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Eric Molho

Minnesota Brass Announces 2018 Brass Staff Leadership

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Former Drum Corps Associates (DCA) World Champions Minnesota Brass has named Dr. Ward Miller as its Brass Caption Supervisor for the 2018 season.

Miller will be joined by Roque Diaz as Brass Caption Head, and Phil Snyder and Paul Terry will provide brass instruction. The team will be supported by additional talented technicians to be announced later.

“We are excited to welcome this team of high-caliber talent and energy into the 2018 brass program,” said Todd Tanji, executive director of Minnesota Brass. “Each of these individuals has extensive experience both within and outside of the drum-corps realm which will enable us to provide a well-rounded musical experience to our members.”

Ward Miller

Ward Miller earned his bachelor of music degree from Auburn University in 2001, where he served as arranger and undergraduate teaching assistant with the Auburn University Marching Band. He graduated from Arizona State University in 2003 with a master’s degree in Trombone Performance, and served as part-time assistant and clinician with the Paradise Valley High School bands, the Mesa Community College Wind Ensemble and the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra. He has also taught in Alabama public schools, serving as Director of Bands at Andalusia High School and at Pleasant Grove High School. In 2006, he accepted a graduate teaching assistantship at the University of Iowa, where he studied with Dr. Myron Welch in Band Conducting. While at Iowa, he also worked as a teaching assistant with the Hawkeye Marching Band, for whom he wrote, taught, and conducted multiple arrangements and halftime drills. He also conducted the University of Iowa Concert Band and earned the 2008 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Miller graduated in 2011 from the University of Iowa with a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Band Conducting.

In 2014, Miller was appointed Brass Caption Head for the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps of La Crosse, Wis. He is an associate member of College Band Directors National Association, the National Association for Music Education and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Roque Diaz

Scholar, educator, composer, creator, musician and music director, Roque Diaz is pursuing a Ph.D. in Music Education and Creative Studies and Media at the University of Minnesota. Diaz’s research interests are in arts-education policy and embedding diversity into the arts. Roque recently presented “Policies that Matter: Creating a Voice through Policy Awareness for Music Teacher Educators”, at the 2017 Society for Music Teacher Educators Conference in Minneapolis, MN.

Roque has developed a keen artistic eye and endless creative ideas travelling the world performing in such hit shows as “Jersey Boys”, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, “Josh Groban on Tour”, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, “Chicago the Musical”, “Blast!”, and much more. During Roque’s tenure with “Blast!”, he performed as a trumpet soloist and musical conductor. A seasoned veteran in the marching arts activity, Roque performed with Tarheel Sun (Cary, NC) and the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps (Denver, CO) where he was awarded the gold medal (2001) for the individual solo and ensemble championship on trumpet. Roque has composed and arranged for many K-12 programs, universities, and arts organizations. Roque is in the process of forming an international arts organization that is dedicated to making the arts a viable career choice whose mission is to provide consistent and sustainable employment to all diverse artists. Roque is excited to join the Minnesota Brass Organization.

Phil Snyder

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he studied music education, and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied trumpet performance. Snyder currently is band director for the Waconia (Minn.,) School District, where he directs middle- and high-school ensembles. He is also an accomplished drill designer; bands that have performed Snyder’s designs have won 11 state championships and numerous sweepstakes awards. He has also been involved with drum and bugle corps for the past 17 years as a performer, instructor and designer for DCI World Class, DCI Open Class and DCA ensembles, most notably with Minnesota Brass and the Dubuque, Iowa-based Colts and Colt Cadets.



Paul Terry

Paul Terry joined the Minnesota Brass horn staff in 2007 and has helped lead the corps to three “high brass” awards – in its 2011 DCA Open Class World Championship season, as well as in 2010 and 2015. His drum-corps experience also includes performing with Minnesota Brass in 2005-06 and serving as a low-brass technician with the Colts in 2014-15. He also currently directs Maple Grove (Minn.) Senior High School’s Jazz 1 Band and Wind Ensemble and advises ISD 279’s Grove Area Percussion, the Class A state champion winter drumline. Terry also has taught the state-champion Anoka (Minn.) High School Marching Tornadoes and has served as trombone section coach for the Minnesota Music Educators Association’s All-State Jazz Band. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Minnesota and his master’s degree in music education from Boston University.


Minnesota Brass Announces 2018 Leadership Team

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The board of directors of Minnesota Brass Inc., a St. Paul-based performing-arts organization, has selected the organization’s senior leadership to maximize talent and better meet the needs of its flagship ensemble, Minnesota Brass Drum and Bugle Corps.

For the 2018 season, the executive team will comprise four leaders:

Todd Tanji, who previously served as chair of the Board of Directors, will become Executive Director, reporting to the Board of Directors. Tanji will take on the leadership of all artistic programs and supervise the artistic and educational staff for the drum corps.

Gavin Burnham will retain his long-standing role as President and CEO. In this capacity, Burnham oversees all aspects of the organization and manages key corporate responsibilities.

Eric Molho, who served as corps director and executive director from 2010 to 2016, will return in a leadership capacity as board chair. Molho will lead the Board of Directors in its responsibility for developing the organization’s strategy and achieving its mission.

Dave Whitaker will remain as Chief Financial Officer overseeing the day-to-day financial operations of the organization.

“Each executive team member has deep roots within Minnesota Brass,” Molho said. “We are confident the board has effectively matched the needs of the organization to our unique talents.”

Additional staff announcements will be shared in coming months.

Founded in 1946, Minnesota Brass holds several regional and national titles, including the 2011 Drum Corps Associates world championship. The corps launches its 72nd season in February 2018.

A Dream 13 Years in the Making

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Who says “13” can’t be a lucky number? That’s exactly how many years it took for MBI euphonium player Elkin Navarro to realize his dream of marching in a drum and bugle corps in the United States.

Navarro, 31, is a long-time band director from Bucaramanga, Colombia, located some 250 miles north of the capital city of Bogotá … and nearly 3,000 miles south of St. Paul. The city of around half a million hosts a large clothing industry as well as a growing technological research effort specializing in energy, gas, oil, asphalt, leather and agro-industrial development tools, among other concerns. Located in the Colombian Andes, it is also a popular destination for tourists.

After some 15 years of teaching band, Elkin said he thought he’d better get on with trying to fulfill his drum corps dream. Looking for online videos of U.S. marching bands in the pre-YouTube days was a daunting effort, but he eventually stumbled upon videos of DCI corps. And watching videos of the Cavaliers only fueled his desire to participate. His first visit to the United States came two years ago when he played mellophone with the Medellin Gran Banda on a Sound Sport tour. That was his first experience playing a horn in an ensemble, he says; previously he’d played timbales with Latin orchestras in his hometown.

Suspecting in April it was too late into the season to get a marching spot with a DCA corps, Elkin wrote to several corps seeking a volunteer position, “and Colts director Vicki (Schaffer MacFarlane) was the first to answer with the beautiful YES!” he recalled. While with the Colts, from June 13 through July 29, Elkin was part of the props crew. “Vicki talked to one of the MBI staff members about my situation, and here I am! Just a month before DCA finals – I still can’t believe it!”

Back home in Colombia, Elkin receives support from brother Christian and sister Nathalia, his parents (Fernando and Mildred), and his “beautiful and wonderful” daughter Mariana, who celebrated her sixth birthday on July 29, the same day he left the Colts in Atlanta for the Twin Cities. “That wasn’t easy,” he says.

Even though he’s getting to play for only part of this season with MBI, Elkin says he wouldn’t dismiss an opportunity to spend an entire summer with the corps.

So how might he parlay his drum corps experience when he gets back home?

“I think that I should help instructor friends, members and marching bands in my city when I go back to my country,” he said. “Being with Colts and Minnesota Brass has given me a lot of information and a wonderful experience that I would love to help people [have] who want to live the same adventure.”

DCI Minnesota Returns Featuring the US Marine Drum & Bugle Corps

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DCI Minnesota is being presented by the U.S. Marine Corps in 2016, and will feature a rare appearance by the U.S.M.C. Drum & Bugle Corps, “The Commandant’s Own,” who are in demand around the country and will be traveling to Minneapolis following their weekly Friday evening parade at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.

More than 2,000 musicians and dancers will perform with some 20 drum and bugle corps from around the country, including defending world champions the Blue Devils from Concord, Calif., and past champions Madison Scouts from Madison, Wis.; Vanguard from Santa Clara, Calif.; Cavaliers from Rosemont, Ill.; and Phantom Regiment from Rockford, Ill. Minnesota Brass will also appear presenting their 2016 production, “Now Boarding.”

The event is expected to draw some 7,000 spectators to TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  Tickets are on sale now at dci.org


Minnesota Brass, Bands Form Bonds at Vikingland Festival

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Minnesota Brass will join six other units in the inaugural Minnesota Drum Corps Premiere on June 25 as part of the 32nd Annual Vikingland Band Festival Parade Marching Championship in Alexandria, Minn.

The show will be held at the Alexandria Area High School’s Viking Savings Bank Field at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25. MBI will be joined by the Govenaires of St. Peter and Minneapolis’ Chops Inc. in presenting their 2016 field shows for the first time. Also appearing will be the Calgary Stampede Showband, Calgary Stetson Show Band and Calgary Round-Up Band, all from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The host Alexandria Marching Band will also perform.  Tickets to the show are $6 in advance; $9 at the door.Vikingland Band Festival

Show co-founder Ken Martinson, an Alexandria native who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., said the unjudged show will feature the presentation of a “fan favorite” award, noting the show will be “nice for the corps to participate in a supportive and relaxed dress rehearsal for everybody to debut their shows.”

The following day will feature the annual Vikingland Band Festival Parade Marching Championship, a bands-only event that will feature more than 2,000 performers representing 24 units, including 19 in competition and the units appearing Saturday night.

Martinson, whose drum corps experience was playing with the Hutchinson (Kansas) Sky Ryders, is also a judge, instructor and founder of the popular marching.com website. For him, the highlight of the weekend is “the camaraderie that exists between MBI and all the high-school bands that compete. Most of MBI’s staff has either marched with or are on staff with the high-school bands appearing at Vikingland. Plus, the audience gets to see both the field-show and street sides of the marching activity during the weekend.

“We tend to forget there is always a new audience among the kids,” he said. “A good number of people here have never seen a drum corps show. This event introduces a whole new generation to the drum corps activity, and lets them know that after graduation the all-age corps offer an opportunity to continue to perform.”