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West Seneca East Senior High School welcomes the Bluecoats

Aug 5, 2016 | Entertainment

West Seneca East Senior High School is looking forward to hosting the Bluecoats drum and bugle corps from Canton, Ohio. The elite corps travels to compete in about 30 performances every season as part of Drum Corps International’s annual tour and will stay at the high school before competing at the annual Drums Along the Waterfront (DATW) competition, which will be held at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 7.

The musicians are college-aged students who live with the corps 24/7 all summer long. They rehearse up to 14 hours a day working to perfect their 11-minute program for competition.

“Drum corps is about education. It fits well with being in schools,” shared Jack Gaylord Jr., president of DATW. “The teamwork, dedication and work ethic are all what the activity is about. Once administrators and teachers who are not affiliates with the activity actually see a rehearsal, they are amazed.”

This is the fourth year East Senior will be hosting an elite drum corps. Previously, the school has hosted Carolina Crown from Fort Mill, S.C. and the Blue Stars from La Crosse, Wis.

To be a host to a drum corps from DATW, the facility must have a gym floor for the corps to sleep on; additional classrooms for instructional staff, volunteers and drivers; showers; and three football-sized fields, with one being a stadium for elevated viewing for instructors. The custodians are happy to have the corps as well, as many of the corps have members who are assigned to clean the facilities.

Gaylord also looks for schools that are willing to work with the corps and their needs. East Senior was the perfect fit, especially with having a band director like John Blickwedehl.

“Having someone who is willing to take the lead certainly helps,” Gaylord said. “A band director such as John Blickwedehl who is passionate about kids and education … you can’t have it any better. These are the kind of educators I would want my child to have.”

“Having groups like the Bluecoats, Blue Stars and Carolina Crown here would be the equivalent of a top NCAA Division I team staying and practicing here,” Blickwedehl said. “Our students aspire to be like them.”

Blickwedehl encourages his students to attend the corps’ rehearsals to see what it takes to be involved in an elite team, and many of the students go on to cheer for the corps at the competition.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to see and hear up close the very best musician-athletes in the world,” Blickwedehl said. “It is a chance for our students and staff to observe how the top performers become top performers.”

According to Blickwedehl, about a dozen students from West Seneca schools have gone on to perform in a drum corps. Many students have also gone on to be music teachers, music professors and music industry professionals.

“Connection inspires students,” Gaylord said. “The world class corps that appear in Drums Along the Waterfront truly are the best in the world. When you see the finished product out on the field at a show, that’s one thing; but when you see them rehearsing, you realize what goes into it.”

Gaylord is happy to provide the opportunity to be inspired and motivated to the next generation of great musicians.

“When I was a kid I watched athletes all the time, what they did, how they did, and I tried to emulate,” he said. “It’s no different here with the kids seeing these corps kids. They’re passionate, and nothing takes the place of passion!”

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