Drum Corps International
2016 DCI Volunteers of the Year
DCI Volunteers of the YearPhoto by: Drum Corps International

2016 DCI Volunteers of the Year

by Lauren Wilcox

Every year volunteers give their time, expertise and knowledge to keep drum corps from coast to coast running smoothly.

Those volunteers share much more than simply providing extra help wherever needed. They also set an important example for the participating corps members, showing them a way to stay involved and help others when their days marching on football fields across America come to an end.

After a selection process by a panel of Friends of DCI members, the following individuals will be honored this August at the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis as the 2016 Drum Corps International Volunteers of the Year.




Frank Raffa and the Cardinal Alumni Association

As a leader of the Cardinal Alumni Association, Frank Raffa tirelessly brought drum corps back to the North Shore of Massachusetts after a 15-year absence between 1974 and 1989.

“Frank, justifiably shocked and honored, and in his own humble fashion has respectfully asked that the recognition be made to the entity,” Linda O’Connor, Massachusetts Drum Corps and Educator’s Hall of Fame Member, said.

The Cardinal Alumni Association is a committee of alumni who generously devote their time to organize and run the annual Beanpot Invitational DCI Tour event in Lynn, Massachusetts.

No job is too small for Raffa. “Frank has worked diligently to organize the event, personally handling ticket sales by hand, and he’s devoted countless hours of time and made enormous financial sacrifices. He’s set up, broken down, worked out contracts, met buses, fielded calls in the middle of the night, ensured housing was in place, and so very much more,” O’Connor said.

Raffa and the Cardinal Alumni Association have led a small group of drum corps believers into a well-established organization. In addition to running a drum corps show, one of the Cardinal Alumni Association's greatest achievements has been awarding more than $150,000 in scholarship funding to corps members since 1991.



John Schoenknecht | Pioneer

John Schoenknecht has been a volunteer for Pioneer since 1971. He envisioned and implemented the consolidation of the Imperials of St. Patrick and Cedarburg Thunderbolts to become the Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps that we know today.

For the past 45 years, Schoenknecht has been instrumental to the success of Pioneer. As a longtime art teacher in the Waukesha, Wisconsin School District, his contributions have included a number of artistic tasks including editing the corps’ weekly newsletter, designing uniforms and props, and lettering the corps’ equipment truck by hand.

“Because his skills became more and more evident, I made John my assistant director, a volunteer position,” Pioneer director Roman Blenski said. “As assistant director he worked very hard on the tour and weekly contests for the corps.”

Although he is now retired from the assistant corps director position, Schoenknecht continues to help the corps with its food truck, props, alumni relations, and also devotes his time to serve as historian of the Cedarburg Thunderbolts.

“His positive attitude leads us all to believe that he is more concerned about others than himself,” Blenski said. “He has a very special love for this corps that he was so very instrumental in helping to create!”



William Nylund | Pioneer

William Nylund’s legacy with Pioneer began when he was a drummer with the corps more than 50 years ago.

His affiliation with Pioneer continued as an instructor for the organization’s former cadet corps and as a "corps dad" with all five of his children spending time as members of Pioneer. His presence has been felt in a variety of capacities ever since.

“Each summer [William] takes two to three weeks of his vacation time to drive for Pioneer,” director Roman Blenski said. “He has also been known to help our young members in financial need.”

The time Nylund spends making repairs to the corps buses, equipment, and food trucks has earned him the title of “resident handyman.”

“He is a true volunteer whose self-giving attitude should be emulated by all serving young people in our drum corps activity,” Blenski said.

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