Herman ‘Hy’ Drietzer
By Jim Maldonado
I will not pretend to know everything about my musical mentor, but will only try to express what it was like for me to grow up around Hy. First experiences will usually leave lasting impressions and my first time in St Joes hall was no exception. I arrived from Bridgeport, CT, a green 12 year old, hearing about a fabulous corps from Brooklyn and hearing Skyliners’ recordings out of a suitcase record player never knowing that Hy was responsible for those sounds. Intimidation and awe were the reactions I experienced when I saw 30 plus horns focusing on one imposing individual. I was hooked and knew that I wanted to belong to this group and to play his arrangements even though I did not possess the skills that Hy required. Memories from those times include Hy picking up any bugle (preferably a French horn) in an attempt to show us how the part should have been played (in your face). Also how he stressed perfection and how his arrangements would elevate the skill level of many musicians that would initially struggle to play them. What most of us took with us after being exposed to Hy were those same standards that he held, the appreciation of well written music and the recognition of our peers in the world of drum and bugle corps. A very short and important chapter in drum corp history was written when Hy transformed an up and coming contender in St Joes, to a sophisticated, polished and unique musical line in the form of St Rita’s Brassmen. It’s was an experience not forgotten by many of it’s members, and competitors. The ‘Circus’ song, ‘Minnie the Moocher’, ‘Ride of the Valkyries,‘West Point Alma Mater’,’Sorcerers Apprentice’ and who could forget what he did with 3 Blind Mice for a concert.
Finally, for those of us that continued with Hy in the Skyliners, and
played those famous arrangements, there was a different level of
self-expression that he allowed
and nurtured. I suppose we can refer to all of the above as the Hy Dreitzer experience.