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Person of the Week
Michele Auger: Music to Ivoryton’s Ears
With a lifetime’s experience with fife and drum corps, Michele Auger is working to re-start the Comstock Fife and Drum Corps. (Photo by Elizabeth Reinhart/The Courier)
Michele Auger became accustomed to the unmistakable sounds of military field music—the short, quick taps of a stick on a snare drum, the sharp notes of a fife, and the steady beat of a bass drum—as a young child.
“My father was in the Essex Sailing Masters [of 1812] when I was a baby, so I have grown up going to musters, parades,” Michele says.
When she was 11 years old, she joined the Deep River Junior Ancient Fife & Drum Corps (DRJA) where she played snare drum and later became drum major.
With both of Michele’s siblings also taking up the art of playing fife and drum music, family gatherings were a lively affair.
“I would say almost every family picnic growing up had fife and drum involved in it,” says Michele. “It would turn into a jam session and at some points, it still does to this day.”
The history of ancient fife and drum music in the region appeals to Michele.
“It’s rudimentary, ancient,” she says. “It’s a part of our history.”
The music can be traced back to early American battles including the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, when it was used as a way to regulate military troop movements and certain military tactics. The uniforms and three-cornered hats of those marching in an ancient fife and drum corps today are emblematic of their association with the militia of these historical time periods.
“It’s a tradition that everybody enjoys,” Michele says. “They love to go to parades and watch the musters and cheer us on, but I think we also need to get to a point right now where we need to hand this down to another generation.
“Getting members for a drum corps is not easy. In order for this tradition to keep going, every corps needs members,” she continues.
Michele, who grew up in Clinton, and is now a resident of Ivoryton, is attempting to re-start an ancient fife and drum corps in Ivoryton named the Comstock Fife and Drum Corps. She and her husband, Bryan Gibbons, who plays snare drum, consider the tradition of a fife and drum corps an important part of the vitality of a community.
“That’s why we’re trying to start the Ivoryton [corps] and bring it back in our community so we can all enjoy fife and drum in our parades and for local events like Labor Day, Memorial Day,” Michele says. “But the biggest thing is to be marching under the stars and stripes and that’s why we do it, for the love of our country.”
The Comstock Fife and Drum Corps recently marched in Ivoryton’s annual Fourth of July parade, behind the veteran’s color guard.
“The crowd was excellent,” Michele says. “They cheered us on [with] clapping, and marching by, you see the smiles and [hear] the hoots and the hollers. It was very well received by the community.”
In addition to bringing ancient fife and drum music to Ivoryton, Michele loves working with animals.
“My passion is caring for dogs,” Michele says. “I love dogs.”
When Michele isn’t working as a purchaser for New Haven-based Industrial Flow Solutions, she runs a pet-sitting service, Getaway Friends Pet Care. In this role, she tends to domestic animals like dogs, cats, and sometimes even rabbits or hamsters while their owners are away.
With her mother having been a wildlife rehabilitator, Michele understands the importance of having compassion for animals.
“I’m a big advocate for any animal…wild or domestic,” she says.
Michele rescued her dogs, Ezra and Ava, from animal shelters in Louisiana with high rates of euthanasia.
They “had less than 24 hours to live,” said Michele, adding that she adopted Ezra in 2018 and Ava in 2019, transporting them privately by tractor trailer from Louisiana to Rocky Hill.
Upon Ezra’s adoption, he quickly became part of a large fife and drum community, attending musters and camp outs.
“He just loved it,” Michele says. “He didn’t bark at the drums. He wasn’t scared of them. It was like his happy place. Everybody loved him, petted him.”
Eventually, a tag was made for Ezra naming him “muster mutt,” she adds.
In her leisure time, Michele enjoys taking her dogs for walks at the Millrace Preserve in Ivoryton and the Cockaponset State Forest in Chester, as well as taking advantage of what the local area has to offer.
“I love going to the beach,” she says. “I love being on the Connecticut River and going to Selden Island” where sometimes she and her family will “spend the day, bring the dogs and they get to go swimming and everybody’s happy.”
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Comstock Fife and Drum Corps can contact Michele at 860-316-7983.