Alumni Spotlight: Kerri Bilben
What year(s) did you march in the Blue Knights?
Where did you attend high school?
Education beyond high school?
Bachelor of Science in Music Education
What is your current occupation?
K-12 Band Director/Music Teacher
Why did you choose to march with the Blue Knights?
My friend at college (Jason Koets) had marched with Blue Knights and wanted to march his age out year. I grew up with Drum Corps International (DCI) as my parents used to be part of the Cavaliers Booster Club. We would watch the finals every year at Thanksgiving on PBS.
What is your favorite drum corps memory?
At the time it would be the performance at Camp Randall in Madison because my parents finally got to see one of their children march in DCI. But looking back I would have to say every moment; the good, the bad, all of it. I only marched the one year and I am so thankful I did. I was in college at the time and could only afford one luxury: spring break or Blue Knights. I most definitely chose correctly!
How has the Blue Knights impacted your life?
Being a band director I have used so much of what I learned in Blue Knights in my classroom. Doesn’t matter if it was when my band in Las Vegas was getting ready to perform in Bands of America or the advice I give my 6th grade about teamwork.
What are some the Blue Knights’ core values/principles that have resonated with you in life?
What I took away from my summer with Blue Knights was no matter how hard something is, don’t give up. There were times mid-season when I was tired, sick, homesick, and I just wanted to go home. My friend, Jason, told me if I did I would regret it. I think at all the things I do now and realize that I am learning something from them: lessons or blessings. Blue Knights was both a blessing and so many lessons. I still keep in contact with a handful of friends I made in Blue Knights, but even more than that I will always have a special place in my heart for Blue Knights and everything it taught me.
What advice would you tell someone considering trying out for the Blue Knights?
I had a student audition for Blue Knights one year. I cheered him on so much, but it wasn’t what his heart wanted to do. If my own children (all 3 are brass players) or another student wanted to audition for Blue Knights, or any drum corps I would support them in any way I could. Even if they didn’t make the drum corps, the experience from trying out is amazing. Too many people think about trying out for sports teams, when I got so much more (positive) out of being in Blue Knights then I ever have from sports. I think that’s because there’s no bench warmers in drum corps. Everyone matters. Everyone is important. You just don’t get that in sports today, and that’s pretty sad.
I’m looking forward to performing with the Blue Knights again. Minnesota has Minnesota Brass, but I’m Blue Knights through and through. Once a Blue Knight, always Blue Knight.
I think alumni should be more involved in the camps, but also anywhere the Blue Knights is represented, from marching band shows to working the souvie trailer. Even showing up to shows wearing Blue Knights gear is great for alumni. Not too much for the Minnesota alumni to do, but I am willing to help in any way I can.