By Jenny Lyons
People from all walks of life, backgrounds, abilities can communicate through music. This is the message that the FREE Players Drumline, a special needs performance ensemble from New York, is anxious to share with WGI audiences when they return to the 2016 Percussion World Championships.
The FREE Players Drumline exists as a part of Family Residences and Essential Enterprises Inc., an organization which supports over 4,000 individuals with special needs. Since its inception in 1977, Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, or FREE, has long been dedicated to helping members of the special needs community realize their full potential.
Based out of Old Bethpage, New York, FREE reaches out via a variety of community programs. Among them is their full-time Theater Arts Center known as the FREE Players, which helps individuals grow and flourish through performance arts education. It is from this Theater Arts Center that the FREE Players Drumline was born.
In 2010, FREE Music Habilitation Specialist Brian Calhoun, armed with just a few practice pads and a block of drum sticks, started a drumline as a way to share his lifelong passion of percussion with the students with whom he worked with every day. Over the years, what began as a five-person drumline has flourished into a multi-ensemble program, which includes a drumline, color guard, and marching ensemble. These programs allow their students to grow through education as well as to express themselves through music and performance.
The FREE Players Drumline has performed in parades and events throughout New York, as well as in venues such as Downtown Disney at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida. The hard work and big dreams of this passionate group truly culminated in their performance at the WGI Percussion World Championships in 2014, where the crowd received them with uproarious applause and overwhelming support.
Two years after their Dayton debut, The FREE Players Drumline is ecstatic to announce their return to the WGI stage this spring. These special percussionists will be performing their 2016 program, “Intergalactic,” in exhibition at WGI A-Class Percussion Finals on Friday, April 15, as well as at WGI World Class Finals on Saturday, April 16, at the University of Dayton Arena. In addition, the FREE Players Color Guard will be making their 2016 debut in exhibition at WGI Eastern Championships in West Long Branch, New Jersey on Saturday, March 19 with their program entitled, “Rebels from Coolsville.” Both groups are hard at work in anticipation for their big moment, which is sure to be a treat for the WGI audience.
FREE’s purpose is to encourage their members to realize their full potential, and it is clear that these passionate individuals are doing just that. WGI is excited to welcome these inspiring young performers back to the Championships stage this spring as they share their passion for music with the world.