The FREE Players Drumline and Color Guard are a very unique group from Old Bethpage NY. Based out of Family Residences and Essential Enterprises (FREE) Theater Day Habilitation Program, the unique group is formed by members of the special needs community. WGI is proud to announce that this inspirational team will be performing in exhibition at the WGI Percussion World Championships in Dayton Ohio on April 11th and 12th, 2014.
Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. founded in 1977, benefits and proudly supports more than 3,500 individuals with intellectual disabilities, mental illness and traumatic brain injury. It is the mission of FREE to help individuals of all abilities realize their full potential. The FREE Players began in 1997 as a volunteer theater group and evolved into a full time Theatre Arts Center providing instruction in dance, drama, music, tech, and fine arts. Participants have made great strides in self-advocacy, improving interpersonal skills, learning to multitask, focus, take direction, and be part of a team. Their goal: being seen as independent, contributing members of the community.
Brian Calhoun, a Music Habilitation Specialist at Family Residences proposed a vision back in 2010 to start a drumline at their Theater Program. Initially he started with only five members with sticks and pads. Brian worked with the drumline participants, teaching them different aspects of music theory, rudiments, stick control, proper marching technique and reading notation. In 2011 the drumline had more then doubled in size. The drumline was separated into two different groups, the pit and stage dancers. The Pit utilized percussion instruments such as stationary snare drums, floor toms, bass drums, djembe, tambourines and the drum set. The Stage Dancers would dance while using drum sticks, and would play practice pads or sound shapes during their performances. In 2012 additional staff were brought on board to assist Brian, and to develop a marching section and color guard to help increase performance opportunities. Today the FREE Players Drumline has 62 members divided between three groups. We have 20 members in the Pit, 20 in the Color Guard and 22 in the Marching Section.
“WGI is beyond excited to welcome our first special needs percussion ensemble to the world’s biggest stage today for percussion enthusiasts,” said Ron Nankervis, WGI Executive Director. “We as an organization welcome groups of all abilities and our audiences have embraced other special needs performers in Dayton and other events with thunderous applause and an outpouring of emotion. We can’t wait to see what the FREE Players have in store for us and they will undoubtedly be a highlight of championships weekend.”
In the past three years the FREE Players Drumline has performed on stages and parades all across Long Island, NY. In May of 2013 we performed in Walt Disney World on the Downtown Disney Waterside Stage as part of Disney’s Performing Arts Program. “We are truly honored and privileged to have the opportunity to showcase our talents at such an amazing event. We want our drumline and color guard to be defined by their talents and abilities, not their disabilities. We want to show the entire world that our drumline and color guard participants share the same passion for music as their typical mainstream peers.” Says Brian Calhoun Music Specialist and Director of the FREE Players Drumline and Color Guard
Updates will be posted periodicly to help chronicle their journey to the WGI Percussion World Championships in Dayton Ohio. Please check back in every couple months to find out more.