Bonnie Thompson (Ott)
by Scooter Pirtle
Originally published March 1993.
Bonnie Thompson (Ott) was one of the first drum corps players to exploit the possibilities of the mellophone bugle as a soloist with the Concord Blue Devils in the mid-1970s. Her flawless technique and musical interpretation provided an aspect of expression that made her a pioneer in the drum corps activity.
Bonnie began her drum corps career in 1966 with the Stockton Commodores, marching with the corps through their 1973 season. She also began "sitting in" with a new fledgling corps started in nearby Concord California called the Blue Devils. In 1974 she started marching full-time with the Blue Devils, serving as section leader for the alto bugle section until aging out as a national champion in 1976.
Bonnie temporarily dropped out of drum corps after aging out, but after moving to Wisconsin found herself teaching brass for the Americanos Drum and Bugle Corps of Appleton.
Following the tragic death of her brother Jim on tour with the Spirit of Atlanta in 1980, Bonnie completely dropped out of the drum corps activity.
Although no longer actively involved, Bonnie remains a fan of drum corps. When asked her opinion about the direction of drum corps during the fifteen years following her aging out, Bonnie is quick to answer:
"It's so different, but in some ways it's still the same...You have to understand that instruments were slightly more primitive than they are now and it took 'blood and guts' to master them. When this 'mastery' took place, a person had to respect it. Sometimes it wasn't musical, either, but the fact remained that you were able to manipulate that horn. Instruments have improved vastly since that time, so perhaps that element no longer exists. The rules have obviously changed as well, but I feel that this could be the the corps' disadvantage. No longer is a judge positioned with their face in your bell, lingering for that 'tick.' I won't say marching was more demanding then, with members now running on the field, well...need I say more? However, controlling the horns, as temperamental as they were in my day, was difficult at best."
At the time this interview took place in 1993, Bonnie was residing in California with her husband and two sons. It is believed Bonnie currently resides in Tennessee with her husband.
Bonnie was inducted in the "Buglers Hall of Fame" in 2005 and made a visit to the Drum Corps Associates (DCA) senior corps championships in Rochester, New York in September 2006.
Bonnie received recognition in June 2008 associated with her involvement with the San Francisco Renegades Senior Drum and Bugle Corps. Click here for a link to the article: