Ron Hardin is currently the Director of Bands at Bellevue East High School, in Omaha Nebraska where he has been for thirteen years. Prior to that, he was the Director of Bands at Clayton Valley High School in Concord, CA for six years where he also enjoyed teaching drum corps. When he and his wife had their first daughter, an opportunity came up to move back to Nebraska (where he is originally from). So they packed up to raise their kids around family.
In addition to being a full-time band director and WGI judge, Hardin is also the Visual Caption Head of the Carolina Crown Drum & Bugle Corps, he serves on the DCI Rules & Systems Task Force, the WGI Percussion Advisory Board, and is the owner of Ron Hardin Designs, designing drill for bands across the country.
We recently caught up with Ron to learn more about his experiences with indoor percussion and WGI.
What were some of your first experiences being involved in percussion?
Outside of high school and college, I marched with the Velvet Knights and Star of Indiana Drum & Bugle Corps. After I “aged out”, I have taught at Santa Clara Vanguard, Blue Devils, Bluecoats and currently with Crown. My marching experience was as a baritone player.
I have been with WGI Percussion since about the very beginning. I worked with Scott Johnson at Clayton Valley High School, and our first year doing indoor was in 1994. In 1997, we took Clayton Valley to WGI in Phoenix and won the Percussion Scholastic A World Championship. I have also been the designer for Clear Brook High School, when we won Percussion Scholastic Open, and Dojo Percussion when we won Percussion Independent A.
When was the first WGI World Championships you saw?
For Percussion, it was Phoenix in 1997. Times have changed since then! Most of the groups were wearing their band uniforms, very few had floors, and electronics were rare to non-existent. It was still a thrill to see this relatively new activity fill up a huge arena, and kids from all over the country be able to come together and see what was happening. Remember, this was before YouTube, Fan Network and forums where everyone could see what anyone was doing at the push of a button.
What interested you in becoming a WGI judge?
I try to stay as active as possible as a judge, designer and teacher. I think this lends credibility and empathy across the table, no matter what side I’m sitting on. For WGI, I mostly judge the visual caption, and occasionally GE. I continue to be humbled by the caliber of musicians and people that I have the privilege to judge next to, I learn something every time I judge!
What inspires you to stay involved in WGI?
This is a very “healthy” activity. From the judge, instructor, designer and manager… everyone is involved for the right reasons, number one is the kids, and two is furthering our activity. This atmosphere is so positive at every level, from the local circuits all the way up to World Championships.
Who in the activity inspires you, and in what way?
So many! Mark Thurston and his leadership… Chris Hestin is the consummate professional and one of the most genuine people I know… Scott Johnson, my good friend, collaborator and mentor… and Ward Durrett for his care for the activity all the participants, adults and students.
What life skills are learned through winter marching arts activities?
Time management is number one. Kids are pulled in so many directions, and to see these “kids” be able to focus on something so intently, and reach a level of excellence that few of their peers ever reach is inspiring. The concept of a team, and responsibility to the people around them and the group is something they can take with them in life.
Where do you see the activity going in the next couple of years, or further in the future?
If you would have asked me this question five years ago, I would have been WAY off on where we are now! The growth curve and unpredictability of the activity is what I most enjoy. As long as the instructors and designers continue to push the envelope and challenge us as judges to up our game, I think WGI Percussion will be something unpredictable every year!