Dan Gaffney has a very expensive hobby.
He spent more than $6,000 on it for a Christmas gift to himself in December.
And pretty soon, he’ll be travelling more than two hours every weekend to do that hobby.
Gaffney, 20, is a tuba player and plays in the Hawthorne Caballeros, a professional marching band that travels from Virginia to Connecticut every summer weekend for performances.
“It’s really cool,” said the 2010 Cinnaminson High School graduate. “I get to show off my musicality and show everything I’ve learned.”
But the drum corps Gaffney performs with is just a hobby—one he has to pay for. He’s currently fundraising to help offset costs—$800 for fees and $800 in transportation costs to get to Passaic County.
Gaffney started playing the tuba in eighth grade. He was in every school band and participated in every school function throughout middle and high schools. He’s currently a student at Burlington County College, studying business and music. He also works full time at Five Guys in Cinnaminson.
Since Thanksgiving, he’s been traveling to North Jersey practicing with other brass players and percussionists—some who come from as far as Canada—with the Caballeros.
Once the weather gets warmer, practices change to every weekend. Then, the summer comes and events are scheduled for every weekend, sometimes two shows.
They’ll march in parades, play at events and compete against other drum corps. Gaffney will still go to school and work full time.
“It’s difficult, but this is one thing I really enjoy doing,” Gaffney said. “It’s definitely stressful at times, but the people who live in Canada find a way to do it. My parents are really supportive so that’s helpful.”
The Hawthorne Caballeros have been in existence since 1946, operating out of the same facility and sponsored by the same group for all those years.
The group has won the Drum Corps Associates World Championship nine times, the American Legion National Title 16 times, the National Dream Contest 17 times, and the New Jersey State American Legion Title 43 times.
“They only take the best of the best people,” Gaffney said.
He’s one of about 14 tuba players in a group of 65 brass players alone.
Gaffney started with drums corps in 2010 after Cinnaminson High School Band director Deb Knisely encouraged him to join a group. That led him through to the Hawthorne Caballeros. There are doctors, lawyers, students and more who march with the band, Gaffney said.
“It’s pretty cool to see,” he said. “One guy is 67 and still marches. You have to have the passion for it.”
Gaffney has that passion and is trying to fundraise to keep himself a Hawthorne Caballero. He’s trying to raise about $1600 to pay for equipment, costumes, transportation and more.
The Hawthorne Caballeros Million Dollar March is a fundraising program set up to keep the program going. Those wishing to donate toward Gaffney’s goal must add his name in the special instructions’ box on the Paypal page.