Volunteers serve as the lifeblood of every drum corps, providing much-needed assistance and support to ensure that performing students can take part in the life-changing drum corps experience.
The importance of volunteer efforts has perhaps been felt even more so in the last year as corps organizations drastically scaled back operations in the wake of the cancelation of the 2020 Drum Corps International Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pivoting to a variety of different activities and initiatives in an effort to facilitate a smooth return to the field in 2021 and 2022.
Drum Corps International and members of the Friends of DCI are pleased to recognize the exceptional efforts of the following individuals as the 2021 DCI Volunteers of the Year.
A performing member of the Canadian Open Class corps Les Stentors from 2006 to 2014, Nicolas Carrier stayed active with the organization after his time in the front ensemble percussion section in a volunteer capacity.
“Never afraid to get his hands dirty, Nicolas does work others will not or cannot do,” Les Stentors director Gabe Francoeur said. “Whether he is fixing a generator, unclogging a toilet, or loading equipment at 6 a.m. in Quebec’s -25℃ weather for a winter parade, Nicolas can always be found putting the corps on top of his priorities.”
From kitchen and driving duties to becoming secretary of the corps’ board of directors in 2018, Carrier has been an invaluable resource who has consistently stepped up to add new and different tasks to his lengthy list of responsibilities. This has become even more apparent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the pandemic, one would think that without rehearsals or a tour, he would focus his time elsewhere,” Francoeur said. “Of course, that is not the case—His commitment has only grown. With the wide array of roles and the ever-growing time he gives to the corps, some say if his role were a paid job, no one would take it!”
Jim O’Neil has been a volunteer force with the 7th Regiment ever since the corps’ inception in 2003. Also serving as an assistant director, he primarily oversees the logistics and upkeep of all transportation and instruments for the corps.
O’Neil is often the first point of contact for all of 7th Regiment’s out-of-town members, driving more than 250 miles each rehearsal camp to make airport, train and bus station pickups and dropoffs while also opening his home to help house those performers who are traveling from great lengths. During the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Neil has even taken it upon himself to personally deliver instruments to corps members who needed equipment in order to take part in the corps’ virtual rehearsals.
“Jim O’Neil has truly been the jewel in the crown for 7th Regiment,” 7th Regiment executive director Kevin Lowery said. “He is beloved by our staff and members for his compassion and willingness to do anything that the corps needs of him. No matter what the situation, Jim remains positive and reassuringly says ‘We’ll get there.’
“He has a relentless passion to create an amazing experience for everyone associated with the corps.”
A former member of the Rochester Crusaders and founder of the Arizona Sun Drum and Bugle Corps, Lauren Ripley has since spent years helping The Academy in a volunteer capacity.
Behind the scenes, Ripley serves in a leadership role as vice president of the corps’ board of directors where she spearheads important efforts as the chair of the fundraising committee and co-chair of the annual Drums Across the Desert Drum Corps International Tour event.
To the organization’s performing corps members, however, Ripley is perhaps best known as the head of the uniform crew. Annually she helps fit and mend uniforms while managing and training dozens of other volunteers in making sure the corps’ costuming fits to perfection.
“On tour, fueled by her morning coffee, she cranks out uniform repairs and refits with ease, then lends a hand to help her sister, Susan, serve meals and pack the food truck for the next move down the road,” Academy executive director Mark Richardson said. “Lauren thrives on the pure adrenaline of the activity, and her superpowers of efficiency and organization have transformed the ways in which we serve our members, supporters and audiences.”
Getting involved after his son marched as a member of The Cadets, Jay Travis has now been a volunteer fixture for decades, always willing to roll up his sleeves to assist with anything that needs fixing, from buses and trucks and trailers, to the props the corps uses on the field for performances.
In recent years, Travis has also been an integral part in setting up the Cadet Volunteer Association, putting a focus on recruiting individuals to assist the corps during its rehearsal camps and throughout its summer tour.
“Jay has built an amazing team of volunteers who continue to do amazing things for The Cadets,” executive director Denise Bonfiglio said. It’s not unusual to have 10+ volunteers at every camp of The Cadets all busy cooking, driving, or fixing vehicles tirelessly throughout the weekend.
“Jay is a very special human being, always giving of time, hard-earned money, and forever providing a loving spirit to support the young adults of The Cadets.”