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A story told by a member of the VIP alumni

There were very uneasy times for us during the latter part of the sixties. There were times of changes and great civil unrest in most large urban cities.

The assassinations of the Kennedys, Martin L. King Jr. and Malcolm X served as focal points for much of the unrest. The Vietnam War protests contributed to the civil unrest. Despite these trying times and through the efforts of one man’s sacrifice, Father Phillip St. Amand changed the lives of the more than 100 young people who participated in his community project.

The history of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church’s community involvement will help in stating the fact that these programs helped the youth acquire the tools they needed to lead a quality productive life. Music was used to provide the inner city youth the foundation needed to excel in competition against daunting odds and the skills needed to excel in life. Music was used as a means of disciplining the mind through a form of art, leads to science, math and technological abilities

This is the story about the VIP Drum and Bugle Corps, one of eleven or so such organizations in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. During the year of 1965 a Jesuit Priest named Father St. Amand from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church (OLPH), that we so proudly and affectionately call “The Hill”, was responsible for generating an interest in this youth activity in this and surrounding troubled communities.

Father St. Amand saw a parade one day and noticed how the children of the community were following the parade with great interest. He decided that this could be an effective tool for the youth of this SE Washington, DC community. From that moment on, he started finding equipment and money so the youth in his and neighboring communities could participate in and around the church grounds, where it over looks a panoramic view of the city of Washington, DC.

The idea was to start a musical organization for the youth interested in this type of activity, to get the youth away from trouble and provide an example for other youth to follow. He then started soliciting the local businesses for funding with minimal success. Feeling despair he cashed in his life insurance  policy and used the funds from that to get the first set of instruments and some designed makeshift uniforms so the kids could feel proud.


This transcended into The VIP Drum and Bugle Corps that competed with national caliber drum corps from around the nation.

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