A Man of Influence!                                                               by Mark Riley

 

Few people outside my family have had a deep and lasting influence on my life. One such man passed away last weekend. His name was Carman Cluna, and he was director of a drum and bugle corps I belonged to in Brooklyn. Mine was not the only life he touched. There were hundreds of young men and women who came under his influence and were the better in life for it.
 This is no fairy tale. Not everyone who came in contact with Carman Cluna liked him. He was strong willed stubborn, and at times unforgiving, even to those most influenced by him. And yet, almost 30 years after I marched for him in St. Rita's Brassmen, I deeply mourn his passing. Carman was unique.

   He stood only 5 feet 6 inches tall (he would insist 6 and a half), and was a rigid disciplinarian. He was especially intolerant of lateness, even if it was only a couple of minutes.

I remember hopping the subway from the Bronx and making the hour plus trek to Brooklyn for rehearsal. I was supposed to be there at 8 PM. I arrived at about 8:02 (I swear!). Carman was waiting for me. He let me know in no uncertain terms that I was late, and that it didn't matter to him if I came from the Bronx by subway. I was told to take an earlier train if need be, but to get there by 8 o'clock. To this day I have a phobia about being late to anything. Thanks Carman!
   A lot of young Black men from Brooklyn rebelled against the discipline imposed by this short Italian guy with the scratchy voice. Most didn't because we wanted badly to be a part of his drum corps. Even 30 years ago, we knew we were part of something special. So special, in fact, that many of my closest friends today are former Brassmen, people I marched with all, those years ago. Beyond that, many of us have tried through the years to give back something to the activity that gave us Carman Cluna. There are people influenced by him who are now instructors ,judges,and administrators themselves. Some of us followed his lead without even realizing it.