerald are in the front ensemble while Erin is a color guard and indoor guard member. Kristen and Celia Tuttman are members of the horn line while Anna is in the color guard. Rob Wombles is a member of the horn line while brother Travis is in the Battery percussion. Emily Bennett is a member of the horn line and indoor winter guard and sister Sarah is a member of the color guard and winter guard. Paul Haupt is a horn line member while brother Andrew is in the front ensemble and battery percussion. Zoey Meyers is a color guard and winter guard member while sister Karen also marches color guard. Goran Cabuhut is a member of the horn line and sister mary is in the front ensemble. For the smallest corps in DCA, Excelsior can take great pride in promoting family involvement id drum corps.


   A long time dream of Excelsior was to have their own building to call home. That dream is coming true in 2017. The Mount Ida Baptist Church, in the city of Troy, decided to close its doors and have reopened them to the drum corps and the corps will be taking it over. The new building is located just two blocks from the new field that was found for them to practice by the city of Troy. This new building will enable the drum corps to have and offer the full drum corps experience of overnight and late evening rehearsals. In an effort to stay community-minded, the drum corps has offered the church to remain with their small congregation. Excelsior has great hopes in using the building for financial support taking full advantage of such benefits as its banquet hall, kitchen, and sanctuary. They will be hosting or renting out the new facility for use in bridal showers, graduation parties, and various other celebration events. Not to mention the corps annual banquet. As the building becomes cosmetically aesthetic, the drum corps will be hosting professionals in a series of master classes for musicians available to the membership and general public. In addition, a series of leadership building seminars will be offered out to individuals and businesses. As a result of their new found home, the long awaited creation of their new parent corporation, Ascension Visual and Performing Arts Association is underway. This was desperately need in order to organize all of the marching arts activities Excelsior has endevoured into. In addition to the drum corps, Ascension will have Excelsior Independent Winter Guard, Ascension Indoor Percussion, Excelsior Productions ( Community Theater ), and Ascension Cadets community band.


   Excelsior may well be the smallest unit in DCA, but their family involvement and hopes for the future are truly giant sized. To quote from the movie ‘ Field of Dreams”, ” If you build it, they will come “. Excelsior is building it and hopefully they will come!


Bill Flaker
DCA Staff Writer