The Blue Stars are very excited to announce the Brass Staff for the 2014 season. Returning staff include: Emery D. Craig – Caption Head, Dr. Aaron Witek – Trumpet, Chris Rugila – Mellophone, Kris Hammond – Mellophone, Equipment Manager, Brent Schooley – Tuba, Alberto Ocasio – Tuba
Joining the team this year are: John Blickwedehl – Trumpet, John Blickwedehl – Trumpet, Chris Allen – Mellophone, and Michael Villano – Baritone/Euphonium.
"Emery and his team did an outstanding job developing our brass program in 2013 and we're extremely excited to see him build upon that foundation in 2014," said Corps Director Russ Gavin. ""I can't wait to work with these outstanding educators, performers, and musicians this season."
Auditions for the Blue Stars' 2014 season will be at four different locations across the United States during November and December 2013. Visit the audition sign-up page to register to attend one of the audition camps.
Emery D. Craig – Caption Head
Emery Craig is returning for his second year serving as caption head leading the Blue Stars brass program. Emery studied music education at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI and focused on bass trombone under Dr. Donald Babcock. His drum corps performance career includes the Bluecoats Drum & Bugle Corps from Canton, OH. Having marched baritone he was awarded Outstanding Rookie Brass aging out in 2003. Emery has been on the brass staff at Bluecoats for the 2008-2012 seasons. In 2012, Emery served as Brass Co-Caption Head.
For over 14 years, Emery has taught several bands and marching ensembles including stints with Dutch Boy Drum & Bugle Corps. He has performed with several bands, orchestras and musicals, along with the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra of Plymouth, MI. Many students study privately under him focusing on low brass performance. Emery is an active music adjudicator, clinician and consultant.
Emery has served as assistant marching band director at the nationally recognized Plymouth-Canton Educational Park in Canton, MI. Currently, he is the Music Coordinator and Brass Caption Head. The Plymouth-Canton high school marching band has been a consistent Bands of America Grand National finalist and is a 3 time Grand National champion. The marching band also holds over 20 state championship titles.
Emery is a native of Canton Michigan now residing in Ypsilanti. He is honored to be a part of the Blue Stars Drum & Bugle Corps and looks forward to many prosperous years with the corps!
Dr. Aaron Witek – Trumpet
Dr. Aaron Witek is the Instructor of Trumpet at the University of Louisiana at Monroe where his duties include teaching Applied Trumpet, Music Enjoyment for non-majors, and performing with the faculty ensemble in residence called Black Bayou Brass. He earned a Doctorate of Music in Trumpet Performance from Florida State University where he also completed his Master of Music in Performance. In addition, he received his Bachelor of Music in Education degree at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. His principal teachers have included Christopher Moore, Bryan Goff, John Ellis, and Alex Jokopi.
Dr. Witek maintains an active performance and clinician schedule. He currently is the Principal Trumpet in the Monroe Symphony Orchestra, Second Chair of the Sinfonia Gulf Coast Orchestra, and has performed with the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Albany Georgia Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestra of Northern New York. Also, in 2008 he founded tallaBRASSee, a professional brass quintet that plays regularly in northern Florida and has been featured at the Florida Music Educator's Association Convention in Tampa. He has been active in numerous competitions including winning an International Trumpet Guild Scholarship and first place in the Historic Division of the National Trumpet Competition.
Before moving to Monroe, Witek served on the faculty for the Florida State University (FSU) Summer Camps and assisted in teaching the FSU trumpet studio. While at Florida State University he directed the FSU trumpet ensemble - a group that in 2011 won second place at the National Trumpet Competition and, in 2012, was a finalist. Students of his have won International Trumpet Guild Scholarships and placed as finalists in the FSU Trumpet Solo Competition. In 2011, Witek was recognized and awarded the Florida State University Teaching Achievement Award. He maintains an active clinician schedule and has adjudicated the International Trumpet Guild Youth Competition as well as the FSU Tri-State Band Festival. He has been involved with the marching arts activity since 2001 as an instructor and designer. Witek is excited to be working with the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps for his second year.
John Blickwedehl – Trumpet
John Blickwedehl is joining the Blue Stars brass team for his first season. John is a native of Western New York and a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory in Oberlin, OH where he graduated Pi Kappa Lambda and was named a Presser Scholar in recognition of his excellence and merit in music education. Mr. Blickwedehl also holds a Masters degree in Music Education from the State University of New York at Fredonia.
Mr. Blickwedehl has been director of bands at West Seneca West Senior High School since 2001. During his tenure the concert band, wind ensemble and marching band have consistently received outstanding ratings at festivals and contests. The West Seneca Marching Band is a three time New York State Large School 3 Class Champions 2009-2011, 2010 Liberty Bowl Field Show winners and the 2008 Lakeshore Marching Band Association Class AA Champions.
Mr. Blickwedehl started his drum corps career with the Glassmen Drum and Bugle corps from Toledo, OH where he marched in 1996, 1997 and 1999. After teaching on the Staff of the Syracuse Brigadiers in 2001 he then served as brass caption head of the DCA World Champion Empire Statesmen Drum and Bugle Corps from Rochester, NY in 2004 in 2005. John resides in West Seneca, NY with his wife Jennifer, daughter Anna and son Cameron.
Chris Allen – Mellophone
Chris Allen is joining the brass staff for his first season. Chris is the Director of Orchestras at Joe E. Newsome High School in Lithia, Florida. He has previously served as an adjunct faculty member at Blake Fine Arts High School and has spent six years as an elementary music teacher.
Chris holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Horn Performance from the University of South Florida and is a member of the French horn section of the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra. He is very active as a freelance horn player and has played with the Walt Disney World Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra, and The Florida Orchestra.
Chris has been active in the drum and bugle corps activity for over 15 years. He marched with the Cadets of Bergen County then served as a brass technician and as brass caption head for the Glassmen of Toledo, Ohio from 1997 to 2003. Chris also served as brass caption head for the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps for the 2005 season. In 2012 and 2013 he was on the brass staff for the Bluecoats Drum & Bugle Corps.
Chris and his lovely wife Melissa currently reside in Valrico, Florida where they enjoy the company of their two children Briana and Joshua.
Chris Rugila – Mellophone
Chris Rugila is currently the Director of Bands at Blythewood High School in Blythewood, SC, a position he has held since 2013. Prior to his arrival at Blythewood Mr. Rugila was the Director of Bands at South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, NC and Decatur High School and Middle School in Decatur, MI. Chris graduated Cum Laude from Eastern Michigan University earning a B.A. in Music Education.
While at EMU he performed in the Symphonic Band, Wind Symphony, Marching Band, Symphony Orchestra, Collegium Musicum, and the Huron River Brass Quintet. In addition to his public school experience, Chris spent two years as a performer with the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
He began his drum corps instructional career as a brass instructor with the Memphis Sound Drum and Bugle Corps in 2005. He continued on the brass staff at Phantom Regiment during 2008 and 2009, and with the Atlanta CorpsVets in 2010. In 2011 he was a member of the administration team at Carolina Crown. Chris joined the brass staff at Blue Stars in 2013 returning for his second season with the corps.
Chris is an active adjudicator in the marching arts activity. He holds professional affiliations with National Association for Music Education and the South Carolina Band Directors Association. Chris resides in Columbia, SC with his wife Anna and two daughters Norah and Chloe.
Kris Hammond – Mellophone, Equipment Manager
A freelance musician in Chicago, IL, Kris Hammond was born in Erie, Pennsylvania. In 1996, he moved to Greenville, SC and attended the Fine Arts Center in 2000. He earned his BM in trumpet performance from Florida State University, his MM in trumpet performance and literature from Northwestern University, and his primary teachers have been Dr. Christopher Moore, Charles Geyer, Barbara Butler, and Christopher Martin.
In 2001, Mr. Hammond served in the U.S. Navy as trumpet instrumentalist assigned to the "7th Fleet Band" in Yokosuka-shi, Kanagawa, Japan. He rode upon the flag-ship USS Blue-Ridge and traveled to more than 14 countries in the South Pacific as lead trumpet in the big band and brass quintet. While in Japan, he also served as co-principal trumpet on joint concerts with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. When Honorably Discharged in 2005, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
While a student at FSU he was a finalist in the Graduate Division of the National Trumpet Competition [NTC] in Fairfax, VA in 2008. In the summer of 2009, he was on the faculty for the FSU Summer Music Camp wherein he taught private lessons, gave masterclasses, and played solo recitals.
Hammond was a full-time member and principal trumpet of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago (the training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) from 2010 to 2012. Led by the principal conductor, Cliff Colnot, the Civic Orchestra performed major works at the Symphony Center and throughout the Chicagoland area under distinctive guest conductors including Riccardo Muti, Sir Andrew Davis, Michael Tilson Thomas, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Robertson, Xian Zhang, Jaap van Zweden, Edwin Outwater, Erik Nielsen, Alastair Willis, Susanna Mälkki, and Sir Mark Elder.
Hammond will return and is excited for a second year as a brass staff member of the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps (La Crosse, WI). In 2012, the Blue Stars returned to the elite "Top 12" status. He was a member of the brass staff with the DCI Division II finalist, Teal Sound Drum and Bugle Corps (Jacksonville, FL) in 2006. In 2008, he was a member of the brass staff for Spokane Thunder Drum and Bugle Corps (Spokane, WA). During their summer tour portion, he assumed duties as brass caption head. The corps was awarded "Most Improved Corps," had their first finals appearance and highest score in the corps' history, and achieved a 4th place horn line with only 18 members. In 2011, he served as brass caption head with Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps (Milwaukee, WI) for a portion of their tour.
He currently teaches lessons, arranges, and freelances in the Chicagoland area. He is a founding member and a director of the New Chicago Brass.
Visit his website at: www.kristoferhammond.com.
Michael Villano – Baritone/Euphonium
Michael Villano is excited to join the brass team for his first season. Michael studied music education at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University where he also studied trombone with Professor M. Dee Stewart.
Michael's drum corps experience includes performing with the Blue Stars Drum & Bugle Corps for the 2010-2013 seasons. During his tenure he held the positions of section leader, horn sergeant and soloist. At Drum Corps International Individual and Ensemble Competition, Michael finished first place in the brass ensemble and trombone solo categories.
Currently, Michael is on staff for the Sound of North Marching Band at Columbus North High School in Columbus, Indiana. An active member of the Alpha Zeta chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, Michael has held the position of Vice President of Programs for two years.
Brent Schooley – Tuba
Returning for his second season, Brent Schooley is originally from Ypsilanti, MI. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a concentration of music education and tuba performance. Brent was a member of the Glassmen Drum & Bugle Corps from 1998-2001 and served in the United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps "Commandant's Own" from 2001-2005.
Brent has been teaching marching band and the drum corps activity for over ten years. His experience includes: Syracuse Brigadiers 2002-2003, Marine Drum & Bugle Corps 2004-2005, Capital Regiment Drum & Bugle Corps 2009, Carolina Crown Drum & Bugle Corps 2010 and Bluecoats Drum & Bugle Corps 2012.
Currently, Brent works as a freelance performer, lesson teacher and marching band instructor for University of Texas at Arlington. Brent lives in Ft Worth, TX with his wife Cherie.
Alberto Ocasio – Tuba
Alberto Ocasio is from Bedford, Texas. He has completed coursework at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas finishing at North Texas with a degree in Music Education and a concentration in tuba performance. At North Texas, Alberto has studied tuba under the guidance of Professor Donald Little and Dr. Jesse Orth. He has performed in many of the university's ensembles. These include the Brass Band, Green Brigade, Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble, and concert bands.
Alberto was a member of the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps for 5 seasons, performing in the tuba section from 2006-2010 and serving as section leader in 2010. He has been a marching band instructor in the DFW and Denton area for the past 4 years, teaching at L.D. Bell High School from 2009-2012 and John H. Guyer High School from 2011-2012.
Alberto is incredibly excited to be a part of the family in his second season with the Blue Stars.