Blue Knights Announce 2018 Percussion Staff
DENVER, CO – The Blue Knights are pleased to announce the Percussion Staff team for the 2018 Drum Corps International season.
Veronica Wicks – Percussion Caption Head
Veronica Wicks is the Percussion Caption Head for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps. Veronica is a percussion educator in Southern California with an additional background of study in psychology and social work.
She has taught many schools throughout her teaching career and is dedicated to educating young adults through music and mentorship in personal growth and development.
Veronica currently teaches and designs for battery percussion at several high schools in Southern California along with Broken City Percussion and the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps.
Mike Jackson – Percussion Composer & Arranger
Mike Jackson is the Percussion Arranger/composer and will provide oversight as Percussion Caption Supervisor for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps. For over two decades, Mike has been writing, teaching and designing shows for some of the most nationally recognized percussion programs in the United States. Historically, these include Mission Viejo HS, RCC, Santa Clara Vanguard, and the Bluecoats Drum & Bugle Corps. He has also sat on the Board of Directors for WGI and has been inducted into the WGI Hall of Fame.
Mike is currently a designer/composer for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, a designer/composer for Broken City Percussion, a board member and co-founder of SCPA (Southern California Percussion Alliance), a partner at Broken City Artists, a Yamaha performing artist and proudly using Evans Drumheads, Zildjian Cymbals, and Vic Firth Sticks/Mallets.
Kevin Shah – Music Coordinator, Percussion Composer & Arranger
Kevin Shah is an active designer and educator in the world of the marching arts. As a composer for winds and percussion, Kevin owns and operates projectRISEmusic.com which features many of his works for marching band and percussion ensemble.
Kevin is very involved in winter percussion and is the music designer for Arcadia High School (2011 WGI Scholastic World Champions, 2016 WGI Scholastic World Bronze Medalists) and Broken City Percussion (2016 WGI Independent World Bronze Medalists). Previously, Kevin has written for George Mason University (2012 WGI Independent Open Champion) and served as a consultant for Rhythm X. Kevin is also a member of the WGI percussion steering committee. Kevin has travelled with WGI to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand as a judge and clinician for the first two WGI Asia Regionals in 2015 and 2016.
As a longtime fan of drum corps, Kevin marched bass drum with Pacific Crest in 1999 and 2000 and aged out with the Santa Clara Vanguard in 2002. Kevin served as the Sound Designer for the Bluecoats from 2010 – 2013, and was the Front Ensemble Arranger for the Mandarins in 2013 and 2014. Kevin joined the Blue Knights in 2014 and serves as Music Coordinator and as a Composer/Arranger. Kevin also serves on the DCI Rules and Systems Task Force (RSTF).
Kevin holds a B.M. in percussion performance from UCLA where he studied with Mitchell Peters, and an M.M. in percussion performance from the Juilliard School of Music where he studied with Greg Zuber, Daniel Druckman, Gordon Gottlieb, Joseph Pereira, and the late Roland Kohloff. As a percussionist, Kevin has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, the Pacific Symphony, and has traveled to Europe, South Korea, Japan, and Australia while performing with the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra.
Phil Idell – Front Ensemble Manager
Phil Idell received his B.A. in Music Education from UCLA in 2012, where he studied percussion under Mitchell Peters and participated in numerous university music ensembles, including the UCLA Bruin Marching Band.
He currently instructs, arranges, and designs for several high school marching bands and front ensembles in the Los Angeles area and serves on the front ensemble staff at Broken City.
Phil’s performance experience includes Pacific Crest, the Blue Devils, and RCC Indoor Percussion. Phil is looking forward to his third year on staff with Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps.
Chris Murphree – Front Ensemble Instructor
Chris is currently a freelancing percussion specialist in central Indiana, primarily working with Brownsburg and Plainfield High School. He is also the front ensemble coordinator and arranger for the Legacy Percussion Ensemble based out of Indianapolis, IN. He also served as an arranger and teacher with Goshen High School from 2015-2017.
Chris received his Master’s degree from Indiana University, and his Bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, where he has also served as an Adjunct Professor of Percussion. During his time at IU he served as the associate instructor for the Marching Hundred Drumline.
His marching career includes Spirit of Atlanta, The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, and Music City Mystique. His past drum corps teaching experience includes Troopers, Phantom Regiment, and he is currently on staff with the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps.
Brittany Baptista – Front Ensemble Instructor
Brittany Baptista is a North Texas resident, where she is currently a Front Ensemble Technician at Boswell High School and a Percussion Lesson Teacher in Frisco ISD. She is also on the front ensemble staff at WGI world class group Vigilantes Indoor Percussion.
Brittany received her undergraduate degree in English at The University of Texas at Austin, where she sang in the Women’s Chorus and played in the UT Steel Band Ensemble. During that time, she worked as an elementary english tutor, and as a Program Intern and After-School Teacher at Side by Side Kids.
In 2013, she marched her first summer of drum corps with the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corp in the front ensemble, and aged out with BK in 2014. She marched her age-out year on marimba during the 2015 season at Vigilantes Indoor Percussion, and returned the following indoor season as a front ensemble technician.
Brittany is currently a Classical Percussion Performance major at The University of North Texas, where she has been a part of chamber percussion ensembles, symphonic band, wind ensemble, Gamelan ensemble, and the 2 o’clock Steel Band.
Brittany proudly endorses Vic Firth sticks and mallets. This will be Brittany’s third year on staff with the Blue Knights.
Brandon Amaral – Front Ensemble Instructor
Brandon Amaral is a Southern California educator joining the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps as a Front Ensemble Instructor for 2018. Brandon earned his Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics from California State University San Bernardino and is currently studying at CSU Fullerton to earn a single subject teaching credential in Secondary Level Mathematics.
Brandon directs the front ensemble at Diamond Bar High School and serves as instructional staff with Broken City Percussion and the Riverside City College Marching Tigers.
Brandon studied percussion under Dr. Matthew Altmire at Mt. San Antonio College and performed with RCC Indoor Percussion, The Academy Drum & Bugle Corps, and the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps. Past teaching credits include seasons with POW Percussion, Dark Sky Percussion, Mandarins, and Pacific Crest.
Taha Ahmed – Snare Instructor
Taha Ahmed will be returning as a snare tech for the Blue Knights. Taha received his Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology from the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, he resides in the Houston area where he is the battery specialist at Cy-Fair High School, and Cy-Falls high school. He is also an active instructor, consultant, arranger, and rudimental private lesson teacher at numerous other high schools in the area.
When Taha is not teaching, he is working as a Licensed Advanced Emergency Medical Technician and applying to further programs in the medical field.
Taha has multiple years of experience beyond the scholastic level. His drum corps experience includes being a snare drummer at Bluecoats 2012, Academy 2011, Santa Clara Vanguard 2010, and the Troopers in 2009 and 2008. Taha is a snare tech at the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps. Prior to that, he was the snare tech at the Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps for their 2015 season.
During his drum corps career, Taha was privileged to learn from instructors such as Mike Jackson, Murray Gusseck, Ralph Hardimon, Glen Crosby, Roger Carter, Eric Shriver, Matt Ramey, Jim Ragsdale, Brian Stevens, Rick Barclay, Derrick Fields, and Kevin Welborn.
In the indoor scene,Taha has also experienced multiple seasons of success as an instructor. He was the Battery Coordinator and Movement Specialist for the 2014 WGI Independent A Gold Medalist, Lone Star Independent. Taha has been working with Monarch Independent since it’s inaugural season in 2015.
Monarch Independent was the Texas Color Guard Circuit Independent Open Gold Medalist and WGI Independent Open Finalist in both 2015 and 2016. In 2017, Monarch made its World Class debut and received 7th place at WGI Finals. Taha was also the battery specialist for the 2016 PSO Bronze Medalist, Cy-Fair High school, and for the 2016 Open Class finalist, Cy-Falls High School.
Brandon Hussey – Snare Instructor
Brandon Hussey has studied percussion in the Sacramento and San Jose areas for the past 15 years. Studying under Daniel Kennedy from the CSU Sacramento percussion studio, Roger Carter, Vince Oliver, and Jamie Holly with the Sacramento Freelancers, Murray Gusseck and Brian Mason with the 2009 Santa Clara Vanguard, and absorbing the vast information from the influential staff at those programs has led Brandon to a lifestyle of marching percussion.
Most of his teaching career has evolved by working alongside Casey Brohard, Chris Cyr, Kohei Mitzushima, and Mr. Oliver. Currently residing in San Jose, he works with local middle and high schools as well as independent groups for indoor and outdoor percussion. On the side, he performs with drummers of the San Francisco Bay Area in the AfterShock and NinerNoise drumlines for BDEntertainment.
He has also spent time as a volunteer for the McKinley Elementary school outreach program that encouraged students to aim higher in the their academic and social environments using sticks and buckets. This year, he will be retunring to the Blue Knights family as a snare instructor.
Thomas Claesen – Tenor Instructor
Thomas Claesen is excited to continue his second year with the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps. Additionally he will be starting his first year with Rhythm X during the WGI season. He has taught marching ensembles and English as a foreign language in Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
Thomas was born and raised in Belgium, where musically he was mainly influenced and inspired by Johan Delacauw and Wim De Vlaminck. In the USA he was a tenor drummer with the 2008 and 2009 Academy Drum and Bugle Corps and the 2010 Santa Clara Vanguard. He aged out in 2011 with The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, who won the Fred Sanford Award for Best Percussion Performance. During his drum corps career, Thomas had the opportunity to learn from talented educators including Eric Ridenour, Matt Ramey, Ryan Masterson, Michael McIntosh, Brian Tinkel, Glen Crosby and Murray Gusseck.
Thomas was a tenor technician for The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps in 2012 and 2013. From 2010 till 2017 he was battery caption head and arranger at DrumSpirit. During his tenure, the Belgian percussion ensemble won numerous European competitions, produced two stage shows, made several television appearances, and was a PIO finalist at the 2014 WGI World Championships. Other teaching accolades include working with the Field Band Foundation in South Africa, and being an English lecturer at VIVES University College.
In the fall of 2017 Thomas moved to Nashville, TN where he now lives with his girlfriend Chelsea and their energetic dog Rachel. He holds a master’s degree in translation and loves exploring new art, new places, and new ideas.
Matt Gonzalez – Bass Instructor
Matt Gonzalez resides in Southern California as an active educator and designer in the marching arts. He was first introduced to the marching activity by Mike Jackson at Chino High School in Chino, CA and eventually went on to march with award winning programs including The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps, POW Percussion, Pulse Percussion and aged out with The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps in 2013 and RCC in 2014.
Matt has taught at numerous schools in the Southern California area including Chino High School, Chino Hills High School, Mission Viejo High School and currently at Etiwanda High School as a bass drum tech.
Matt has also been a designer and bass drum tech with Broken City Percussion since 2015. This will be Matt’s fifth year on staff with the Blue Knights.
Steven Herman – Bass Instructor
Steven began his marching career at Chino High School becoming a WGI World Class Finalist in 2010 for the first time. After graduating he then went on to become a member of POW Percussion from 2012-2013, Pulse Percussion from 2014-15, eventually aging out at Broken City in 2016. His DCI experience includes Gold 2011, The Academy 2012, and the Phantom Regiment 2013-2015.
As an educator Steven has worked with various programs in the Southern California area including Walnut, Rowland, Vista Murrieta, and Chino High School where he has served as the Battery Caption Head and Arranger since 2015. In 2017 he then assumed the role of Caption Head and Battery Arranger of the formerly known Orange County Independent where they became a WGI Finalist placing among the top five ensembles. This will be Steven’s second year on staff with the Blue Knights.
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