Aces Tattoo and the New Vision for Community Partners

Today, we are pleased to announce a community partnership with Aces Tattoo! While a partnership with a tattoo parlor may seem unusual for a music education organization, this partnership represents the first step in our new vision for community partners.

Currently, Arsenal has two categories of partners: Strategic Partners and Community Partners. Strategic Partners are large organizations that we partner with to ensure that our students have access to quality musical instruments, color guard equipment, and other supplies necessary for our programs. Throughout the marching arts, this form of partnership is the most common.

So, what then is a Community Partner?

Up until now, Arsenal Community Partners have simply been local businesses that have shown tremendous support for our organization. Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria regularly donates, hosts events, and has catered for Arsenal. Baum’s Music has also made significant donations, but even more importantly has helped us coordinate large shipments of musical instruments and other equipment. In this sense, however, Baum’s and Amore, like our strategic partners, have both provided support to Arsenal Inc rather than directly to our student members. Moving forward, we’re changing our definition of community partners, shifting their role from providing benefits to Arsenal proper towards providing benefits for our members directly.

To this end, our new vision for community partners is as follows:

We seek to create a community of local businesses that provide direct benefits to Arsenal’s student members. These benefits may take many forms, but in all cases will be an intrinsic part of being a member of an Arsenal program.  In doing so we hope to foster the growth of our community, support local business, and pursue innovative new relationships that allow us to increase the benefits our members receive beyond those offered directly by our programs.

Our partnership with Aces is our first step towards realizing this vision.

For those unfamiliar with the marching arts, tattoos are not only commonplace but also an important part of the culture. It’s not uncommon for members to get tattoos celebrating their instrument, where they marched, a corps motto, or a memory of their experience. Our partnership with Aces, thus, while unusual, serves as an excellent realization of our community partnership vision. Arsenal, in this case, is able to recommend and promote a reputable establishment, and Aces in turn provides a significant discount to our members. Both organizations also work to promote and celebrate each other, providing exposure through new communications channels. Altogether, the partnership works to provide a benefit to Arsenal members, increase Aces’ business, increase Aces/Arsenal visibility, and foster the growth of our community.

Moving forward, we want to expand our network of community partners into a diverse range of service areas. In doing so, we aim to embed Arsenal as a member of the Albuquerque community. As we grow our network, we’ll be providing additional incentives for local students to join and allowing our out-of-state members to experience more of Albuquerque’s vibrant culture. Looking to the future, we’d love to have partnerships with other programs to foster off-season athletics, mentorship and volunteer opportunities, and creative expression. Arsenal is an organization dedicated to providing an amazing member experience; with Community Partners we aim to take that experience beyond the field.



Represent a business that might be interested in a Community Partnership, or have a suggestion of a business we should look in to? Send me an email at .

2019 Brass Caption Head Announcement

Arsenal Drum and Bugle Corps is pleased to announce Tyler Clark as our 2019 Brass Caption Head!

Mr. Clark is a music educator, performer, clinician, and arranger from Austin, TX. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Texas State University, majoring in music performance. As an undergraduate, he worked as both a music and visual technician/consultant at Frenship ISD for 4 years, while maintaining a private studio. After moving to central Texas, he worked as a supplemental instructor for the Westlake High School band program in Austin (TX) for 3 years. Presently, he is pursuing his Master’s Degree in Music Performance from Baylor University in Waco, TX. His brass instructional career has included roles as a brass teacher for the Oregon Crusaders, Guardians, Music City, Pacific Crest, and Seattle Cascades, dating back to 2013. As a performer, he was a member of the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps in 2009 and 2010, aging out in the latter year.

Mr. Clark will be joining returning Caption Heads Will Kramer (Percussion), Edwin Parker-Mendenhall (Color Guard) and Ziggy Garcia (Visual). He has been hard at work in the off-season, working with corps administration to prepare audition materials and assemble a stellar team of brass educators; we look forward to announcing more of his team as we get closer to auditions! In the meantime, please take a minute to visit our staff page and read the bios for some of the other wonderful designers and educators that will be joining us in 2019.

Ready to register for auditions? Go to to get started.

Announcing our 2019 Design Team

Arsenal Drum and Bugle Corps is pleased to present our 2019 Design Staff.

Following a successful season as caption head of Arsenal’s inaugural color guard, Edwin Parker-McConnell will be returning for 2019 with the expanded role of program coordinator.

Joining Arsenal’s design team for 2019 is Key Poulan, brass arranger for the Mandarin’s finalist program Life Rite After. Key will be joining Arsenal as music coordinator and brass arranger, and will directly oversee the creation of Arsenal’s music program.

Will Kramer will return for his third year as percussion arranger and will be overseeing Arsenal’s battery and front ensemble as percussion caption head. Additionally, Will will also be stepping into the role of staff coordinator, working with the instructional staff to develop rehearsal strategies and oversee the enforcement of student health and safety policies.

Originally from Albuquerque, Jeff Lee will be joining Arsenal as our Audio System Designer. Jeff is a former front ensemble arranger and instructor for the Blue Devils and is currently the Music Director for Mason Entertainment Group and one of the original creative members of the Broadway show “Blast!”, “Shockwave”, “CyberJam”, “M.I.X.”, and “Blast: the Music of Disney”. In addition to audio design, Jeff will also serve as a front ensemble and sound consultant.

Chris Johnston and Andrew Gaskill will be returning for their second season as Arsenal’s visual team. In addition to writing Arsenal’s drill, they will collaborate with Edwin Parker-McConnell to create Arsenal’s visual package, including costuming, staging, and props.

This team has been assembled to reflect Arsenal Performing Arts’ everlasting pursuit of greater heights, both in terms of membership experience and program quality. As we prepare to undergo Open Class evaluation for the 2019 Summer Tour, this team has been tasked with bridging the gap between the smaller SoundSport productions that Arsenal has performed previously with the significantly larger field shows performed by Open Class Corps. In striving to become the first ever DCI sanctioned Corps from New Mexico we desire to create an organization that not only elicits pride from our students and staff, but from the entire state of New Mexico.

More detailed bios can be found on our staff page.

Interested in auditioning for 2019? Join our Facebook Interest Group!


This Saturday, Arsenal returned to San Antonio to compete in the Southwestern Championship, and we had a blast performing three times; our show, the SoundSport anthem, and then a DrumLine Battle to wrap up the day. We defended our Best of Show Title, and received a performance ranking of Silver. We lost the DrumLine Battle, but it was so much fun to face off against the Guardians and throw down in front of thousands of people. I told the DrumLine, “you’ve done the hard work, now have some fun” and that’s exactly what they did.

That night, around midnight, I left the stadium with the souvie van. The plan was to meet the bus somewhere on the road, and then swap folks between the van and the bus as we got tired to keep pushing through to El Paso. Then my phone started ringing- something was wrong with the bus.

We stopped, we turned around, and we called EVERYONE. We had to get our members out of the heat and we had to get moving again. We succeeded with the first, but struggled with the latter. It was 1:00am; there wasn’t another bus, there wasn’t a service truck, and most corps already had their drivers in the hotel for the night. We sent out a van to go to every hotel in the area and ask if there was a conference room we could crash in. Staff that was already an hour out turned around to make sure we had the people we needed to take care of this situation.

Then I learned that the equipment truck, already in Carlsbad, had blown a tire. And that the bank had shut down the Arsenal debit cards because of ‘suspicious activity’.

The Alamodome as seen at 2:00am

We ended up leaving the Alamodome a full 24 hours after our performance time.

And you know what? Everything went wrong and we pushed through. The members shrugged it off like it was nothing; they went, they slept, and carried on like this was nothing new. I remember a moment where I was hunched over my laptop, trying another lead, and pausing because I heard the members laughing in the room next door- they were taking salsa lessons with our visual caption head.

Parents started blowing up my phone. How can we help? What do you need? We’ll have pizzas for you. We’ll have sack lunches for you on the road.

But The staff were the real heroes. We were all exhausted, but they pushed through and they got it done. They got meals donated. They fought the bus company for me while I slept. They kept the members happy, and they kept the ball rolling. I am eternally grateful to my staff for going above and beyond.
Above all else, this incident proved that Arsenal has what it takes. We have the right people, in the right places. We’re a family, and we meet disaster with a smile and a ‘together, we can fix this’ attitude. I am so proud of this little corps, and am amazed at the sheer strength of character I witnessed over the past forty-eight hours.

A huge thank you to John DeNovi, who recommended we shelter in the Alamodome, and a huge thank you to the Alamodome staff for letting us do so. Thank you to Robert Taylor for serving as remote admin. Thank you to the countless admin teams who paused their post SW celebration to try to help our little corps out. Thank you to the folks who donated on our website. Thank you to Denny’s for giving us breakfast at a massive discount, to San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk for donating bottled water, and to Whataburger for donating lunch. Thank you to the parents who made lunches for us. Thank you to the drivers for Troopers Drum & Bugle Corps and Sacramento Mandarins who helped us jump our bus.

…and thank you to Arsenal’s members and staff. Words can’t express how proud I am to call this organization home. I can’t wait to celebrate our season with you tonight.

Arsenal Presents: Skyward

Our 2018 show tells a story- the story of using the tools you have to go beyond where you are now. On the field, you’ll see this theme played out by the corps as they work to build a flying machine to carry them to new heights. Off the field, you’ll see this theme describe Arsenal’s push towards growth as an organization as we aim to enter Open Class for the 2019 season.


A Call to Arms from “Glory” – James Horner
Theme from “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” – Edward Shearmur
Salvation is Created – Pavel Tchesnokov
Clock Tower Parade – Two Steps from Hell

In selecting the repertoire, we deliberately chose very thematic music, specifically music that we believe would help convey the emotions of the various movements.

At the start of the show, you’ll hear the trumpet call of A Call to Arms matched with a single snare, an homage to the military roots of drum corps. Our opener, the Theme to Sky Captain and the World Tomorrow starts the show off with a swashbuckling, adventurous tone, as the corps members come together to work on their ambitious project. The ballad, Salvation is Created vs. A Call to Arms explores the feeling of defeat after failure- the feeling that leads people to accept their circumstances and stay grounded. The closer is the zany and manic Clock Tower Parade by the group Two Steps from Hell. Two Steps from Hell is a cinematic music production company that specifically produces tracks for movie trailers- their music is unique in that while you might not recognize specific melodies, it has a universal thematic style that will pull you in and get you excited. We’ve taken Clock Tower and smashed it together with all of the other themes from our show, resulting in a driving closer that embodies hurtling down the runway, destined for either a crash or the azure skies above.

Arsenal is proud to be competing in Drum Corps International’s SoundSport® Division for the 2018 season and will be performing in Drums Across the Desert (Mesa, AZ), DCI North Texas (Denton, TX) the DCI Southwestern Championships (San Antonio, TX).

Color guard auditions will take place April 27-29. Register to audition here.

Please consider supporting the Arsenal through a donation or member sponsorship here.

February Recap

February Camp

The 2018 Arsenal brass and percussion assembled February 23rd through February 25th at West Mesa High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over the three days the brass section worked on clarity of sound and a small excerpt of the third movement. The front ensemble began preparing the first movement in earnest, and tested out the first draft of a lot tune that will be refined between camps. The battery continued to work on unification of technique and approach.

We are grateful to Brian Weller and the administration of West Mesa High School for allowing us to use their space for rehearsal. We’re also very grateful to the West Mesa United Methodist Church for providing housing space, and the Riverpoint Sports and Wellness Center for providing shower. We would also like to thank the Lannon and Amador families for preparing our meals and the wonderful volunteers who helped transport our students!

Tour Announcements

Arsenal is pleased to announce that we’ll be attending Drums Across the Desert in Mesa, Arizona on July 2nd! We’re excited to share the field with Phenom, a SoundSport team affiliated with the Academy Drum and Bugle Corps. We’re also pleased to announce that we have also been confirmed for the Southwestern Championship in San Antonio, Texas. We’ll be announcing additional shows and performances as the season progresses, so stay tuned!

Open Spots

At this point, Arsenal has the following open spots:
• 6 Trumpets
• 5 Mellophones
• 6 Bari/Euphs
• 1 Tuba
• 2 Snares
• 3 Tenors
• 1 Bass

At this point the front ensemble is full and we will no longer be taking applicants. Color guard auditions will take place at the April camp, and audition applications will open within two weeks; be on the look out for an announcement on Arsenal’s social media.

Open Audition Policy

Auditions for the remaining spots will be conducted on a rolling basis. Students are welcome to show up to camp and audition as walk-ins, or to submit a video for comments prior to camp. Students must register here to receive audition materials. There is a $25 audition registration fee.

January Camp Recap

The 2018 Arsenal brass and percussion assembled January 19th through January 21st at Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over the three days the brass section worked on the first two movements of our 2018 production, while the battery focused on unification of technique and approach. The front ensemble experimented with an early draft of the first movement which will be modified to better reflect the skill level of the musicians. All of the students came in well-prepared and ready to work, resulting in a very productive camp.

At this camp we put together the students from both the El Paso and Albuquerque audition camps. Overall, 43 young musicians were in attendance, making this the largest training camp ever conducted by Arsenal. Of those, 32 have now been contracted, putting the corps on track to not only exceed last year’s corps of 33, but to meet the goal of doubling the size of the corps with the addition of the color guard in April.

Beyond the rehearsal activities of the weekend, corps admin staff also spent time discussing Arsenal’s policies and reporting with the students. Special emphasis was placed on the corps diversity of membership and designation as a safe space, and admin staff made students and parents alike aware of our whistle-blower and reporting policies. Additionally, in following the example set by Drum Corps International, starting at the February camp, Arsenal will begin all hosted events with a safety briefing detailing emergency exits and meeting places. Although Arsenal is a young organization we are consistently striving to be a leader in the activity in all aspects, from our education program to the policies in place to protect our students.

We are grateful to Paul Blakey of Volcano Vista High School and Paul Morbitzer of the First Congregational United Church of Christ for assisting us with facilities for the weekend. We would also like to thank the members of the Albuquerque Public Schools board who attended the camp and the wonderful volunteers who helped feed and transport the students this weekend!

Arsenal Welcomes New Battery Staff for 2018

Arsenal Performing Arts is pleased to welcome an entirely new battery staff for the 2018 season. Regarding the change, corps director J. Spenser Lotz said “We’re very excited to welcome a number of new staff members to the team this season, but we’re especially excited about the new battery staff that will be joining us. This season represents our push towards Open Class, and so we wanted to bring in a group of individuals capable of teaching at that level. We’re happy to say that the three incoming educators are all from the El Paso area, which is where the second largest group of Arsenal students comes from, outside of the Albuquerque area.”

Daniel Reyes, an alumnus of both Revolution and the Blue Knights will be assuming the position of battery caption head for the 2018 season. Mr. Reyes has a wide background in the percussive arts, including high school and elementary education and the El Paso Wind Symphony, as well as a Bachelor’s of Music Education from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Joining Mr. Reyes will be Dan Hunt and Josh O’Brien. Mr. Hunt is the Assistant Director of Bands and the Director of Percussion for Pebble Hills High School in El Paso. Mr O’Brien is an alumnus of Forte and Genesis and will primarily be working with Arsenal’s tenor section.


For more information, please go to our staff page here.


Announcing our 2018 Design Staff

Arsenal Performing Arts is incredibly excited to announce our 2018 Design Team.

Bill Spencer-Pierce – Brass Arranger

Best known as arranger and consultant to marching band programs, Spencer-Pierce has served some seventy school districts, having written hundreds of band arrangements for groups of all ability levels and sizes. His writing is informed by thirty years of classroom teaching in instrumental and vocal music in Indiana and California, and his book “Marching Band Arranging” has become a useful reference for new generations of writers. Spencer-Pierce’s output includes work for concert band, instrumental and vocal jazz ensemble, and, most recently, “Soundsport” projects.
He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the Indiana University School of Music, and a Master of Arts from Ball State University, where he served as arranger and teaching assistant in the Department of Bands. A Theatre minor at IU, he has directed dozens of plays, musicals, and musical revues in school, civic, and summer stock productions. Since 2005, Spencer-Pierce has served as Director of Vocal Music and Musical Theatre at Salem High School, Salem, Indiana.

Will Kramer – Percussion Arranger

William Kramer received his Bachelors of Music Performance in Percussion from the University of New Mexico and currently works as an elementary music teacher for Albuquerque Public Schools.  He has taught marching percussion at Rio Rancho High School and West Mesa High School, and currently works with Atrisco Heritage Academy marching band in addition to serving as percussion coordinator for the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Program. He spent three years with the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps, and wrote and taught Arsenal’s Battery book last year. He is thrilled to be returning to write Arsenal’s percussion book again and to work as Arsenal’s Front Ensemble Caption Head as well.

Chris Johnston – Visual Designer

Chris is currently the music teacher at Jo Byrns Elementary School in Cedar Hill, Tennessee. He graduated from Austin Peay State University in 2011 with a degree in music education. Chris marched with the Memphis Sound Drum & Bugle Corps as a trumpet soloist in 2005. He then joined the Phantom Regiment (Rockford, IL) in 2006 and marched through the corps’ 2008 World Championship season as a soloist and section leader. From 2012-2016, Chris had the distinct honor of performing as a soloist and lead trumpet player for the 10-time defending DCA Mini Corps Champions, Star United Drum & Bugle Corps (Indianapolis, IN). Chris maintains an extremely active schedule as an adjudicator, designer, and clinician in the southeastern United States. As a program coordinator and co-drill writer, Chris helps guide the design and instructional process for the WGI Open Class Finalist, Audio Theater and has also worked with the WGI World Class Finalist, Palmetto Percussion. Chris has worked with drum corps such as the Academy, Memphis Sound, Music City, the Colts, and currently serves as the Assistant Visual Caption Supervisor for The Cadets. Chris is thrilled to be joining the design team for Arsenal Drum Corps, as a co-drill writer for the 2018 DCI season.

Andrew Gaskill – Visual Designer

Andrew graduated from Austin Peay State University in 2008, earning his Bachelors of Science in Music Education Summa Cum Laude. In 2011, he completed his Master’s in Instrumental Conducting, with honor, from APSU. Since 2011 he has served as director of bands at Sycamore High School in Pleasant View, Tennessee. The band was recognized in 2016 as the Class III Open Southern States Champion at USBands and the recipient of the Cadets Award of Excellence for Outstanding General Effect.
He is the co-founder and Executive Director of Clarksville Youth Performing Arts Association, a non-profit music association that operates Audio Theater, a WGI Percussion Independent Open ensemble. He serves as the ensemble’s director and as a designer. As an educator, he has previously taught with Spirit, Music City Legend as Co-Visual Caption Head, Visual Caption Head for Music City Drum Corps in 2014, visual staff for the Colts Drum & Bugle Corps in 2015 and 2016 and just completed the 2017 season with The Cadets. Andrew is thrilled to be joining the design team for Arsenal Drum Corps, as a co-drill writer for the 2018 DCI season.

Edwin Parker-McConnell – Colorguard Designer

Edwin Parker-McConnell is a New Mexico based music educator, colorguard instructor, choreographer, and consultant with over eight years of experience in the teaching field. His degree in Music Education is from the University of New Mexico. He has taught and written for various schools within the southwestern states, and has also written for Republic High School of Missouri. He experienced drum corps in 2010 with the Troopers, which proved to be an invaluable learning experience. Currently, Edwin resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico as the Associate Director of Bands and Color Guard Director at La Cueva High School, as well as a guard instructor for the University of New Mexico. Edwin believes that guard is not just about the competition, choreography, and other tangible elements that come along with it. It’s also about the passion, joy, and love that one develops for doing the activity that makes it so wonderful. This is at the foundation of all of his teaching.

A Note from the Director

The 2018 season represents another important step in our journey to Open Class. We, as an organization, wanted to assemble a team capable of writing an Open Class show within the SoundSport model, and I believe that this is the team to do so. The goal for 2018 is to continue to build from the 2017 season with a push towards Open in all aspects of the corps, from more members, to a longer tour, to a more refined show. Every single member of this team has expressed a desire to help Arsenal grow, and to help mold it into the vision we have for the marching arts in the Southwest. I could not be more excited to be working with this team, and I cannot wait to see the final product in San Antonio come July. For anyone considering marching Arsenal this is the year to do it, as we can only go up from here.

For more information on Arsenal’s Staff, please click here.

Announcing Our 2018 Caption Heads

Arsenal Drum and Bugle Corps is pleased to announce our 2018 Caption Heads.


Brass Caption Head: Rusty Briel

Charles Russel “Rusty” Briel has been professionally involved in music education for 38 years, serving for 15 of those years as Executive Director of the Indiana State School Music Association.  Rusty joined Arsenal’s Instructional staff midway through the season last year and made great strides in improving ensemble cohesion and musicality throughout Arsenal’s brass section. His experience with both marching and concert ensembles has been invaluable, and his approach to teaching at Arsenal has been to provide students with skills that are not only appropriate for the marching field, but for the concert hall as well.


 Battery Caption Head: Tino Leyba

Valentino “Tino” Leyba will be returning to Arsenal for the 2018 season and assuming the role of Battery Caption Head, a role he had previously shared with Will Kramer. A native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Tino primarily works with the Onate Royal Knight Regiment marching band and percussion studio. His teaching philosophy and methods were the driving force behind the growth and development of Arsenal’s percussion section during our first year and we anticipate even greater achievement in the upcoming season.


Color Guard Caption Head: Edwin Parker-McConnell

Heading up Arsenal’s new color guard caption is Edwin Parker-McConnell. Edwin is an Albuquerque native, holding a degree in Music Education from the University of New Mexico. In addition to serving as the Associate Director of Bands at La Cueva High School, Edwin is also the Color Guard Director at La Cueva and also works as a guard instructor for the University of New Mexico. Edwin believes that guard is not just about the competition, choreography, and other tangible elements that come along with it. It’s also about the passion, joy, and love that one develops for doing the activity that makes it so wonderful.


Front Ensemble Caption Head: Will Kramer

Will Kramer will be returning to Arsenal for the 2018 season and assuming the role of Front Ensemble Caption Head, transitioning from his previous role as Battery  Co-Caption Head. In addition to heading Arsenal’s new Front Ensemble Caption, Will will also be serving as the percussion arranger for the 2018 season, writing both the battery and front ensemble books. His writing for the 2017 season challenged the line to achieve the maximum amount of musicality possible within the scope of a SoundSport production, and included a number alternative textures through the use of brushes and modified drumsticks.


Visual Caption Head: Ziggy Garcia

Reprising his role from last season, Ziggy will once again be leading Arsenal’s visual caption in 2018. His basics-centered approach led Arsenal’s members -some of which had never marched before- to high levels of achievement in 2017, and allowed students to return to their home programs as stronger marchers. A professional trumpet player and salsa dancer, Ziggy brings a wide range of experience to the table and will additionally be serving as a member of Arsenal’s Design Team.



For more in-depth biographies of our caption heads and for additional information on our staff, please visit our staff page.