For some 2015 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band members, being a part of only their high school marching band wasn’t enough. Ten students in the 2015 USAAAMB have had experience marching with drum corps, known as “marching music’s major league.”
After catching up briefly with six of these drum corps members, it is evident that their passion for the marching arts is one that will lead this year’s USAAAMB to be the best it can be.
NOAH MENNENGA, TRUMPET
Member of Colt Cadets in 2010 and 2011 (trumpet) and 2012 (drum major)
“My time in DCI really laid a good foundation for both my marching and playing. Since I was really young when I started, I was able to learn the basics of drill and technique at a good time. It also taught me about being dedicated toward a goal and setting high standards for myself. Drum corps is all about constantly getting better and setting the bar higher, so that was one of the most valuable things I learned.
As far as being drum major goes, it was definitely a learning experience. It seemed like conducting, while it is the most visible aspect of the job, was what I spent the least amount of time thinking about. I did enjoy improving my conducting throughout the summer, but I found it more difficult to know how to lead the group. I had never been in a large position of leadership before, so I had to do a lot of learning as we went through the season. To be honest, there were days when I had no idea what I was doing or what I should have been doing, but there were also days when everything would go smoothly and we would have an incredibly productive rehearsal or a great show. Of course, having members who are good at what they do, work hard, and have fun makes the job much easier!”
Mennenga hasn’t marched with a drum corps for the past few summers, but he plans to march at least one or two more summers with a world class corps. He has been offered a position in the Commandant’s Own Drum & Bugle Corps of the US Marines but is also looking at universities to study trumpet performance.
MATTHEW YAMADA, TRUMPET
Member of The Academy in 2013 (trumpet) and the Madison Scouts in 2014 (mello)
“My experiences in DCI have taught me to be comfortable in nearly every situation. I’ve found that I react less emotionally in situations that would have previously caused me fear, stress, or anger. Things like spending the night in an airport alone aren’t all that daunting, because I realize that I’ll be able to figure it out even if I can’t do anything to stop it from happening.”
Yamada hails all the way from Hawaii but said he is looking forward to meeting new people in January with the USAAAMB. He hopes to “march drum corps every year that [he] can,” and though he doesn’t plan on majoring in music in college, he hopes to continue playing music in ensembles during college.
LONDON ROWLAND, SNARE DRUM
Member of 7th Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps from 2011 to 2013, United Percussion 2014
“DCI has taught me that no ensemble can reach perfection without every single individual reaching perfection.”
Rowland plans to “age out of world class” and has the goal of eventually becoming a teacher. But for now, he said he is looking forward to learning new concepts and ideas from a new staff at the USAAAMB in January.
ALANNA STAFFIN, MELLOPHONE
Member of Cadets2 DCA during 2014 season
“Drum corps has really taught me just how much I can strive for excellence. I joined the corps during their first camp of the season back in November 2013, and I loved every minute of it. I spent hours in my practice room working on my playing throughout the winter, and I also made sure I was in the best shape possible when we started learning drill in the spring. When summer came, there were many hot and tough rehearsals, but there is something about sweating on the field with 120 of my closest friends that made me want to work that much harder.
Cadets2 quickly became a second family to me. When I broke my toe in early July, my love for drum corps and my desire to keep improving kept me on the field and for a few weeks I learned to march through it. My drum corps family was right there to support me when I had to get foot surgery to fix my toe in late July. I was told I would not be healed enough to march again until finals weekend and was heartbroken, but I came every weekend and performed my small ensemble part on the sidelines because there was no place I would rather spend my weekend than with the corps. Finals weekend was tough trying to march again. I had wraps, braces, and ice, but I was so happy to march again [that] I did not care about the pain. In striving for an excellent performance that weekend, I gave everything I had and there was the biggest smile on my face as I stepped on the field with my corps.”
Staffin is looking forward to marching with 124 other passionate musicians and performers this January with the USAAAMB. She plans to march with Cadets2 again this summer, and then march DCI the following summer. She hopes to major in Dairy/Animal Science in college but hopes to keep music in her life.
PHILIP ANDREWS, SNARE DRUM
Member of 7th Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps from 2013 to 2014
“I’ve learned how to be a more proficient marching musician and a better musician overall. But I’ve also learned more about myself than I ever would’ve without drum corps. I’ve undergone a complete physical, mental, and moral transformation since my first audition camp, and I have the staff and my peers at 7th to thank for making me who I am today.”
Andrews looks forward to meeting the members of the 2015 All-American Marching Band. He said it is an “honor being one of them.” After USAAAMB, he plans to march with 7th Regiment for at least one more year. After that, he will attend college to pursue a double major in music education and performance.
KIERAN MAHER, COLOR GUARD
Member of the Reading Buccaneers from 2013 to 2014
“I have learned so many life lessons from the corps. Most importantly, when the going gets tough, you must keep pushing forward–never doubt yourself or your team. Hard work always pays off; you have to deal with the clouds so the sun can have an amazing entrance. You can’t cry about the small stuff. If you truly love something you will find away to make it happen. One of my favorite quotes came from corps: ‘Do it with passion or not at all.’ You have to, and will persevere with the right attitude.”
Maher is looking forward to meeting others who are as passionate about the marching arts as she as, as well as working under a new staff for one intensive week. She plans to continuing with drum corps until she ages out, and she also plans to continue teaching at Western Heights, where she is beginning her third year of teaching indoor guard. She hopes to join a college band and said she will continue with her marching career as long as her body will allow her.
DJ FOSTER, SNARE DRUM
“My experiences in playing various instruments for DCI have taught me the importance of the overall production and how each and every member of the corps is significant and has to be 100% in order to have a great finished product. Also I have learned great leadership skills and fundamental techniques with marching, playing, and teaching which I can use in the future and in my own programs at home. The most important thing DCI taught me was responsibility, which was learned by having to be on time to block and knowing how to take care of yourself while traveling thousands of miles all across the U.S.”
Foster is most excited to see the 2015 USAAAMB show come to life in San Antonio, as well as the instruction from members of the Army Band and DCI. He plans to audition for his dream corps, Carolina Crown, this year, while also playing snare for INFINITY 2 this WGI season. He is attending the University of North Florida for Music Performance with Concentration in Technology and Production in the Honors Program in 2015.
ABBI REEKIE, COLOR GUARD
Member of the Oregon Crusaders
“[My experiences with DCI] taught me how to be work ethics, what it means to push yourself, and how to be a leader.”
Reekie is looking forward to spending time in January creating another band family because, as she said, “it’s amazing how close people can become in such a short amount of time.” She plans to continue marching with the Oregon Crusaders for a few more years, and then hopefully march with Boston Crusaders or Blue Coats.
“Being a member of Legends has been a really incredible opportunity to meet some truly amazing people. Drum Corps taught me what I can handle. It taught me that success is about pushing your self to the absolute limit, and then giving a little more. My experience with Legends with be one I won’t soon forget.”
Kibby is looking forward to meeting fellow musicians in the USAAAMB and “hearing their stories.” Kibby’s future plans is to inspire younger musicians in the same way he was inspired as a young musician.
Other members of the 2015 USAAAMB who have been a part of drum corps include Kevin Clancy (Boston Crusaders) and Olivia Zahniser (Gold), who were contacted for this article but could not be reached.