Blue Knights Announce 2020 Brass Staff

DENVER, CO – Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps is excited to announce the Brass Staff for the 2020 season!


Keith Tye will return to the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps as Brass Caption Head for the 2020 season.


Keith Tye is currently attending Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana majoring in Music Education and is the Principle Euphonium in the Ball State Wind Ensemble.

Keith served in the capacity as Assistant Brass Caption Head for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in 2018. Before coming to the Blue Knights he was a brass instructor for the Academy in Tempe, Arizona. Before serving as an instructor in the activity, Keith marched with the Blue Stars in 2011-12 and was a member of the Carolina Crown 2013 through 2016 where he was a part of 2013 Crown World Championship. In addition to his drum corps experience, Keith was a member of the Rhythm X Winds and has also served as a brass instructor with the three-time world championship organization.

Keith also has considerable experience working with several high schools in the Indianapolis, Dayton, and Cincinnati areas including Lawrence Township High School, Carmel High School, and Kettering Fairmont High School.


Kyler Allenson will return as the Assistant Caption Head and Low Brass Coordinator for the 2020 season. 

Kyler Allenson returns for his 3rd season at the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps as Low Brass Instructor and Assistant Brass Caption Head.

Originally from Cape Coral, FL, Kyler currently resides in Lake Worth, FL where he is the Band Director at Woodlands Middle School in the Palm Beach County School District. Kyler is also a member of the music staff at Park Vista Community High School. A graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, Kyler studied both Bassoon and Euphonium and graduated in 2017 with his Bachelors in Music Education. He maintains professional relationships with FMEA, FBA, and Kappa Kappa Psi.

As a performer, he marched five seasons with the Boston Crusaders from 2012-2016 and aged-out as the featured baritone soloist and horn sergeant.


Matt Urbanek will return to the Blue Knights as a High Brass Coordinator for the 2020 season.

Matt Urbanek is a private lesson instructor in his 2nd year, teaching trumpet lesson to kids between the ages of 11-18 in Keller ISD in Fort Worth, TX. A native of Fairfax, VA, he graduated with a Master’s degree in Trumpet Performance from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and with undergraduate degrees in Music Education and Trumpet Performance from The Ohio State University in 2016.

Matt also participated as a semifinalist in the undergraduate division of the 2014 National Trumpet Competition.

Matt has studied trumpet privately with Terry Detwiler, Richard Burkart, and John Rommel, and has several years experience with teaching trumpet privately and in homogenous group settings throughout his collegiate years. He also marched three seasons with Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps (2013-2015) and is on his fourth season teaching World Class drum corps.


Jay Bocook will return as the Brass Consultant for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in 2020.  

Jay is a native of Clearwater, Fl., a Furman University graduate and anJayBocook_finals2013 internationally-recognized composer, arranger, conductor and educator. Jay’s work has been heard during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

In the summer of 2003, his music transcriptions of noted film composer John Williams were premiered by the U.S. Marine Band in a concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and conducted by Williams himself. An encore performance featuring Mr. Williams and the “President’s Own” took place in the summer of 2008.

In addition, Jay was a contributing arranger to a new musical, CyberJam, which opened at the Queen’s Theater in London to rave reviews in the fall of 2003. His arrangements were also featured in “Mix,” which opened in the fall of 2008 in Japan. In 1982, Jay was appointed Director of Bands at Furman University where remained until 1989. He rejoined the Furman faculty in 2000 as Director of Athletic Bands. He has served as Assistant Conductor of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and remains a principal composer and arranger for the Hal Leonard Corporation, where he has published over 600 compositions and arrangements.

In 2009, Jay was inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the American Bandmasters Association and a 2010 inductee to the South Carolina Band Directors Hall of Fame.


Leslie Gilreath will join the Blue Knights as Brass Arranger for the 2020 season.

Mr. Leslie Gilreath is one of the most up and coming musical composers in the country and is a graduate of Furman University where he studied conducting and orchestration with Jay Bocook. His compositions have been performed globally and most notably at the prestigious Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.

In 2018, his “Only Light, Only Love” was performed at the Midwest Clinic by the Cobb Wind Symphony, Alfred Watkins, conductor, and “In My Perfect Place” was performed by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wind Symphony, Alex Kaminske, conductor.

Continuing in his 11th year with the Blue Knights organization, Jay Bocook will be joining Mr. Gilreath as the Blue Knights Musical Consultant and will be working in tandem to create the Blue Knights brass book.


Nick Skinner will return to the Blue Knights for the 2020 season as a Trumpet Instructor.

Nicholas (Nick) Skinner is professional trumpet player who plays and teaches in many capacities throughout South Florida. He attended Palm Beach Atlantic University majoring in music education. Nick has worked as a full time brass repair specialist for the past nine years, specializing in custom design and repair.

He has been involved in the marching arts for six years. His work has included: performing with Carolina Crown (13,14,16), teaching Stryke Wynds (15-18,20), teaching three time state champion Park vista High School (14-18) as well as Jupiter High School (16-18).


Evan Woods will return to the Blue Knights for the 2020 season as a Euphonium Instructor.

Evan resides in Denton, TX and has marched, volunteered, and worked in DCI since 2004. He graduated from Abilene Christian University in 2008 with a Music Education degree on euphonium and minor in business. He was a technician for eight marching seasons with the Marcus High School marching band in Flower Mound, TX, contributing to consecutive state championships and BOA high-music awards. In the classroom, he taught as a part-time brass instructor at Liberty Christian School in Argyle, TX for three years. In 2012, he became the founding director of Box 7 Ministries for drum corps, a year-round non-profit based in Denton, TX, that currently serves about 300 students from DCI each season.

Evan marched Crossmen on euphonium in 2004, then assistant drum major in 2006. For 2008-2011, he worked as the Assistant Tour Director and Volunteer Coordinator to establish the Crossmen operations in Texas. In 2012, he taught brass at Carolina Crown as an intern for the mellophones. He continued on Crown’s admin team for 2013-2016. For 2017 he volunteered as a member leadership consultant for Legends Drum Corps and then volunteered on the admin team for 2018 Music City Drum Corps.  He enjoys serving the drum majors across DCI and has been a facilitator for the DCI Drum Major Leadership Summit in 2015 and 2017. In his free time, he enjoys the outdoors, biking, swimming, and singing – recently joining the Vocal Majority barbershop chorus in Dallas.


Jacob Rodriguez will return to the Blue Knights as a Euphonium Instructor for the 2020 season.

Jacob Rodriguez is returning for his third year as a low brass instructor for the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps. Originally from San Antonio, TX, he currently serves as Associate Director of Bands at Agnew Middle School in Mesquite ISD. Jacob is a recent graduate of the University of North Texas where he completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education. While at UNT, he had the opportunity to perform in many of the Wind Studies Division ensembles, Jazz Studies Lab Bands, the UNT 8 O’Clock Steel Pan Ensemble, and UNT Trombone Choirs.

As a performer, Jacob was involved in the Drum Corps activity for six years. He began his marching career with Revolution Drum and Bugle Corps based out of San Antonio, TX in 2012. For the 2013 and 2014 seasons, he marched with Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps. From there, Jacob spent 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons with the Blue Knights, where he had the opportunity to perform as a soloist for the 2017 production, i. 

As an educator, Jacob remained involved in the marching arts throughout college as a field tech for numerous schools in the DFW area. His involvements included Edward S. Marcus High School in Flower Mound, TX, Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club, TX, and Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Worth, TX.

His professional affiliations include the Texas Music Educators Association and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, where he served as President of the Gamma Theta Chapter at the University of North Texas for two years. 

Jacob is very excited to spend his third summer on staff with the Blue Knights and for the opportunity to learn and teach with this incredible group of educators!


Charlie Mercier will return to the Blue Knights as a Euphonium Instructor for the 2020 season.

Charlie Mercier is a low brass instructor for the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama, holding a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.

Charlie marched three years with Carolina Crown Drum & Bugle Corps from 2016-2018. During his time with Carolina Crown, the corps won two Jim Ott best brass performance awards, a John Brazale best visual performance award, and two bronze medals.

At home in Alabama, Charlie works as a marching band staff member with Vestavia Hills High School, Oak Mountain High School, and Pelham High School— and also teaches weekly low brass sectionals for Chelsea High School, Pelham High School, Vestavia Hills High School, Pizitz Middle School, and Hoover High School.

Charlie currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama where he enjoys teaching music, and spending time with his wife, Olivia.


Kent Wallis will return to the Blue Knights as a High Brass Instructor for the 2020 season.

Kent Wallis is a band director at Frisco Heritage High School in the Dallas area and is excited to begin his third year teaching high brass with the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps.

He is an alumnus of the Blue Knights, marching with the corps from 2010 through his ageout summer in 2013. In his time with the organization, he performed on trumpet and mellophone in the brass section and had the opportunity to serve the organization as one of the drum majors for his ageout season. He is a graduate of the University of Houston where he received his bachelor’s degree in music education in 2016. While in studying in Houston, Kent worked with several local marching bands including The Woodlands High School in Conroe ISD and Cy-Fair High School in Cy-Fair ISD.

Kent currently resides in Frisco, Texas where he teaches concert band and marching band. He enjoys yoga and rock climbing in his free time and has two super dumb cats, Luci and Stanley


Emilia Tanner will join the Blue Knights as a Trumpet Instructor for the 2020 season.

Emilia Tanner grew up in Tampa, Florida and taught at multiple high school marching band programs in the Tampa area, including her alma mater H.B. Plant High School.

She graduated from the University of South Florida with an Associate of Arts degree. Emilia has over a decade of classical training on trumpet and has performed in many honor bands throughout Florida including the FMEA All-State Band. After spending her performing years with Crossmen and the Cadets, she moved to Knoxville, Tennessee where she currently attends the University of Tennessee, pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.

While at UT, Emilia has been principal trumpet in the university’s Concert Band and is a member of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, the university’s top trumpet ensemble, the Big Orange Brass Quintet, and the prestigious University of Tennessee Wind Ensemble. She is also a member of the International Trumpet Guild.

Emilia has previously taught at Shadow Drum & Bugle Corps as Assistant Brass Caption Head and plans to continue teaching in the drum corps community throughout her career. She is thrilled for her first summer teaching high brass at the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps.


John De La Garza will join the Blue Knights as Tuba Instructor for the 2020 season.

John De La Garza is currently a band director in West Texas at Fannin Middle School, and Caprock High School in Amarillo. John is the head band director at Fannin Middle School. Bands under his direction at FMS have achieve superior ratings, as well as most recently being a semi-finalist in the 2C TMEA Honor Band process in 2019. John’s responsibilities at Caprock High School include brass, and marching band. Bands at CHS have consistently received superior ratings in UIL Marching, and Concert & Sightreading contests.

John Received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from West Texas A&M University. In his time at WTAMU: He was a part of the WTAMU Symphonic band that had the honor of performing at The Texas Music Educators Association Convention in 2016, as well as The College National Band Directors Association Convention in 2017; He also had the opportunity to perform with the WTAMU Symphony Orchestra, including their international tour in 2016; he also served as a drill instructor for the WTAMU Marching Band. At WT John was selected as a featured soloist for the Honor Student Recital. He was also a brother of the Iota Pi chapter of Phi Mu Alpha, and the Alpha Psi chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, where he served a term as president. 

John had the privilege of being a performing member of the Blue Knights 2013 production No Beginning, No End, and the 2015 silver medalist production of Inferno, with Carolina Crown.


Spence Howell will join the Blue Knights as a Mellophone Instructor for the 2020 season.

Spence Howell is a current student at the University of Alabama where he is earning his Master’s Degree in Trumpet Performance. In Tuscaloosa, Spence serves as a full-time graduate teaching assistant with The Million Dollar Band and performs with the UA Wind Ensemble and Huxford Symphony Orchestra. Spence is a 2018 graduate of Western Carolina University where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education.

In his time as an undergrad at WCU, Spence studied trumpet under Dr. P. Bradley Ulrich and served as principal trumpet in the Wind Ensemble, the Artist in Residence Orchestra in association with the Asheville Symphony, and the Balsam Mountain Brass Quintet. As a charter member of the Balsam Mountain Brass Quintet, Spence toured South Africa in the summer of 2017, where he performed and taught alongside the internationally known Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet. Spence especially enjoyed being a member of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band. In his four years as a member in the Pride of the Mountains, Spence served under director David Starnes as a trumpet section leader for three years, and as a featured performer and soloist.

Spence’s DCI story began in the summer of 2015 with Carolina Crown. Over his four-year tenure with the corps he marched mellophone (’15,’16), trumpet (’17,’18), and even trombone (’18). All-in-all Spence is thankful for all of the memories, experiences, and friendships he gained from his summers with Carolina Crown. He owes a debt to every volunteer, educator, and administrator who pushed him down the road towards excellence. Gazing toward the horizon, Spence is excited to join a team of his closest friends and begin his career as an educator with the Blue Knights Brass Staff.


Jarod Briley will join the Blue Knights as a Tuba Instructor for the 2020 season.

Jarrod Briley is an active performer and educator from North Carolina living in the Hudson Valley area of New York. He is currently the principal tubist for The Orchestra Now, a 3-year pre-professional training orchestra and master’s degree program in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Prior to joining TON, he was an Advanced Performance Studies student at Bard college, and previously earned a B.M in Music Performance from East Carolina University. Along with performing with orchestras such as TON and the Winston Salem Symphony, he maintains a varied schedule of chamber music and solo performances.

Jarrod’s passion for teaching equals his passion for performing. He has been a private lesson instructor in North Carolina and New York for the past 4 years and taught lessons to tubists for the NC Eastern All-District band in 2018. He has taught both visual and music at North Pitt High School and Northside High School, and currently serves as the visual designer for the Northside High School Marching Band. Jarrod was the tuba instructor for the 2019 Hawthorne Caballeros and will return to the Caballeros again in 2020, along with the Blue Knights. He marched with Carolina Crown for their 2014 and 2015 seasons and was a member of the ECU Marching Pirates from 2014 to 2016, serving as a drum major for the 2016 season. He was also a member of the Mix-It-Up! cast at Busch Gardens Williamsburg during the summer of 2018.

When he isn’t performing or teaching, Jarrod enjoys hiking in the Catskills, cheering on his Packers, and getting plenty of exercise. He is also an avid beer and coffee drinker, and an amateur barbecue connoisseur.


Kara Whitaker will join the Blue Knights as a Brass Intern and Mellophone Instructor for the 2020 season.

Kara Whitaker is from Hutchinson, Kansas and currently resides in Manhattan, Kansas where she is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Kansas State University.

She has been involved in several ensembles at K-State including the Pride of Wildcat Marching Band, Orchestra, and the Wind Ensemble playing horn. While there, she has had the opportunity to conduct the University Band. She has also earned a position on student staff with the marching band this year which she has enjoyed.

Kara has marched with the Blue Knights for 3 years from 2017-2019 as a member of the mellophone section. She will be student teaching in the Spring of 2020 in the Kansas area and is looking forward to learning from and working with the Blue Knights Brass.


Alex Wahl will join the Blue Knights as a Mellophone Instructor for the 2020 season.

Alex Wahl is honored to be spending his 2020 summer with the Blue Knights.

Alex marched mellophone with the Carolina Crown Drum & Bugle Corps from 2015-2016. He was a section leader and soloist for Crown’s 2016 production, “Relentless.” Alex studied Music Education and Conducting at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN, graduating with distinction in 2017. Alex is also passionate about singing, specifically in the barbershop style, and regularly performs with the Vocal Majority, a 150-member chorus based in Dallas.

Alex is currently in his third year as a band director at Harwood Junior High in Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD in the Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area. He is excited about the opportunity to return to drum corps in a teaching role.


Andy Tye will return to the Blue Knights as a Brass Caption Consultant for the 2020 season.

Andy Tye studied Music Education and Euphonium Performance at Ball State University.

He was a member of The Star Of Indiana Drum and Bugle Corps for 3 years, and the Brass Caption Head for The Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps for 2 years. In 2009 Andy joined the music staff of the 5 time Bands of America Grand National Champion Carmel High School Marching Greyhounds where he still assists to this day.

He makes his living as a visual designer, music arranger, consultant and clinician for high school band programs all over the country. He resides in Indianapolis, Indiana


Josh Talbott will join the Blue Knights as a Brass Caption Consultant for the 2020 season.

Josh Talbott is a Program Manager at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services Company in Colorado Springs, CO. In addition to his work in National Defense, Josh is an educator, performer, composer, and arranger.

Josh performed in the Star of Indiana Drum and Bugle Corps from 1987-1993 as a mellophone player, soloist, and horn sergeant. Talbott composed the piece “Split Complimentaries” in 1993 for the DCI Individual and Ensemble competition. Star’s performance of the piece received a perfect score of 100. Today “Split,” as it is better known, has been performed thousands of times by the touring show BLAST!. After Star of Indiana, Josh was a featured performer, writer, teacher, and conductor for Brass Theater and a musical consultant and writer for BLAST!. During Brass Theater, Josh had the opportunity to learn and work in tandem with the Canadian Brass as a teacher/performer, and with Ray Cramer as a conductor and educator.

Josh performed his undergraduate studies at Northern Kentucky University and Masters studies at Indiana University in Horn and Music Theory/Composition. Josh’s current musical projects include writing for marching bands and winter guards across the U.S. The bands for which he has written and/or taught have won both state and Bands of America titles. Josh served as president of the Star Alumni Association from 2004-2006. He served as musical director for Star United Mini Corps based in Indianapolis, Indiana from 2004-2012 & 2014-2015. Star United won the DCA Mini Corps National Championships in Rochester, NY every year of his participation.