From Piano Lessons, to the Professional World of Music

“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.

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.”

Brad performing in the USAAAMB
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.”

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 with the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps

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.

Brad Performing in the Cocoa Rhythm“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.


Bloo is the New Black and Gold

Prashant receiving the 2015 Calvin P. Titus Award

Prashant receiving the 2015 Calvin P. Titus Award

Justin Cohen receiving the Nathan Pernick Leadership Award

The 2014 DCI season was one for the history books. There was silence in the crowd of over thirty thousand fans as the judges announced the bronze medalist for the season. The Cadets had not lost to the Bluecoats once all summer, and for the first time in the corps history, the Bluecoats received the silver medal for the 2014 DCI season, beating the Cadets by 0.30 points and taking second in both GE captions and visual analysis.

This fantastic drum corps is now pushing toward the 2015 season, where there will be much anticipation as to what they will bring to the table. Will they have what it takes to bring a new name to the table of DCI champions? The Founders Trophy awaits.

Three new members of the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps are USAAAMB alums of this past 2015 season, Aly Harris (Color Guard), Prashant Chakradhar (Baritone) and Justin Cohen (Trumpet). While all three are exemplary leaders,  Prashant and Justin received leadership awards during Bowl week for the examples they set in the USAAAMB. Prashant Chakradhar was the winner of the Calvin P. Titus award for the east and Justin was awarded the 2015 Nathan Pernick Leadership Award, which is named after one of our alums that passed away. Both of these incredible leaders are about to leave for the summer and become a part of what may be the new leading corps of this decade. They will face many hard days, but will grow stronger as reciprocation to their commitment.

In speaking to these two All Americans, I was able to ask them about their experience in the marching arts, and how they see music as a part of their life.

Prashant was the first I began talking to, and I learned how his story for going out for Corps is quite different from others. As stated before, Prashant is a ‘ 15 alumni of the USAAAMB, and while in San Antonio for the bowl game performance, he had the chance to have a conversation with Justin Johnson, one of the instructional staff  members for the USAAAMB and also one of the visual instructors for the Bluecoats. Almost on a whim, Prashant asked Justin if there was any chance to still march for the Bluecoats, keeping in mind that they were already entering the second week of January. Justin forwarded Prashant to the Bluecoats staff and there he gained the opportunity to send in a video audition for the drum corps final callback camp.

From there, he was contracted, and the rest was as they say, history. He explained further how going into his first actual camp with the Bluecoats in March was an experience he will never forget.

“I had always heard from my band directors and peers that had marched that it would be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences that I would ever have. That’s the expectation I have for drum corps this summer. Of course, my first time as a performer and a Bluecoat on the field will be like nothing I have ever imagined.”

In regards to the All American program, Prashant learned how to handle the challenges in life. Entering the experience, he held no desire to be a professional musician, and grew by applying the lessons he had learned in the USAAAMB to various parts of life.

“Learning a marching band show in roughly 20 hours proved to me that anything was possible. When I heard about the limited rehearsal time and the load of visual and musical material, I was very nervous on how I’d be able to not only hold my own in San Antonio, but also perform at the level of an All-American. Doing so and having the time of my life during the program taught me that I could achieve I set my mind to.”

As to the future, Prashant now plans on continuing music in college. He anticipates attending Centre College, a private school in Danville, KY, as a liberal arts major with concentrations in economics, math, and music. He aspires to study this odd combination between economics and music because he believes that pursuing these two seemingly different things simultaneously will teach him a lot of different ways to think about his future career.

The next student I interviewed was Justin Cohen, recipient of the 2015 Nathan Pernick Leadership Award. Justin has always been a fan of Drum Corps International, starting at a very young age. Justin and his sister listened to DCI shows together as they grew up through the marching band program in school, and she later went to march with Spirit of Atlanta in 2011 as a mellophone player. The passion and experience that she shared with him after she returned from the summer only strengthened his want to be in a World Class hornline.

Throughout Justin’s years marching in middle school and high school, he had a burning dedication toward performing in high-intensity shows. Being a section leader for two years also fueled his passion for music and the arts until he finally decided to audition.

“Having a sibling who marched really was the most influential part of me wanting to march, as she continues to tell me about the people she met, places she traveled to, and the screaming thousands that she got to perform for during the summer. I wanted that extra something, something that would bring my love for performing and intensity to an entirely different level.”

Justin described further to what a privilege it was to be a part of the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band . Part of the reason that he wanted to join drum corps was for all of the amazing people that he will meet, and it just so happens that the USAAAMB has that to offer that as well.

“I’ll never forget the people I marched alongside with, as well as the feeling of being selected and recognized simply for something that I love to do. As for the Nathan Pernick Award, I can’t say enough about how honored I feel to receive and represent an avid performer that was also a part of the All-American family.”

As he continues into college at Kennesaw State University this fall, Justin will be studying computer science so that he may later direct himself to a career in audio engineering. Justin took care in explaining how he loves creating music that sounds and feels good with others, which is very much like performing. Through his experience with being section leader, he sees himself teaching high school bands or drum corps for a short time. In all senses, he sees no way that he could give up music. The talents that have been given to him have created most of the incredible journey he has ever been on, and he does not plan on stopping anytime soon.

Both of these fine performers have learned through experience, and have an immense passion for the marching arts. Justin and Prashant will take the skills they have gained through being a part of the USAAAMB and use them to become the next great leaders of the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps, and to carry themselves with excellence wherever they go in life.

I would also like to make a shout out to ’15 color guard member Alyson Harris who will be marching Bluecoats this summer as well!

Alyson Harris

Alyson Harris

The Value of Music: How it has changed the Life of Glenn Robertson

Robertson pictured second from left. Photo Cred.

Robertson pictured second from left. Photo Cred.

Following high school, many of our U.S. Army All-Americans go on to study music and become the next great musicians/teachers of our generation. Others choose to leave music studies as a high school memory that will remain in their hearts forever. And finally, there are some that participate in their school’s college marching band, continuing to enjoy playing and performing at the next level. These memories and experiences stay with us for all of time, and in many circumstances, life can bring us all back to these roots that have made us who we are. For musician and performer Staff Sergeant Glenn Robertson, that is exactly what happened.

SSG Glenn Robertson is a musician, and a member of the Army Rock Band, The Volunteers. He, along with MSG John Lamirande, SFC Tom Lindsey and SSG Brandon Boron are members of a smaller ensemble within the Volunteers known as the Six String Soldiers. They have all been mentors with the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band during Bowl week in San Antonio, TX. Robertson and Boron are alumni of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band as well. Playing quads in the drumline at UMass, Robertson found his way in life and learned what it means to be a family. Thom Hannum, the Assistant Band Director  of the Minuteman Band, teaches his students to always take care of each other. Following his collegiate education, Robertson auditioned for the United States Army Field Band, where he learned the value of family again with a group of people that would change his life forever.

Glenn recently visited the University of Massachusetts – Amherst to play for the music students and talk about his life experiences.  With the Six String Soldiers, he participated in a tech class for our very own UMass Drumline. Little to his knowledge, I myself was a student in that class and was lucky enough to hear Glenn’s story. Through his playing and speaking, he showed the students how the world around us is full of opportunity.

Through communicating with Glenn, I learned a wealth of knowledge about his life, and how he views music in our society today.

To all music students reading this, please hear Glenn’s story. Hear what he has to say. The arts are a huge part of the world we live in. To anyone who is discouraged thinking that they cannot make a career from performing in the arts, see what this man did to create the life he has today. It is truly inspirational.

Q: What has really gotten you into music and drumming?

A: “Music has always been a huge part of my life from when I was very young.  My father was an event DJ and a music lover, so my house always had music playing and a wide variety of music at that.  I believe that his passion as a music listener is where it all started for me.  When I turned four they got me a toy drum kit which I learned to play by watching concert footage on VHS from my father’s collection.  Eventually in the 5th grade I got a real set of drums and began studying.”

Q: How did being a part of the UMass Percussion Section change your views on music and life?

A: “I attended David Prouty High School in Spencer, MA.  My first teachers at Prouty were Chris Constantine and Jon Boisjolie.  Chris marched snare at UMass and Jon marched in the quad line as well as the Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps.  I am not sure of the years but it was all during the 90’s.  These two were the people that introduced me to the UMass Drumline.  Once I got introduced to UMass I was hooked.  When it came time to apply to colleges I only applied to UMass for the sole purpose of getting into the drumline.

Long story short, I drove up to the spring tech class prior to entering UMass to get my foot in the door.  By the time I got to Band Camp I had an understanding of the culture and work ethic. The big shock to me at band camp was the work load and daily expectation! The concepts of team work and accountability are band qualities, but at UMass it was taken to an entirely new level. My biggest take-aways from UMass are what it takes to be a team member, that personal accountability translates into team success and that more than anything to cherish the friendships you make and to take care of each other.”

Q: How did you get into the Army, what motivated you to incorporate the volunteers and the army bands into your life?

A: “Fast forward to 2009 and I auditioned to join The Volunteers of the United States Army Field Band.  The first thing you do in the Army is get sent off to basic training.  The first thing you learn in the Army are the Army values: L.D.R.S.H.I.P. aka Leadership – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage.  The day that I was taught these core values I had realized that the Army was a place where I could thrive.  Every single one of the Army Values are the same exact values that Thom Hannum and the UMass Marching Band was incorporating into the program. Having been in the Army now for 6 years I take great pride in knowing that the core values if the US Army were founded in me by my experience playing drums at UMass.  It’s kind of a trip to look back on that progression, but it makes realize that the success of the UMass Drumline  and marching band is much like the success of the US Army and I truly believe that these successes lie within a foundation of values that their members live their life’s by.”

Q: Finally, any advice for the All-Americans that I am writing to on life or just music in general?

A: “For both past and future alumni I say this.  These are some of the most squared away people in our country.  These are out future leaders.  To these students I want to tell them to not be afraid to take risks.  I am not talking about skydiving, although that is cool, I am talking about calculated risks with their school careers, or seeking a semester abroad, or at seas.  To not be afraid to take career risks and shot for things that are hard and challenging.  These are the people in this world that know how to overcome adversity, find the silver lining, and always land on their feet.  So go out there, go big and don’t fear what you don’t know.”

Glen continues to perform with The Volunteers and their string band the Six String Soldiers to this day, never taking a moment for granted.

Check out their Facebook page to see more of their performances and where the group is today!

And also, take a look at this video of Six String Soldiers and the UMass Drumline tech class!

A New Era for the USAAAMB

The USAAAMB is proud to announce our new director for the upcoming season Dr. Ken Bodiford!  He is from Jacksonville State University, bringing a lot of new and exciting experience to the table.  Dr. Bodiford is the perfect new addition to our family!

As many of you may be wondering, why the change?

Well, every two years the All American Marching Band gets a new set of instructional staff to join the team.  Some have been involved before, but we always hire a new director for these two-year periods.  Dr. Bodiford is now the new director for the 2016 and 2017 seasons!

I was able to talk with Dr. Bodiford about this new position and hear what he is looking forward  to as being a part of the USAAAMB!

Q: So first off, Dr. Bodiford, what are you most looking forward to in teaching these new students? 

 A: “I look forward to teaching these students just how much can be accomplished in a short amount of time, with a great attitude and work ethic.”  

We continued on to talk about his views on teaching, and what motivates him to do what he does day in and day out.

Q: What is your favorite part of teaching?  

A: “My favorite part of teaching is seeing that look of pride on the student’s faces when they know that they have accomplished the goals that have been set before them.  When you work hard and diligently on a project (a show) and the performance is spectacular and the audience goes crazy with applause…that rush of adrenaline is an amazing feeling for all that are involved.” 

Q: Is there a difference between teaching on the field and in the classroom?

A: “I love teaching both in the marching and the concert area.  To me, they are not that different.  In both settings, you teach good musicianship, precision, discipline and strive for excellence.”

Q: What is your past experience with the USAAAMB?

A: “My first experience with the USAAAMB was in 2011.  I was on the instructional team as the Tuba instructor.  At that time, I fell in love with the program.  The students that are chosen for this activity are the “best of the best.”  It is a pleasure working with students of that caliber.” 

We are thrilled to have someone like Dr. Bodiford on our team, and we hope this motivates all future All-Americans as well!  With a director as knowledgeable and passionate as he is, the USAAAMB will be experiencing another successful two years under a great leader.  To this young 9-year old program, Dr. Bodiford is the perfect fit to excel what we are to the next level.  We welcome him with open arms and are excited to get started!

All About Auditions

The USAAAMB enters its 9th year with this year’s candidates.  If you have questions about auditions, here is a great place to start!  Taking your marching experience to an entirely different level, this group is for those who strive for excellence and are passionate about performing.  The program is already underway for making this season especially historical for the marching music activity.  Embrace yourself to take a trip on this once in a lifetime adventure that will be with you always.  So what do you think?  Are you in? 

 When can I apply for the 2016 USAAAMB?

Auditions for the 2016 program are currently open and will end on May 1st 2015.

How will I know if I’m eligible to participate?

You must be an American citizen.

You must be a member of your high school marching band from the time you applied to the January 9th performance.

You must be a high school senior for the 2015-2016 school year.

What are the commitments?

You must hold a commitment for attending the Bowl performance that runs from January 4th through the 10th 2016 in San Antonio Texas.

How do I apply?

Only online applicants will be considered for the audition process.  A completed application should include: All of the online applications (terms and conditions, applicant contact information, etc,)

Uploaded school information packet.

All required audition videos depending on your instrument of choice.

Where do I submit the videos?

When you have completed the filming for your videos, EVERYTHING is uploaded to You can create an online profile on that website.

What instrument or section can I apply for?

Drum Major

Woodwinds: Piccolo, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone,

Brass: Trumpet, Mellophone, Trombone, Baritone, Sousaphone,

Percussion: Snare Drum, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum 1-5, Vibes, Marimba, Bass Guitar, Drum Set, Piano.

Color Guard: Flag or Rifle

Can I apply for more than one section? Students can apply for multiple instruments, but they must submit a separate application and audition video for each position.

When will I get my results?

Applicants will be notified via email by the end of July 2015.

*You cannot edit your video to correct flaws*

Below is advice from past All-Americans on the audition process and how to get prepared musically and visually for your own recording.

Something to keep in mind is that the submission deadline is closer than you think. When preparing for the audition, do not skimp in the first few months because May 1st seems like a long way off. It is not. Start practicing early–it doesn’t have to be much on a daily basis, but probably by early April you should be comfortable with whatever your audition material is to give you plenty of time to record.

For Percussion, woodwinds, and Brass
In preparing the marching and playing video, keep in mind that moving around is a big part of it. It might not seem like a big deal, since the moves aren’t all that complicated, but it adds an extra layer of things to keep in mind. You can’t just practice the excerpt alone. Think about where direction changes fall, how marching may affect your playing technique or sound, etc. so it’s not a surprise later.

For the drumline especially, it’s important to make sure that the rhythms are exact and match up with your feet, so make that a big part of practicing. Be insistent on the tempo as well as how the parts are structured.  Also, a common practice is to borrow parts from DCI/WGI books, so if you’re stuck on what to do that could certainly be a good place to start.

For the color guard: It would be best to keep two things in mind–perform to your strengths, and make sure whatever you’re doing is executed at the highest level. Don’t pick something (or write something) that you’re going to struggle with come recording time.  Do not be worried about what other people are going to do. It looks much better on your part.

For the self-intro, DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS PART.   If you are not used to talking about yourself, this may take some preparation. In addition to that, it’s pretty easy for people to tell if you’re not confident or convinced of what you’re saying, so get to the point where you’ll be okay with the product. Also feel free to add in personal touches and humor. It doesn’t have to be (and even shouldn’t be) a listing-off of accomplishments–odds are you’ve already done that on the application, so this is really just a time to be you. People have acted, they have danced, and they have demonstrated their prowess with weaponry, etc. so there are no boundaries on what you can and cannot do just as long as you conduct yourself well.

For Drum Majors.  Think about why you originally wanted to lead your band and what you enjoy about it. Telling these stories and memories really gives the USAAAMB a better idea of the type of leader you are!

I had a chance to talk to Emily Swanson (Drum Major) about drum major auditions and she broke down how to prepare for the video audition for me, “Practice with the camera. It is honestly the most awkward thing to sit in front of a camera and talk. You are going to mess up, and it’s okay. My best videos came from when I had a close friend stand directly behind the camera and I just talked to them. It made the whole ordeal less awkward.  Have fun with the video. You don’t have to sit in a bland room with your best suit or dress on while reading scripted lines. Be creative, be funny, just be you!”

I also spoke with Theo Richardson (Drumline).

First off, audition. Seriously. This is a great experience that is 100% worth all of the time and effort that you put in.  Probably the best thing I can suggest is to make use of every resource you have to get feedback, especially anyone from your school that’s made the group before. I know that’s where I got a lot of good advice from since my section leader made it on bass drum the year before I did, and I was able to get a lot of help from him. Get another pair of eyes in as much as possible, because if you misread something in the prepared excerpt or something you’re playing isn’t readable, it helps to have someone to point that out.”