By Blake Compton
“Growing up on a farm and taking care of other farms was a grueling, everyday task, but it taught me many life skills of how to deal with excruciating obstacles. This is where my work ethic was born: Perseverance and Patience.”
– Charles Gumbert
Raised on a farm in Southern Ohio, Charles Gumbert (known to many as Charlie) was a fan of music from an early age. This early love for music, coupled with a tireless work ethic, inspired Charlie to pursue percussion during his years at Lynchburg Clay High School. That same passion later led him to audition for a bass drum spot with Pride of Cincinnati Drum & Bugle Corps. Charlie spent the following winter of 1984 supporting and traveling with the Pride of Cincinnati winter guard in its charter season and was immediately drawn to performance and dance. The following winter season marked Charlie’s first of three years as a performing member with the Pride of Cincinnati winter guard as well as multiple summers touring with Suncoast Sound and the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps.
Ryan Alm, now the Chairman of the Pride Youth Development Foundation (PYDF), recalls immediately associating Charlie’s name with Pride and its winter guard program from their first meeting. Ryan fondly reflects on his and Charlie’s longtime friendship, “I’ve been Charlie’s friend, co-worker, roommate, collaborator, and board member. As such, I’ve had a unique perspective to watch as his color guard career evolved from technician to designer to director and administrator. I’ve seen the impact he has had on the live of hundreds – if not thousands – of young performers, instructors, and judges over those years.”
As the acting director of the Pride of Cincinnati Winter Guard, Charlie has used his motto of perseverance and patience to help mold the organization into an educational experience while also maintaining a competitive position in the activity. Under Charlie’s direction, the Pride of Cincinnati has medaled in every World Championships performance they have attended since 1997, including four Independent World Class gold medals.
Whether he is leading the PYDF bingo operation or arranging a clinic for the Tristate Circuit, Charlie is always looking for ways to pass on his experience and passion. “I’ve always thought that he feels obligated to pay it forward – a responsibility felt to preserve and advance the activity that profoundly influenced his life. He, like many of us, were molded and shaped by the life-changing experiences provided by this activity,” says Alm. Charlie’s desire to teach and ‘pay it forward’ led to his involvement with other groups in the activity, both Independent and Scholastic, and creates a long list of groups including performances such as Center Grove High School’s 1990 championship season, Northview High School’s “Dr. Seuss” show, and others that are still on the Fans’ Favorites list.
Ryan Alm goes on to say that, “it seems that every program he works with gets better, achieves more, and advances competitively.” Watching the way he runs a rehearsal, you quickly understand why. He sets high expectations on and off the floor while encouraging the performers in both a positive and constructive way. In a word, he cares, and his students feel that and believe in themselves more. Rosie Queen, WGI Board of Directors Secretary and director of Carmel High School Winter Guard, mentions, “He has shared his gifts with so many of his old students that have gone on to teach and has spread the love of our activity over his decades of involvement.”
Charlie’s passion for the advancement and longevity of the activity reaches beyond his time as a technician. He has served for many years on the Winter Guard International Advisory Board as well as the Board of Directors for a number of organizations including Pride of Cincinnati, Tristate Marching Arts, and WGI. Ed Devlin, director of Blessed Sacrament and fellow Hall of Fame member, spoke highly of Charlie in saying, “In his time on the Board, Charlie has been instrumental in supporting the development of the international side of WGI. Charlie has made sure his decisions are for the betterment of all performing members of all the activity.” Rosie Queen echoes Devlin’s sentiments and states, “Charlie is all heart and always trying to do what is right for the members.”
WGI Board of Directors Vice President of Color Guard and fellow Hall of Fame member Michael Gaines noted that Charlie is one of those unique individuals who is universally loved and admired by all who cross paths with him in life. He earns not only respect as the director of the Pride of Cincinnati, but also love for all that he gives to the cast members who come through the door. His presence in WGI is ubiquitous at all levels. He is a fierce competitor, a role model, and a responsible leader for the activity as a whole.”
“As director of Pride of Cincinnati, one of the most important lessons I have learned is that thinking outside the box expands our reality. If it expands our reality, it also expands the reality of our youth. To a naïve high school bass drummer from a rural farm community in southern Ohio, an organization like ours can be life changing. I know this because I was that kid. Now it’s our turn to pass it on and give back.”
– Charlie Gumbert
Charlie currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Charlie, along with Paul Lampkin and JC Connor, will join 55 distinguished fellow honorees and will be inducted in a ceremony to take place Wednesday, April 15, just prior to the start of the 2015 Color Guard World Championships in Dayton, Ohio. Check back with WGI.org often for feature stories on Lampkin and Connor.