Drum corps 'labour of love' for postal manager

Drum corps 'labour of love' for postal manager

By Anita Jansman, Special to the Gazette

November 8, 2016


Donald Dean’s passion for drumming began as a boy on a set of plastic bongo drums, a gift from his brother.  He found a pair of drumsticks and “pulverized those bongo drums.”

That was more than 50 years ago and since then, the Queen’s manager of postal services and distribution has rarely stopped drumming and finding ways for others to beat out a rhythm on the drums. 

[Donald Dean]
Donald Dean, Manager, Queen's Postal Services, has been inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame for his dedication to recruiting, training, and organizing events and competitions.

In September in Rochester, N.Y., his dedication to the art that he loves so much was honoured with an induction into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame. The tribute recognizes his work with the local Kingston Grenadiers Drum & Bugle Corps, an organization he was influential in shaping and building to competition level.

Founded in 1976, the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame honours the people and organizations that have contributed to the development and excellence of drum corps. Mr. Dean was chosen in the administrative category, which recognizes his long-term commitment to recruiting, training, and organizing events and competitions.

Mr. Dean’s first experience with drum corps was in 1966, as a member of the short-lived Centennials, a band put together by the Kiwanis Club.  He was 11-years-old and he never looked back.

In 1969, he joined the Grenadiers and found a kindred spirit in music teacher David Orser (and former Queen’s Bookstore employee). Mr. Dean and Mr. Orser had a vision for the Corps.

“We looked at ways to improve the Grenadiers, to grow it and bring it to competition level,” he says. “In 1998 I told myself, I’m going to stick with this until we get into the top 10.”

Mr. Dean’s dogged determination and personal commitment through the years led to some impressive results. Mr. Dean saw the Grenadiers place in the top 10 between 1998 and 2005, the longest such run for any Canadian drum corps in the history of that level of competition.

In 2004, the Grenadiers won the world championship, a huge achievement in an extremely competitive field of mostly large and well-funded American competitors. “Their budgets are about a million dollars, ours is around $100,000,” he says.

Although he is still involved with the Grenadiers, Mr. Dean doesn’t perform with them anymore. He is president but really acts as a consultant and administrator.

Mr. Dean has worked at Queen’s since 1983. At age 61, Mr. Dean applies the same level of professionalism and dedication to Queen’s Postal Services as he has to the Grenadiers. His organization, management, and human resources skills have all been directly influenced by his work with the Grenadiers.

Despite all his accomplishments with the Corps, Mr. Dean remains humbled by the induction in to the Hall of Fame. “I still don’t know how it happened,” he says. “It’s always been a labour of love.”