“Music allows you to develop relationships with teachers and peers, but also requires hours of time alone, self-diagnosing, setting goals, being methodical, deliberate, and ultimately becoming self-reliant.”
A young boy spending the day at Hershey Park notices a loud bang in the distance, and a voice emerges from the echoing music. His mother brings him around the corner to feed his curiosity and the boy sees a group of young men dressed in bright clothing shouting and jumping in excitement to see him. The tallest of the group, microphone in hand, approaches the boy asking if he wants to dance. The boy is hesitant but accepts. From then on through the rest of the day the young boy cannot wipe the smile off of his face as a result of the performers he witnessed that day. To most, the memories of what they saw will fade away, but they will never forget what they felt. The man who brought such happiness to these visitors is named Brad Schoener; whose story is one of courage, hard work, and aspiration.
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Brad’s musical influence began at an early age, as both his father and step-mother were music educators. As a result of this, he grew up around music and its powerful touch. At the ripe old age of five, his father began to teach him how to play piano, leading to Brad’s piano focused beginnings in music.
No more than three years later, Brad began learning to play percussion, and once he was in middle school he began to truly dig into this new craft. Intrigued by this new style of performance and the possibilities it brought, he sought to find a new challenge to bring him to the next level of playing. Luckily enough, his older sister was a trumpet player and performed in the high school marching band.
Upon speaking with Brad, he expressed his passion for percussion and how it only grew when he first saw his high school drumline perform. While watching his sister at one of the marching band shows, Brad explains the inspiration he felt.
“I saw the high school drumline and immediately was captured by their performance. I was inspired. I knew that this was what was going to push my playing to the next level.”
I was also lucky enough to hear Brad’s opinions on music and how to this day it still helps him in the real world of music. He explained how every-day life situations can easily be related to any music training and experience he has had, because the lessons are one in the same.
“The way I approach every day scenarios is equitable to all of the music experience I have had. Music allows you to develop relationships with teachers and peers, but also requires hours of time alone, self-diagnosing, setting goals, being methodical, deliberate, and ultimately becoming self-reliant.”
Marching band quickly became one of the biggest interests in Brad’s life. He began to feel the difference not simply in his playing, but in his practicing. He began having very focused practice once he began marching band. As he articulated it to me, “before marching band, I consistently practiced, but did not practice correctly consistently. This realization is what made the difference.”
THE ARMY TEAM AND DCI
Once high school was drawing to its end, Brad found himself with a new challenge, the USAAAMB. Brad explained that for him, the audition process for the United States Army All-American Marching Band was intimidating. He understood that high school seniors from around the country would be competing for the limited spots in the drumline. Undaunted, he worked hard on the audition materials and continued to hone his musical skills as a percussionist. One of the biggest challenges, he said, was auditioning for snare at the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps along with the USAAAMB snare line in 2009.
“You can never set your sights high enough. You must find what it is about your craft that motivates you to continue to progress and never let up even when it seems like the odds are against you.”
The USAAAMB was a huge opportunity to create connections and build relationships with the great instructors that taught him there. Some of which to this day he has kept in contact with. They all brought a great positive perspective on teaching of which Brad strives to emulate still today with his music teaching. He recalls the staff treating the students very professionally in terms of their demeanor and expectations.
Brad later became very experienced with drum corps. Brad began with the Jersey Surf (2008-2009), Crossmen (2010), and lastly the Blue Stars (2011-2012).
Brad explained that he felt extremely fortunate to have participated in drum corps as long as he did. He was able to travel the country, meet life-long friends, and perform alongside some of the most motivated individuals he will ever meet. He believes that drum corps developed a lot of good habits, not just in drumming, but in day to day life. Something as seemingly inconsequential as promptly waking up in the morning and putting on your rehearsal shoes can be a struggle after months of touring. But learning to overcome adversity, even on a small scale, is what leads to tackling larger challenges that would’ve seemed too overwhelming before.
“What was one of your biggest tasks at hand when doing drum corps?” I asked Brad.
“Performing your individual show as perfectly as you can is the main goal of any member’s summer. However, to do so you must perform many small tasks with the utmost care and attention to detail. Staying motivated and fired up about finding every little mistake was the hardest part.”
Brad then began elaborating on his present, professional career in the music world. He described his experience with teaching the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps in 2013. He learned a lot about himself as a player and as an educator for younger students. He illustrated that when teaching kids all summer you feel an immense responsibility to be a good role model for them not just musically, but as a caring and passionate human being as well.
Today, Brad performs in a drumming ensemble called the Cocoa Rhythm Factory as a member of the company Windish Music and Productions. His involvement began with his connection to Michael Windish, as he attended West Chester University for his undergraduate degree just as Brad does. One of Brad’s professors referred him to Mike, and from there he put together a video where he performed a xylophone, drum set, and marching piece of music and sent it in. A few weeks later, he received a call from Mike and found out he got the gig. This was Brad’s first professional music performance job, and a few weeks later he had to memorize all of the music for the summer. Brad described Cocoa Rhythm as a new way to push his playing to a new level of performance. It taught him how to work with a crowd confidently and communicate.
“Cocoa rhythm has taught me to really sell my performance which is useful and different from the marching activity in a lot of ways. It’s become clear that entertaining the audience is just as, if not more important as playing the part perfectly.”
Today, Brad is continues to perform for Windish Music and will be attending his last year of undergraduate studies at West Chester University. He plans on continuing to teach and remain involved with DCI, performing and teaching to the best of his ability.