2018 Bluecoats Indoor WG: soundcheck

Bluecoats Indoor WG, our new WGI Independent World Winter Guard based in Indianapolis, is proud to announce our 2018 program - soundcheck.  

In this exciting new creation designed by our outstanding design team of Jon Vanderkolff, Greg Lagola, Jim Moore and Carol Abohatab, we react to, motivate, and embody the musical language of the band ‘Propellerheads’ via a modern twist on music, costuming and set design from the Mod era.

Check out our 2018 schedule to see if we are coming to a show near you.  AND - don't forget to get your official Bluecoats Indoor WG merchandise!  For more information on Bluecoats Indoor WG , see our program page.

Here is a list of our excellent 2018 cast:

Alumni Feature: Brad Gessner

Brad Gessner, 1981-1982, Soprano/Drum Major; 1986-2008 Volunteer/Board Member

Brad Gessner joined the Bluecoats in 1981 marching soprano, and returned in 1982 as drum major. After aging out, he drove a bus for the Bluecoats, sold souvies, and occasionally cooked. He was also on the Bluecoats Board of Directors from 1986-2008, serving ten years as Chairman of the Board, and was inducted into the Bluecoats Hall of Fame in 1994.  Brad grew up in Austintown, Ohio where he currently resides. He is a lawyer who serves as Chief Counsel for the Summit County Prosecutor in Akron, Ohio. He and his wife Marylou have two children: Kylie is a student at Walsh University and plays the trumpet, and Conor is a snare drummer at Austintown Fitch High School. In his spare time, Brad likes painting, coaching youth soccer, and helping with band fundraising.

Q. Is there something that you learned in drum corps that you apply in your daily life? A. What you get out of something is based on what you put in to it.  This works with both horns and people.

Q. How has drum corps had an impact on your life? A. What a group working together can achieve.  Teamwork. Friendship.

Q. What made you want to do drum corps? Why Bluecoats? A. In 1975 my big brother was drum major of the Bluecoats.  I had been marching in a youth military band since I was 12, but drum corps was the next level.  Why Bluecoats?  Well my brother Larry introduced our family to Betty and Ralph McCauley, so Bluecoats were it!

Q. Favorite Bluecoats show overall? A. Probably - if I had to single one year out - 1989 in Kansas City following Sing, Sing, Sing, announcer Curt Gowdy bellowed that "Bluecoats Rocked Arrowhead Stadium!" to the most thunderous applause I have ever witnessed.

Q. What is your craziest or funniest tour story? A. The wheel falling off the bus from Chicago to St. Louis at 5:00 am and passing me at 60 mph and stopping the bus without an accident!

Q. Favorite city to spend a free day? A. Kansas City & Independence Missouri

Any advice you would like to give to current members? Cherish the time you have in Bluecoats, enjoy your friendships, and realize that you have an effect on others, so make it a good one!

Alumni Feature: John Kowal

John Kowal: 1979-1983, '85 Percussion

John Kowal became a Bluecoat in 1979 and marched in Bluecoats and Phantom Regiment until 1986, his age-out year. John is presently living just outside of Houston Texas, working as a mechanical engineer for the NASA Johnson Space Center. He has one twelve year old son and two step-daughters ages 19 and 23.

Q: How has Bluecoats impacted your life? A: One of the things I've noticed about different organizations or institutions is the difference in the impact the people have had on me. The camaraderie in drum and bugle corps, Bluecoats, is that thirty years later I can go back and compare people from then and now; the members look different but they are still the same. It’s as if I stopped marching last year. I’ve been to events like High School reunions. The people are different and it feels strange. In Bluecoats, bonds last a lifetime. I always strive to do my best; perfection is my goal. I got my feet wet in college and applied that attitude for college which led directly to my employment with NASA.

John Kowal (center)

Q: What are some of the Bluecoat’s core values or principles that have resonated with you in life? A: I believe it is being able to work with people from different backgrounds and coming together as a team, as one. Working together day in and day out in drum corps, one gets tired of people and that gets on everyone’s nerves with the daily routine. Drum and bugle corps’ regimen demands pulling back together and performing with focus on the common goal.

At work, my specialty is thermal protection, i.e. reentry tiles. During the Columbia Space Shuttle incident, no one was worried about who was getting the attention, focus, blame, or personal gain. The direction was just finding out what the problem was and to solve the issue. It didn’t matter what role one played, whether it was taking the big lead or running down to copy papers. I had already acquired the ability to put personal issues aside and focus on the goal.”

I believe it is being able to work with people from different backgrounds and coming together as a team, as one.

Q: What is a unique gift or benefit the corps gave you that you apply in your life today? A: The corps gave me the gift of playing music and that creates a good release. The experience of drumming at a young age with the drum corps clicked with me. I am not a good “set” drummer; I don’t believe it is the same. I find that other marching drummers have very analytic minds. One snare line that I marched in, four out of ten were engineering students, not music majors. The corps marching discipline requires mathematics and subdividing that makes the connection with engineering.

Q: What things do you enjoy now that was a result of Bluecoats? A: Music. I play the piano; I also am in the process of learning to play the guitar. I hope to enjoy a return to rudimental drumming through RIB (Rhythm In Blue), the active post drum and bugle corps experience for Bluecoats Alumni. It is a big foundation of my life- just playing music. I'll never forget the memories.

I feel a strong emotional connection to Bluecoats Alumni; I’ve always carried that connection in the background. I would reach out at times, but didn’t drum much. I would play on the drum pad, but it wasn’t the same as playing with people. I went back to Ohio this past fall to see some of “the guys,” and we started drumming and things just fell into place. It has always been a big part of my life, the sense of pride and commitment. There is a sense of togetherness, belonging to something. I've tried to communicate it to others not familiar with the activity, but just can’t explain it. I watched ‘Clash of the Corps’ and found it does not come across with clarity in how corps really is.  I never really left it behind. It will always be a part of me. Every once in a while it just “pops” out.

Q: What is your message to the present active members in the Bluecoats? A: I suppose my answer would be try to enjoy every minute. It’s a big grind and the summers are grueling. I can imagine that now it is so much more demanding. I want you to know that what you are doing today makes us alumni so proud; you are always on the cutting edge, defining the game, making change and forcing others to follow.

My first year with the Bluecoats was the ’79 season. I practiced all year in the bass line. I did five seasons, ’79 to ’83 with the Bluecoats. We didn’t field in ’79 or ’83. Those lost years were like gold to me – limited and valuable. I always wondered how people could walk away from it. I had to march every year until my age-out year. In ’84 I took my shot and tried out for Phantom Regiment. I know some others went to Garfield, Bayonne, Crossmen after ‘83. In 1985 I had summer school that year, so I returned to march with the Bluecoats to finish the last half of the season out. It was such a fun year; I took it in and relaxed.

My overall drum corps experience taught me that nothing is too high to achieve, no dream too big; just go for it. I know it sounds so corny, but just ‘savor’ the moment. This past year you will remember for your entire life, this season, all of these people, you all will struggle tonight; however, this will make a big impact and always be a part of you.

Feature authored by Timothy Kuhne

Alumni Feature: Dawn Crandall Bradbury

Dawn Crandall Bradbury: 1995 Rook-Out - Brass

Being a one season age-out, affectionately known as a "rook out", is challenging in its own right. Regardless of being a one year member or a super vet, the experience of being a Bluecoat is life long.  We feature this month 2000 Contra (tuba) "rook out" Dawn Crandall Bradbury.

Q: What was the show that made you want to be a Bluecoat?

A: I have loved the Bluecoats since the summer of 1995. Their Homefront: 1945 show touched me every time I saw it.  I decided that summer, that one day, I would be a part of this group. I was marching with a Division III corps, and one of our staff members had aged out with the Bluecoats. She talked about the organization very highly, but for me, it was always about the music. I loved the style, the jazz, the sound.

Q: Where did you grow up and where do you live now? A: I live in central Illinois, and have for my whole life.

Q: Why did you make the jump from your former corps to the Bluecoats? A: I was with my small corps for five summers, and after two years off, my age out season was staring me in the face. I knew that it was literally now or never. I was never going to have another chance, so I plucked up the courage, and along with my best friend, I went to Canton to audition.

Q: But the musical style of the corps you fell in love with suddenly changed when you auditioned.  Yet you stayed on. A: Imagine my surprise to hear the music that we were going to play that season. The style was different, it didn't swing, and I was sad. But I was also committed. It was my last year, and I was going to give it everything I could to be a part of that corps. One of the happiest days of my life (up to that point) was when I was offered a contract.

Q: How did you approach auditioning for the 2000 corps? A: You see, I never learned to read music fluently. So, the off season before 2000 meant a crap load of practicing for me, and a crap load of memorizing. Just the thought of an on-the-fly music change terrified me! I knew I could march and I knew I had the mental stamina to endure, so I learned every note on every page of everything we ever played and prayed that nothing new would be introduced!

Q: How did your single season with Bluecoats impact you? A: The summer of 2000 was an amazing adventure for me, and it's one that I dream about to this day and every year.  This organization is fulfilling a promise -- one that I like to think was fully enacted in 2000. The Bluecoats are always up for a challenge, even when that means changing everything. This is a corps that will provide you with an experience to last a lifetime, a program that you will fall in love with, a staff that is capable of adapting to this ever-changing activity known as Drum Corps, and a family. I couldn't be happier to be a part of that.

Q: How do you feel looking at the corps a decade and a half later? A: When I watch the corps now, all I can think about is how, in some small way, I am there with everyone. I'm on the field with all of those kids who are impressing the hell out of me every day. I smell diesel fuel and I'm transported to a parking lot filled with buses... and friends. The smell of freshly cut grass makes me so nostalgic for long rehearsal days, it's almost like I forgot how crappy some of those days were.

I am so proud to be able to call myself a Bluecoat... even if I'll never know if I made the corps because I was legitimately good enough, or if the talent pool just wasn't very big that year. But honestly, I don't care.

Q: How did marching with Bluecoats shape your future? A: My career is nothing special, but I think I have a good spin on it.  I have been a server at Red Lobster for the past 14 years.  I have never felt very upwardly mobile as far as my career goes, but I think being a part of the Bluecoats has given me a lot of determination and perseverance.  Marching corps has also helped me figure out, and has given me the strength to pursue, being the kind of person and parent that I really desire to be.  

Q: How did drum corps shape you in terms of your own family? A: I have four children and I have always known that I want to give them a good life -- not the kind of life where they get everything they ever ask for, but the kind of life where their parents are available to them as much as possible.  So my philosophy in life is to work as much as I need to, so I can spend as much time with my kids as I can, because that's what I really want to do. So if base success on memories made, my success is immeasurable!

Alumni Feature: Celeste Cooning


Celeste Cooning: 1994-1998 Color Guard

Celeste, originally from Warsaw, Indiana, now calls Seattle, Washington her home. A graduate of Indiana University and University of Washington, Celeste is a visual artist working predominantly in cut paper. Her work has graced the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, Starbucks, Seattle’s Jackson Park, Zoe Juniper Dance Company, and Kinesis Project in NYC.

Celeste has many fond memories in her five years with the Bluecoats, which all center around the great friends she made, with many of whom she is still in contact. One year stands out specifically, “At the end of 1997, I was not ready to say good bye. The camaraderie felt among the members and staff was at an all-time high and I didn’t want the season to end. That and, 89 (Kevin Wier) saying ‘goodnight, girls’ and the epic glow-stick war the night before finals in 97.”

Celeste Cooning and the 1998 Guard

When asked how drum corps has affected her life, Celeste’s response: “How has it not affected my life? My sense of community, my work ethic. Having the courage to chase my passions, and to constantly challenge my comfort zone. All of these qualities are rooted in what I learned at the Bluecoats.”

Celeste is still in contact with many Bluecoats. Most recently she traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan to take part in ArtPrize, an international art competition. While there she was able to connect with several mid-90s alum, and even was surprised by a visit from 2016 color guard members and DCI World Champions, Delaney Faught and Megan Dufala.


“We pick up right where we left off. Something special binds us together. We may have ended our marching days over 15 years ago but it could have been yesterday. In getting to know Delaney and Megan it’s good to know that the essence of the Bluecoats still exists. The close-knit family, the work-ethic and the shenanigans.” -- Celeste Cooning

Celeste's work can be viewed at www.celestecooning.com.


Feature authored by Kelli Carlson

Alumni Feature: Kevin Armbruster

Kevin Armbruster: 1972-1980 Brass

Kevin Armbruster got his drum corps fix started before age 10, when the Marion Cadets sent their feeder corps to nearby town for a parade.  Kevin was hooked, and drum corps was in his future plans even at a young age.  Fortunately for the Bluecoats, Kevin's family soon moved to Canton, Ohio and a lo and behold, new drum corps was starting up in 1972.  The McKinley High School band member jumped in with the corps playing soprano.

k2Kevin marched through the 1970s and after the 1980 inactive year made a decision to age-out with the 27th Lancers from Massachusetts, coming off a 2nd place finish and an Olympics Ceremony performance.  He returned to the Bluecoats in 1982 to begin teaching brass. After the corps second inactive year in 1983, Kevin was tabbed to help staff and rebuild the third attempt of the corps.  Kevin served as Brass Caption Head for many years and was on board for the corps debut into DCI's top 12 in 1987.

ka-verve-daddyKevin's playing days are far from over.  He is the trumpet with a Northeast Ohio band called Verve Daddy, "a group of six guys with rock and roll, blues, country and garage roots." You can find band info on the web, Facebook and their most recent album that Kevin plays on over at iTunes or CDBaby.  Check him out on the band's video below of their original chart We Were Just Growin' Up.


original-bloo-repro-3d-logo-pKevin's family serves as one of the true Bluecoat families.  Kevin's dad was the Booster Club president and designed the original logo and first corps jacket, as well as many other early souvenir items.  Siblings Jeff, Julie and Amy all marched with the corps, with Jeff and Julie serving briefly as staff.  Kevin married another Bluecoat, color guard member Renee Wood, who was also a key part of the rebuilt Bluecoats staff after 1983.   Married in 1986, Kevin and Renee have two children and now one grandchild.

Alumni Feature: Bob Rohrbaugh

Bob Rohrbaugh: 1974-1977 Percussion

Bob's first performance was the Bluecoats' first judged competition and Bob’s last performance was the corps first DCI prelim appearance in Boulder, Colorado in 1977.  Bob notes many fond memories from those beginning years, but a few stand out. 

bobrreally2There was an enormous sense of satisfaction in a continual improvement of the corps, and especially regarding the drumline over the four years he marched,”  Bob states, “Our first drum score was a 2 (out of 20), but we still beat another corps (Erie Mavericks).  We kept the same snare line together for the duration of my Bluecoats career and as a result became kind of a "family", and by the summer of 1977 we were scoring in the 17's.”  Bob Rohrbaugh had the privilege of aging out during the year the corps played “Bridge over Troubled Water” as a closer. Bob shares, “We played a 33-count roll while walking backwards, which to my knowledge is the still the longest roll in drum corps history. It was almost always clean (the exception being that it was somewhat pulsed due to nervousness during DCI prelims), but during the U.S. Open finals that year was absolutely perfect.  At the final release of the roll, I still remember the drum judge smiling and then walking away.”  Bob and the rest of the drum line felt at that point the Bluecoats had finally "made it" after 4 years of hard work.

Bob currently lives in Washington State on the Kitsap Peninsula, about 15 miles west of Seattle.  He retired in January 2016 after working as an electronics engineer for the U.S. Navy where he designed aircraft carrier radio systems for 6 years and was involved with acoustic testing of submarines for almost 30.  There was frequent travel involved in the job to mostly west coast naval stations and Hawaii. “At one point I spent a total of over 1,000 days at our submarine acoustic range in Alaska,” he said. Rohrbaugh has worked on most of the submarines in the U.S. Fleet, spending from 1 day to 2 weeks at sea on each boat.

When asked what types of ‘life lessons’ being involved in drum corps taught him, Bob eagerly shared, “I would say the greatest lesson learned by being in the Bluecoats is the level of accomplishment that is possible when one is able to shed some of their ego and become part of a team.”  “Our drum line, which had some incredibly talented members, only became successful when the individuals "stepped outside" of themselves to listen and become part of the other bodies in the line”  That is a lesson that is difficult to implement in practice, and is something that is foreign to most people that have never participated in activities such as drum corps, team sports, or the military.

Bob Rohrbaugh was fortunate to be a part of the Bluecoats in the early years, and even he had some interesting thoughts about the corps winning their first DCI World Championship.  “I will be honest - I never expected to live to see the Bluecoats win a title,” he said.  “I was in a state of euphoria for several days after that winning night, and it is still hard to believe it has happened.”

Bob continues to drum, and has been part of an alumni corps drum line in the Seattle area since 1983, made up mostly of former Blue Devils, Santa Clara Vanguard, Seattle Imperials, and other west coast corps members from the 70's and 80's.  He shared this about his involvement in the line going forward:  “I will no longer feel like an outsider during discussions of the "other" championship corps.  This is a great time to be a Bluecoat!”

Indeed it is a great time to be a Bluecoat, Bob, and we’re proud to call you a BLOO brother.

Feature authored by Victor Colaianni

Alumni Feature: Mike Bonnell

mb2Mike Bonnell: 1984-1986 Brass

Mike marched with the corps in the mid 1980s and still lives within a short distance of the J. Babe Stearn Center (the second “the Boys Club” building).  Mike’s earliest memory of the Bluecoats was back in the early to mid 70’s.  His Mom’s best friend lived by the old Boy’s Club on Navarre Rd. and they use to go there on the weekends to visit, and the Bluecoats would be there at times rehearsing.  “We would be out there watching them practice,” Mike said. “ A guy I marched in high school with (Paul Sutter) asked me to come to a Bluecoats rehearsal, so I did.  I was hooked from day one!”

He played soprano in 1984, and 1986; Flugel Horn in 1985.  A memory that sticks out was in 1985, “we did a stand still performance for the Mayor’s Breakfast at 6:00 am before we marched the HOF Grand Parade,” Mike said.  “We were the first marching unit in the parade, after the parade we had a little break, and got to go swimming for a little bit in the Natatorium by Fawcett Stadium. Then we warmed up and performed the pre-game show for the HOF game, got to watch most of the 1st half before we did the half-time show.  After the half time show we loaded the buses and drove to Pennsylvania where we did a night show. When we finally got on the bus it was around 11:30 pm for almost 18 hours of on the go performances.  What a great and really exhausting day, but a day I will never forget.”

Mike aged out 30 years ago in 1986, which was the first time Bluecoats made the top 25. “I gave my original alumni jacket away to a current member.  His name is Justin Cohen, and he is a trumpet player.  I met him last season, and was talking to him about it, and I wasn’t sure if it would fit him because he is much taller than I am, but it fit him perfect!  It was way too small for me to ever wear again, and with this being 30 years since my age out it just seemed to be an appropriate time to pass it on.”

He stays involved in Canton civic functions. “I have done several charities in Canton.  I have played my trumpet at Christmas time for the Salvation Army’s Kettle Drive, I have also volunteered and coached girls fast pitch softball for several years having very competitive teams, and 1 undefeated championship team.”  He is also a regular volunteer for the Bluecoats bingo operation and volunteered to edge all the sidewalks at the Boys Club/ J. Babe Stearn Community Center.   Mike is also a charter member of Rhythm IN BLUE, the alumni ensemble that formed in 2014.  He has participated each season.

He also stays involved with the corps. “This is the 4th year now that I have helped sponsor a member with some of the fees required to march in Bluecoats.  When I marched drum corps it wasn’t as expensive, but I paid my brothers way through Bluecoats in 1984, and 1986.”

He thinks having the alumni involved as much as they are now is awesome.  “I am so proud of the members today.  They are such great character young men and women, and anything the alumni can do to give back is appreciated.”

nb1In 2003 Mike became a Brown’s season ticket holder and started painting his face.  “Through the years I have become quite popular in the Dawg Pound Nation, and in 2014 I was nominated into the Pro Football’s Ultimate Fan Association (PFUFA).  I was invited to be in the Draft Day Movie, and I got to do a Liberty Ford commercial as Facepaint Mike.  I have been interviewed on many occasions by several different news sources, and have had pictures of myself on many national and local publications too.”

Feature authored by Brian DeBoard