Staff Changes Rapidly Hitting DCI

Staff Changes Rapidly Hitting DCI
As Labor Day comes and goes, the 2017 Drum Corps International tour is nearly a month behind us. September and October are significant when it comes to drum corps picking up new members of staff or swapping out caption heads and designers. With a drum corps staff being one of the biggest factors drawing in auditionees, it's always important for a corps to build out the best staff to help it reach a new realm of excellence. We saw the biggest example of this working successfully with the Boston Crusaders, following their late-2016 staff adjustments.

Rumors tell of there being an informal agreement between the Drum Corps International and the drum and bugle corps that staff hiring announcements must wait until the Tuesday after Labor Day. Now that September 5 has hit, let's take a look at the corps that have hit the ground running with their staff announcements.

Madison Scouts

Chris Tomsa joins the Madison Scouts as their new Brass Program Director. Most recently, Tomsa was one of the Mandarins' Brass Caption Heads and is now returning to the Scouts, where he earned 3 high brass awards and the 1975 DCI World Championship. As an arranger, Tomsa worked for the Glassmen for a decade and a half before moving on to Phantom Regiment. Former Madison Scouts' Brass Caption Head, Scott Oliver, is leaving to pursue his Masters degree. 

Also joining the brass staff as Co-Caption Heads are Sean Phelan and Mark Trulson. Phelan marched in the Madison Scouts hornline before moving up to a drum major position where he earned the Jim Jones Leadership Award from Drum Corps International in 2012. Trulson has spent the last 5 years as a part of the Mandarins' staff, where he served as a tuba instructor and eventually co-caption head from 2015-2017. 

Spirit of Atlanta

Jeff Nelson steps in as the new Executive Director after spending the last 2 years as the President of the Board. As the owner of Lone Star Percussion, Nelson is taking over as an experienced businessman and also a caring alum of the corps. According to the corps' website, Nelson "has been pivotal in restructuting the board and corps operations, leading to a strong recovery from a difficult financial position" after the corps "found itself in deep debt and with an uncertain future."

Matt Jordan joins the corps' instructional staff as a Front Ensemble Arranger and Coordinator. His experience includes work with the 2017 WGI World Champions Music City Mystique and other corps like the Bluecoats, Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment. Joining the staff as Color Guard Designer is Chance Livar, the direcor of the WGI Independent World winterguard Black Gold. His experience in the drum and bugle corps activity includes work with The Cadets and Boston Crusaders. Also joining from the Black Gold family is Roman Montoya, who will act in the new Movement Specialist position as a choreographer and instructor. Most recently in DCI, Montoya has worked with corps like Santa Clara Vanguard and Glassmen Drum & Bugle Corps.


Pioneer has made a new addition to their brass caption as well during this offseason. New to the helm is Andy Grindle, an alumni of the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps. After his age-out season in 2011, Grindle spend 2012-2016 teaching the Troopers as a member of their brass staff. 

Oregon Crusaders 

With the departure of their brass caption head, Oregon Crusaders have decided to develop their staff internally. Their new Brass Caption Head, Lisa Tatum, will be making the move up from Assistant Brass Caption Head. Tatum's experience includes work as a brass staff member with the Troopers and Bluecoats. Joining the team as Ensemble Specialists are Thomas Turpin and Chris Ruglia. Ruglia earned his Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Eastern Michigan University where he participated in multiple music ensembles including the Huron River Brass Quintet. Turpin currently serves as program coordinator and drill designer for numerous high school and university marching bands throughout Texas, Alabama, and Utah. He is also the Director of the Westwood Warrior Marching Band. 

Oregon Crusaders have also added a new staff member to head their percussion caption, Henry Gillard. Gillard boasts recent experience marching in top-tier ensembles like marching Blue Devils in 2012-2014 and RCC Indoor Percussion from 2012-2016.

Mike Moreno has also joined the staff in the role of Visual Coordinator and Drill Designer. As a performer, Moreno was a member of the Fantasia Winter Guard and Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps. In the high school band world, he has designed for big names like the William Mason marching band from Ohio and Ronald Reagan from Texas. 

As the corps strives to keep on the front edge of the drum and bugle corps activity, they have recently brought on Colton Hines as the Sound Designer and Electronics Engineer. Hines has worked in the marching arts as a consultant and audio specialist across the country. He has designed soundtracks for indoor winter guards through his company Winter Guard Soundtracks for groups like Mustang H.S. (OK), Union H.S. (OK), and Eclectix Independent.


After an incredible season in 2017, Sacramento Mandarins will be keeping a majority of their caption heads and design staff with the addition of a new Brass Caption Head. Mandarins' new Brass Caption Head Tim Snyder recently spent time with Troopers from 2013 to 2015 and made the move to Oregon Crusaders for the 2017 season. His experience includes arranging, consulting, and judging the marching arts activity across the country. Tim also works with the DCA Class A Champion Cincinnati Tradition as a music arranger.


Jade Bouza joins the crew at Colts Drum and Bugle Corps in the Color Guard caption as the new Caption head and a designer. The Colts' staff has been building up over their staff recently with their percussion and brass caption heads both returning for their second seasons in 2018. Bouza's experience in the activity lives mostly in Florida, having worked with names like Newsome H.S. guard, USF Winterguard, and Flanagan H.S. guard. Bouza speaks about her feelings on, "In my short time here, I can already tell there is something special about the Colts organization, and I'm truly humbled to come on board for the 2018 season."

Blue Stars

Adding a very reputable name to their already well established design staff, Blue Stars brought on Jim Wunderlich as the corps' new Brass Arranger and Music Coordinator. Having spent the last decade with the Blue Devils as the Front Ensemble Caption head and arranger, Wunderlich helped them earn 7 world championships and 4 Fred Sanford High Percussion awards.


Nearly flying under the radar, Drum Corps International's newest World Class group has added to their arsenal of design staff this September as well. Chuck Naffier joins the Genesis design staff as a Music/Brass Designer. Naffier spent the 90s with his own "home team" corps, Colts, and most recently served as their brass arranger in 2014-15. Having received his Bachelor of Music in Music Education from University of Northern Colorado, he is currently pursuing his Masters (also in Music Education) from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, IL.

The Cadets

The Cadets were the first to break silence and announce their staff changes... or similarities rather, promptly at 12:06 AM Eastern time (coincidentally, right after the ending of the informal gag order on staff announcements). The design staff will stay the same as last year, giving them plenty of opportunity to cement their foundation even more after this past season.

One of the more interesting things in this post is the fact that auditions will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. Hopefully November in New Jersey won't be too cold! On the Cadets' website, director George Hopkins gives an insight on possibly revisiting Leonard Bernstein's works in the corps' 2018 production: "Our preference is to stick to Bernstein, but, there are meetings scheduled in the coming days with the New York Philharmonic and the Bernstein Office. Following those discussions, we will be in a better place to make the best of decisions."

Blue Knights

Also quick to pull the trigger, Blue Knights made their new Brass Caption Head announcement just 15 minutes after The Cadets. The corps added Chad Pence into the Brass Caption Head position, leaving Brad Toth a very talented, world-class free agent. Pence's drum corps resume includes impressive ensembles such as Star of Indiana '93, Star of Indiana "Brass Theater" in '94, as well as winning a DCI World Championship while marching in The Cadets in 1998. Pence went on to teach The Cadets, earning DCI World Championship titles in both 2000 and 2005. He is currently the director of bands at Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville, SC, and performs in the Charleston Wind Symphony.

The Academy

Two things are important to take away from The Academy's overnight announcement: the new program coordinator and a missing name. The Academy's four-year artistic director, Michael Townsend, will not be making a return to the Arizona corps. The new program coordinator, Lindsey Vento, will certainly be using her 18 years of experience from programming, designing, and choreographing finalist shows in WGI and BOA. She was recently a movement technician and hornline choreographer for Carolina Crown and will continue fulfilling that role as well as her new responsibilities with The Academy.

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