Creating a World Class Ensemble

8 years ago I get a call from a percussion instructor I’m working with at the time. He and some other percussion instructors I know want to start, from scratch, an independent world class percussion ensemble. Basically an ensemble that will max out the percussion performer experience, of those that are 21 years old and below. He wants me to manage them. I am not interested.

4 hours later, I’m their guy that gets **** done guy. He was/is a very persuasive person.

That first meeting was very interesting. We hadn’t even held auditions yet and we had a gig! We were going to open the Saturday NAMM events with a performance down Convention Way (Anaheim)

We had a truck and we had basic battery and pit equipment. We needed to order: amplification, keyboards, cables, mics, conditioner, cymbals, and drum heads/sticks. WGI and SCPA show entry fees needed to be submitted. What were shows basic constructs. How much per uniform. A floor and associated items needed to be purchased, and a cart to haul the floor around.

Auditions were amazing. All the instructors had top award winning groups so their reputations preceded them. About 300 kids tried out. We ended up with an ensemble assembled from kids from Ventura, LA, Orange, and San Diego counties. The best of the best, in my opinion, that year 🙂

My job was to handle all issues not directly related to the design and instruction of the show. That was awesome/not awesome 🙂 😦 not that I was interested in doing any instructing. It would be been nice to follow in someone’s footsteps, but this was a huge exercise in “figure it out” and I say with as much humility as possible, these guys wanted me around because I am one of the best 😀

When all was said and done I came in under budget on all of my expenditures. I also had good luck with some of the people I contracted with. For example the driver I hired to drive the truck from So Cal to WGI finals in Dayton, OH saved me a huge amount of money. I figured him traveling under DOT rules and stopping every night at a motel or hotel every night for 3 days. I also expected him to eat every meal at a truck stop or restaurant along the way. When he gave me his receipts for reimbursements he was almost $1000 under my budget. He drove straight, nonstop except for fuel and you know what, and he packed food from home for the trip. I gave him a HUGE tip.

Another huge money saver was breakfast in Las Vegas for the WGI regional. Both breakfasts were in my motel room. I did a Costco run before leaving for Vegas and had paper goods, cups, cereals, bagels, cream cheese, jellies, peanut butter, bread, pastries, yogurts, fruits, hot chocolate, milk, honey. It was a little crazy having 35 18-21 year olds in one motel 6 room, but they were a great bunch of kids.

Night one in Vegas was CRAZY! WGI decided, against better judgment, to hold percussion and guard regionals the same weekend that year. I can’t even begin to wonder how may tens of thousands of young people were in Vegas that weekend as either performers or companions

We stayed at a motel off the Strip, and if you know Vegas, that block east of the Strip is packed with motels. From my balcony I could see two. There was loud music, drinking, smoking everything that could be smoked – and some, yelling, screaming, laughing, kids running all over, cars racing in the parking lots, breaking bottles everywhere. Boys with girls, girls with men, women with boys, boys with boys, girls with girls, etc. There seemed to be a complete lack of adult supervision. Finally around 2am or 3am I decide to walk around and check on my kids.

Every single one of them was in their rooms! :’) Watching TV, playing videos games, some even reading! They all had their doors open as quite the circus was just a few feet away. We can’t sleep, was their common refrain. I told them it was cool, no worries, and I was very proud that none of them were participating in any of the shenanigans outside.

Another special moment for me that season was flying to Dayton. I and another instructor had to take another flight from LAX to Ohio because when I originally purchased the tickets the ensemble was at 33. The instructors decided to add 2 members after that, so in order from the ensemble to travel together I took a different flight. Theirs was full. They had a 30 minute layover in Denver, and I had an 8 hour layover in Dallas 😦

Shortly after arriving in Dayton and settling into the hotel, the percussion captain calls me. Ray, we’re hungry. My immediate response is I tell him I will figure it out. I hang up, call the hotel’s front desk, ask for a local pizza place, call there for pizza – drinks – salads and tell them there’s a bunch of hungry kids in a hotel parking lot with drums. Bam, like a boss, sending food from a 1000 miles away 🙂 About a half hour later the percussion captain calls me back. I could barely make out what he was saying as his mouth was full of food, but it sounded something like Thank You 😀

Oh my, they never end, the stories that is. I have a lot more to say about this crazy season, 2 or 3 more blogs at least. I will end today by saying they made finals, 9th place, that first year. It was all them.

Thank you again for reading. Thank you for the likes 😀 I am looking to expand my audience, any way you can help I would much appreciate.

See many, most, all of you tomorrow!

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