Drum Corps International
Four years in, INpact Band continues to inspire middle school musicians
The INpact Band draws middle school musicians from across the state of Indiana annually to the DCI World Championship Finals.Photo by: Drum Corps International

Four years in, INpact Band continues to inspire middle school musicians

by Tim Webber

Many young musicians and fans of the marching arts dream of someday playing in Lucas Oil Stadium. Prior to the DCI World Championship Finals on Saturday, August 8, around 380 Indiana students lived that dream.

A program hosted and presented by Drum Corps International, this year marked the fourth in a row that the INpact Indiana’s Future Band, an ensemble made up exclusively of Indiana middle school musicians, performed at the DCI World Championships. For the students under the direction of INpact leader Katy Briel, that thrill never gets old.

“This is huge,” Briel said. “Some of my own students were talking at school yesterday, and they heard on the news that the DCI World Championships were going on at Lucas Oil Stadium and they said, ‘That’s us!’ So just being in here and being able to see the drum corps is huge for these guys.”

The INpact Band was first formed in 2012 when the group performed with American Idol’s Shaun Canon.

“And it was such a neat idea we wanted to make sure we did it every year,” Briel said. “The students fill out an application around March, early in the year. We have them selected, and they get their music in May, so they can practice in the summer. Then they come together for two days of instruction and performances in Indianapolis in August as part of the DCI Championships.”

INpact Band 2015 Al Chez
Al Chez, formerly of the CBS Orchestra and a DCI alum, was as guest performer with the 2015 INpact Band.

This year, the students received the opportunity to perform with Al Chez, former trumpeter with the CBS Orchestra for the Late Show with David Letterman. The students were guest conducted by Stephen Pratt, director of bands at the University of Indiana in Bloomington.

“(The students) have been very cooperative and are doing a great job,” Pratt said. “They’re just really excited about being in this venue and wanting to do a great job, and it’s just exciting to be here.”

In addition to performing before the DCI World Championship Finals, the group also performed as part of DCI’s SoundSport event earlier in the day on Pan-Am Plaza.

But the INpact experience offers much more than an opportunity to perform. On Friday night, INpact students packed the Indiana Repertory Theater as they had the special opportunity to engage with a variety of presenters and performers who aimed to show the young students the impact music making can have as they continue on into their high school and college years and even into adulthood.

Motivational speaker Fran Kick served as master of ceremonies during the Friday night festivities that included performances by the 113th Army Band and the Star United Drum and Bugle Corps. Randy Pease, IRT manager of education, talked about the historic theater building and its fine arts programming to those in attendance while Michael Butera, executive director of NAfME, talked about the importance of continuing music education in secondary school. Guest performer Al Chez also conducted an intimate Q&A session with the students about his life as a professional musician.

INpact Band 2015
The INpact Band grew to 380 members in 2015, seen here performing at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

After four years, the INpact Band continues to look for more ways to grow and to engage even more performers. This year, the group added a color guard section to the band for the first time, and Drum Corps International is also looking at ways to expand the program’s presence geographically.

Briel says that the success of the INpact Band in Indiana has the potential to serve as a template for providing this unique educational experience to young musicians in other states like Texas and Georgia in conjunction with Drum Corps International’s annual summertime events in San Antonio and Atlanta, though that expansion is still in the early stages of development.

But regardless of it happens next year or down the road, the INpact Band will continue to play a role in educating student performers and heightening their interest in music and the marching arts.