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Drums Along the Waterfront Celebrates WNY Competitors | Events

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Drums Along the Waterfront Celebrates WNY Competitors
Events, Families, People
Drums Along the Waterfront Celebrates WNY Competitors


Eight of the top drum corps in the world — who hold 42 combined Drum Corps International World Championship titles — will be visiting Western New York early next month to compete in the annual Drums Along the Waterfront competition.

“This is marching music’s major leagues,” exclaimed Jack Gaylord Jr., president of Drums Along the Waterfront. “The work, the dedication, the talent, the passion … they have made it to the very top.”

What’s more exciting than having these elite drum corps visit Western New York is the number of competitors and staff members calling this competition their homecoming. This year’s show will include Zane Tommy Franco (Jamestown) marching with the color guard for The Cadets of Allentown, Pa.; Jeremy Hunt from Wellsville who is the drill writer for Phantom Regiment, marched with the Bluecoats from 1994-97, and has worked with Carolina Crown, The Glassmen and the Colts; and Matthew Tichy (Lancaster), Aaron Witek (West Seneca) and John Blickwedehl (West Seneca) participating in the competition with the Blue Stars of La Crosse, Wis.

“Drum Corps is a musical sport,” Gaylord said. “In professional sports, there are very few from Western New York who are fortunate enough to make it to that level. Not only are they the Western New York musical athlete version of Patrick Kane and Rob Gronkowski, but we get to see them competing against one another on the same night on the same field in their hometown!”

Blickwedehl — who played trumpet for The Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps of Toledo, Ohio in 1996, 1997 and 1999 — is excited to make his hometown debut at this year’s competition.

“In all the years I’ve marched and taught in the drum corps and helped out with other DCI shows, I’ve never actually had a home show,” he shared. “This is my first home drum corps show ever in my years of involvement. I’m really excited about that.”

Blickwedehl was invited by his former student, Witek, assistant brass captain of the Blue Stars, to join the drum corps’ staff. He is currently in his second year with the team.

“John carries the same passion as the musical athletes he teaches … and those he teaches want to please him. That is where real learning takes place,” Gaylord said. “It would be impossible to coach/teach the best if you are not the best!”

Outside of the Blue Stars, Blickwedehl is a music teacher at West Seneca West Senior and Middle Schools, as well as the director of the West Seneca Marching Band. He’s excited to provide his marching band students with the opportunity to learn from the Blue Stars while they are being housed at the high school prior to the competition at Ralph Wilson Stadium. “All of our marching band students will have the chance to come watch us rehearse. That’s really cool.”

Observing professionals working in their field is a learning experience in itself, and working with them has been what Blickwedehl considers another form of professional development. “I get so many ideas and teaching experiences that I’m able to bring back for our students here in West Seneca.”

The lessons are being well-received by music students across Western New York. Besides the names mentioned above, Ruth Williams (Lancaster) is marching with the Boston Crusaders; Brett Lewandowski (Lancaster) is marching with the Jersey Surf; and Pat Fay (West Seneca) competed in the Drums Along the Waterfront competition two years ago as a member of The Bluecoats.

“The Western New York performers are an inspiration to the many kids from Western New York schools in attendance,” Gaylord said.

“The corps’ slogan is, ‘An experience of a lifetime,’” Blickwedehl added. “You learn to overcome so many obstacles, and you can only do it together. If there was a way for every kid to experience that in their life, we would have a much better world.”

Tickets to Drums Along the Waterfront Tour of Champions, taking place on Aug. 2 at Ralph Wilson Stadium, are on sale now through Ticketmaster. For additional ticket information, including pricing and a seating diagram, visit http://drumsalongthewaterfront.org/tour-of-champions/tickets. For more information about Drums Along the Waterfront, visit http://drumsalongthewaterfront.org.



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