Spotlight Artist: Spencer Murray

Spencer Murray
Spencer Murray

Artist Profile: Spencer Murray

*Blue Stars, Cavaliers, University of Illinois, Orlando Magic’s Rhythm N Blue, Universal Studios Florida.

Primary Instrument: Snare and Tenors.

Teaches at: Boone High School (Orlando, FL).

Other  Associations: C-U Symphony, Central Illinois Prairie Jazz Ens, Mark Foutch Brass Band, Infinity Percussion, Cavaliers Indoor (Green Thunder Percussion), Apopka High School, Atwood-Hammond High School, Urbana High School, Champaign Central High School, Tarpon Springs High School.

Other Skills: Composing & Arranging.

Awards: John Philip Sousa Award (8th grade), John Philip Sousa Award (12th grade), Boston Crusaders Best American Cadence contest champion (video below).

Inspirations & Motivations: Wife & two-year-old daughter, and those who told him he couldn’t early on.

Favorite Moment: Receiving the news about joining the Cavaliers, and DCI Finals 2009 with the Cavaliers.

Owner of: BlueGreen Music and Murray Percussion.

 

Boston Crusaders playing “Cantamos” by Spencer Murray

INSIDE THE LINE: Spirit Of America

Spirit Of America is an emerging Independent Open Class powerhouse that has successfully championed this year’s WGI Worlds.  Their 2015 show “Tango; Frost On The Burning Rose” is a detailed exploration of passion and indifference, highlighting the universal emotions of love and hate.  All of this is exquisitely performed through the medium of Tango music, as initially inspired by the stylings of Astor Piazzolla.  Piazzolla was an Argentinian composer and one of the creators of Nuevo Tango; a tango, jazz, and classical infusion that led to the now popular Neotango, which helps to explain some of the awesome music drumline fans heard from Spirit Of America this season.

IMG_8938Dawning a full featured line of cajons, Spirit brought a fresh flavor to the Latin theme, which is often overplayed in the marching arts community.  The only single aspect of the show that may have upstaged this ingenious addition could have been the marimba line, featuring a stunning group of performers that were all female.  Another very notable element of their show was the performance of the visual ensemble as “the woman who couldn’t be tamed” danced around the floor.  She seemed to enchant the members of the battery section, leaving them wanting more, along with the audience.  When DOA got our 1st glimpse at Spirit’s 2015 program, we were left with that all too familiar feeling; that love-hate many of us felt in middle school, as the boy or girl we had our eye on somehow toyed with our emotions.   At the end of the show, we knew these amazing musicians had just left something very special on the floor.  So DOA wanted to find out about the very special place that it all came from.

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Dan Pfeiffer, the battery section leader says that Spirit Of America “represents the power music has to change lives.”  Dan is about 12 years into the organization and says that this line has definitely had a hand in raising him.  Introduced to some of his most positive mentors, Dan says he draws on Spirit’s influence for many real life situations.  Front ensemble section leader, Kirsti Pugsley describes the unit as “dedicated to the education of young people.”  She too notes the application of Spirit’s teachings in the day-to-day world.  Both performers sited attributes such as teamwork, discipline, and endurance as ideals that Spirit Of America puts forth to their students, and they are both so grateful to have that.   When asked to comment, Ian Hale, Spirit’s percussion director said that he just lets the music guide him through his teachings.  Many would say well played, since it guided his drumline to a WGI championship win this season.  Hale was asked about the moment Spirit was announced as the PIO champion, “It was an incredible moment for all of us…”  DOA couldn’t help but feel that in this description, Hale wasn’t only speaking about that one specific moment.  He was describing a season full of determination, exploration and endeavor, in all aspects.  He was describing the values that he had instilled in his students.  Hale was describing the love and the bond that the “sport of the arts” creates between teammates.  Spirit represents all of these things to the fullest extent.  Spirit of America represents exactly what a true team spirit should be.

DOA would like to thank Ian Hale, Kirsti Puglsey, Dan Pfeiffer, and Sharon Tingley for the time out they took to spend with us.  Best wishes to Spirit Of America for the future.

Inside the Line: RCC

As any WGI fan would imagine, Riverside City College’s percussion program is sitting on a huge cloud of excitement, success, and satisfaction right now.  After all, they are the 2015 Independent World Class champions!  As the smoke settles and the confetti begins to be swept off the floor, the man behind RCC’s indoor percussion program, director Gary Locke, took a moment to graciously speak with DOA.

RCC Indoor Percussion performs "Guardians of the Breath."
RCC Indoor Percussion performs “Guardians of the Breath.”

Gary Locke was hired at Riverside City College in 1984 when the school moved past toying around with the idea and decided to actually start a full marching band.  As a brand new band director, Locke gave himself a few years to really build a foundation, but he had big ideas!  Pageantry and percussion, that was where Locke would turn his focus, in an effort to expand & strengthen his band program.  Enter the winter guard program we now call Fantasia and the winter drumline group now known as RCC Indoor Percussion.  Gary Locke had now put himself in a world where he had to become a ‘jack of all trades.’  When Locke spoke about his efforts to truly provide his students with ample opportunities beyond the field & floor, he said “Sometimes it means recruiting, sometimes it means negotiating with Hollywood producers and corporate CEOs, and sometimes it means explaining to the college administration just what ‘indoor pageantry’ is all about!  It’s always interesting, always challenging.”

No doubt that Gary did a tremendous job spearheading all of his programs, but he still wanted more.  Scott “ScoJo” Johnson was brought in by Locke to help Riverside’s marching band.  When that help began to make it’s way into the winter drumline program, Johnson suggested bringing Sean Vega on board as well.  Locke obliged and as he told Marching Buzz in a previous interview “the rest is history.”  RCC Indoor Percussion as we now know it was born, less the recent partnership with Blue Devils Drum Corps that has marching musicians excited all across America.

RCC wins the WGI gold medal!
RCC wins the WGI gold medal!

Now just finishing up the 2015 drumline season, RCC Indoor Percussion revels in a great victory.  Their show “Guardians of the Breath” was a hit with fans and judges alike.  An emotional art piece about trees, it explores the direction we are headed in as far as environmental preservation.  Here is what Mr. Gary Locke had to say about RCC 2015:

Q. Where did the idea for “Guardians Of The Breath” come from

A. While Sean may be better equipped to answer this question, my take on it is that initially it came from a Howard Jones song, which we didn’t ended up playing, but the premise was a springboard to present the idea; we’re gradually ruining our ecology and killing trees – the “Guardians of the Breath.” Jim Wunderlich brought the idea to the table.  He’s our head writer for the front ensemble.  Our 41 performers were very motivated and committed to this theme, thanks to Sean and his caring way of teaching.

Q. How did you feel when you heard the championship announcement?

A. After the lengthy awards ceremony finally got through all 15 of the scholastic world class finalists and nearly all of the independent world class finalists, there were only two things left to announce, the silver and gold winners in PIW.  I realized that I was kind of holding my breath (no pun intended) as the announcer eventually got around to the gold medal announcement.  At the moment when they announced our score, I let out a great yell!  It was like an emotional release of the stress of the entire season, all in one moment of joy!  I also remember feeling so happy for our hard-working staff, especially Sean & Jim.

Q. What was the most difficult part of the 2015 season?

A. For me, it might have been encouraging the students to stay healthy.  These students have to juggle everything in their lives, while being dedicated to our demanding program.  They change their work schedule, their school schedule, their social schedule & even their eating schedule in order to give this their all.  It lasts about 6 months and the show itself is very demanding physically!  They have to be athletes and that’s why it’s called the “Sport of the Arts!”  These young performers have to constantly make the right choices; what to eat, what to drink, how much rest to get, etc. so that they can hold up over the long season.  They did a great job, while being supervised by a tremendously talented staff of experts!

What an amazing season for such a dedicated group, and it all started with Locke’s efforts all the way back in 1984.  Building a championship program takes years of determination, hard work, and innovative ideas.  DOA would like to congratulate Gary Locke, Sean Vega, the entire RCC Indoor Percussion staff & membership, and the BD Performing Arts program on their WGI championship win!  We also would like to thank Mr. Gary Locke for speaking with us and wish great things for RCC in the future.

DL Battle comes to Tattoo

DrumLine Battle®, a rapidly growing series of worldwide competitive and exhibition music ensemble performance opportunities produced by Drum Corps International, is pleased to announce several officially sanctioned DrumLine Battle performances at the 2015 Virginia International Tattoo.

“We are thrilled to expand the DrumLine Battle brand into the Tattoo,” DCI Director of Business Development John DeNovi said. “This event will engage not just the active marching ensembles in the Tattoo, but to also bring in local performers and put unique ensembles and performance styles in a head-to-head match up like never before.”

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Presented annually in Norfolk, Virginia, the Virginia International Tattoo is an exhibition of marching bands, massed pipes and drums, drill teams, gymnasts, Scottish dancers, choirs and more. Each year, a cast of over approximately 1,000 artists from several countries, and every branch of the US military, creates an unforgettable spectacle under one roof for four breathtaking performances. The Virginia International Tattoo is the largest show of its kind in the United States.

This year, the Tattoo will take place from Thursday, April 23rd through Sunday April 26th, at the Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia. Featuring a wide variety of performing ensembles, the events are slated to start at:

Thursday, April 23, 7:30 PM
Friday, April 24, 7:30 PM
Saturday, April 25, 7:30 PM
Sunday, April 26, 2:30 PM

Groups interested in performing in the event are encouraged to to contact Taylor Criswell at donald.t.criswell.mil@mail.mil. Event specific information will be listed on the SoundSport event schedule page as it becomes available.

Q&A with Jennifer Hafner, Virginia International Tattoo Assistant Producer

– What does the DrumLine Battle program offer for ensembles participating in the Tattoo?

Hosting a DrumLine Battle will enhance the spirit of camaraderie at the Virginia International Tattoo. While the participating groups from the Tattoo cast will get the chance to perform together in the show, this will be an opportunity for them to get an even better understanding of the uniqueness that each performing ensemble brings to the Virginia International Tattoo. For the drum lines that are joining us from area high schools, it is a chance for them to participate in a performance at a world-class level as well as see in real time types of percussion that they may not have the chance to experience otherwise. Having local high school groups involved is also a great way to continue to broaden the Virginia International Tattoo fan base.

– Why is hosting this event important to you? What makes it important to performing ensembles in the Tattoo world?

Hosting a DrumLine Battle event is a logical next step in helping to bridge the various pageantry arts. The goal here is to introduce thousands of people to the various types of pageantry organizations such as DCI, WGI, Music for All, as well as the Virginia International Tattoo. We continue to look for new groups to participate in the Tattoo, especially international ensembles. This keeps our production fresh and ever progressive artistically. In this regard we share many similarities with the aforementioned performance organizations.

– What are the advantages of this competition as opposed to what already occurs in your event?

The interesting thing with an event like DrumLine Battle is, in fact, the competitive element. The Tattoo is a time for a variety of people from different backgrounds to work together to create 2 hours of shared moments. There is nothing esoteric about DrumLine Battle. Anyone who watches this event, even if it is for the first time, will understand what is happening. People enjoy sports for this reason. Team A head-to-head with Team B. We get it! More than that, people LIKE competition! So, although the Virginia International Tattoo is not a competitive show, providing a fun pre-show contest to highlight these fine performers will add yet another layer to the overall Tattoo experience that anyone can enjoy.

-Story via DrumLineBattle.com

Inside the Line: I2

Welcome to DOA‘s brand new featured article series, “Inside The Line” where we will explore the inner workings of some of the top drumlines across the country.  This week, Infinity2…

Infinity2 performs "The Offering"
Infinity2 performs “The Offering”

As the post-TCI era continues in Central Florida, many fans and followers of indoor percussion have taken to Infinity and quickly watched them rise as the state’s premier ensemble. Students of the activity were excited when the group instituted Infinity2 (also referred to as I2) a couple of years ago.  This meant a greater chance at playing for the Infinity family and a better training ground before marching world class.  Though the ensemble is looked at as the open class little brother of the original Infinity, fans were blown away during the 2015 season when I2’s show design and costume choices seemed to upstage it’s older sibling.  I2 soon became the talk of the Florida drum scene.

“The Offering” is an emotional performance that explores human sacrifice in a new way, giving a greater sense of understanding with regards to the sacrifice himself.  Many Hollywood movies and Broadway productions enter this realm, but usually from a communal perspective, almost never through the eyes of the one being killed or the one doing the killing.  Ensemble Director Mike Hansen tells DOA that “while the film Apocolypto did inspire us, the design staff decided to take our storyline in a new direction.”  Well they totally nailed it!  With a 1st in FFCC‘s championship competition and a 5th in WGI‘s world championships, I2 became almost as infamous as Infinity in 2015.

DOA was able to ask Mr. Hansen a few additional questions:

Q. What was the toughest part of the season?

A. The most challenging part of the season for us was building the prop! When we started designing the program, we knew we needed the ziggurat (an ancient tower/temple). It was something we felt was necessary to set the stage and really get the audience to buy in to the atmosphere we as the design team were trying to portray. We were fortunate enough to have been donated the foam materials and facilities to build it.  We spent months designing, cutting, gluing, chiseling, heating, and painting the sheets of foam to create an authentic looking Aztec temple.

Q. How do you plan to follow up such a great show?

A. We are very humbled that you guys at DOA enjoyed our program so much! I can’t express enough how proud I am of the hard work and dedication of our membership, staff, administration, and parent volunteers that have helped us along the way. While I can’t give away any details, I can tell you, we are already hard at work designing and have some really exciting plans for 2016 in the works!

Mr. Hansen would also like to send a special thank you to the others on his design team; Jeremy Goldberg, Tony Camarano, and Noah Bellamy.  As well, DOA would like to thank Mike Hansen for speaking with us.  Best wishes and we hope to see Infinity2 do great things in the future!

Director Mike Hansen with Infinity 2.
Director Mike Hansen with Infinity2.

WGI World Championships

D-Day is here!  Today begins Winter Guard International‘s Percussion World Championships.  Teams from all over the United States and beyond will go head to head in a 3 day production that culminates with Open & World Class Finals this Saturday, April 11. Concert class prelims starts today at 9am, and you can subscribe to WGI’s live webcast HERE.  Some of the featured ensembles this weekend will be RCC Percussion, Rhythm X, Pulse, Ayala High School, and Infinity.  The percussion competition will be followed immediately by the brand new WGI Winds competition.  You don’t want to miss it, this is going to be one for the record books!

For more information, please CLICK HERE.

Infinity - WGI Competitor
Infinity – WGI Competitor

ErgoSonic Percussion Receives Award

-Story via ErgoSonic Percussion

ErgoSonic Percussion Awarded Best New Marching Band Teaching Tool, Presented By School Band and Orchestra Magazine

ErgoSonic® Percussion is proud to announce that their Adjustable Angled Shell Marching Bass Drum was selected as the Best New Marching Band Teaching Tool at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Annual Show, held in Anaheim, California. The NAMM Show is the largest international gathering of music manufacturers, distributers and retailers in the world.

On behalf of NAMM and School Band and Orchestra Magazine (SBO Magazine), who presented the award, music educators adjudicating the awards searched the exhibit halls at the NAMM Show seeking out the best new products for instructional use. ErgoSonic’s Adjustable Angled Shell Marching Bass Drum was unanimously selected to receive the award in the marching arts category out of the thousands of exhibitors at the show. The award was presented to Ken Turner, president and chief executive officer of ErgoSonic Percussion by awards chair Dr. Karen Childress-Evans.

“It is an honor to be recognized by NAMM and SBO Magazine for this prestigious award,” said Turner. “We feel the award validates what we have known for some time — our innovative bass drums can be transformative for students in the percussion section, and are an innovative and invaluable teaching tool for music educators”.

About the ErgoSonic Marching Bass Drum

The ErgoSonic Adjustable Angled Shell Marching Bass Drum is an innovative new marching percussion instrument which has a unique shape that transforms the performer’s experience by addressing the many acoustic, pedagogical, tuning and movement challenges associated with the standard bass drum. With conventional equipment, players have little flexibility and control when it comes to utilizing various percussive strokes, hand dampening and muting techniques. Additionally, marching is difficult because the unwieldy size and shape of the conventional marching bass drum obscures the player’s line of sight and limits movement options.

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