Richard K. Pugsley, DirectorRichard K. Pugsley, Spirit Director, began working with Spirit of America in 1993. The Spirit Winter Percussion ensemble was instituted under his tenure, and he led the group to their gold medal win at the WinterGuard International World Championships in 2012, the bronze medal in 2013, their advancement into Open Class in 2014, and their gold medal win in the Open Class in 2015. He has led Spirit of America on tours and conducted workshops in schools around the world, including cultural and musical exchanges in South Africa, South Korea, Australia, Canada, and the United States. He founded the annual Day of Percussion on Cape Cod, a music education event that draws students from across New England for a free day of percussion clinics and performances by world-class artists. He received his Bachelor of Music degree, with a minor in Community Music, from Oberlin Conservatory.
Ian Hale, Percussion DirectorIan Hale has been with Spirit of America Band and Spirit WP since 2007 first as a tech, then as Percussion Director and arranger. He studied with Dr. Glenn Price at the University of Calgary where he received his BA in percussion performance, and received his MA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he studied with Eduardo Leandro and Thom Hannum. He has studied marimba with Leigh Howard Stevens, Gordon Stout, and She-e-Wu. He has taught percussion for the Glassmen, the Magic of Orlando, the Madison Scouts, Carolina Crown, The Cadets, and is presently on staff with the Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corps. Ian was also a music faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Assistant Director of Bands for the Calgary Stampede Showband. He currently teaches and arranges for numerous bands and percussion ensembles across the United States and Canada. Ian is endorsed by Vic Firth Inc., Remo Inc., and Zildjian Corporation.
Zach Schlicher, Movement Design & PerformanceZach Schlicher began performing in the marching arts in 1997. As a member of his high school marching band, Zach was exposed to Drum Corps International. In 2001, he earned a position in the snare line with The Cadets and continued to perform there for the next four seasons. Upon aging out, he began teaching the Madison Scouts. After two seasons with the Scouts, he spent the next ten seasons on the faculty of Carolina Crown. Currently, he is on the faculty of the Boston Crusaders. Away from the drum corps field, Zach works with several scholastic and independent programs within Winter Guard International, Bands of America, as well as international ensembles. During the fall and winter months, he occasionally adjudicates marching bands and indoor percussion ensembles around the United States.
Zach studied percussion at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Along with his design/instruction commitments, Zach occasionally performs on cast with Aerial Experience Productions, JQProductions and has performed with Blue Devils Entertainment. For quick educational features, he can be found on VicFirth.com in the video lesson series, “Hybrid Rudiments.” Over the course of twenty years, he has been able to develop a unique set of skills which allow him to take on multiple responsibilities and roles with any ensemble.
James Sparling, Visual DesignerJames Sparling received his degree in Music Education with a minor in Architecture at Miami University. He has been heavily involved in the world music ensemble, Global Rhythms, where he served as Percussion Coordinator and Arranger (2004- 2006) and continues to perform with the ensemble annually.
James has taught percussion in various programs, serving as a Percussion Mentor at Tower Heights Middle School (‘07), Director of Percussion at Bellbrook HS/MS (‘07- ‘08), Assistant Band Director at Baker MS/Fairborn HS (‘10-‘11), Director of Percussion at Kettering Fairmont HS (‘09-‘13), Director of Percussion at Seminole HS (‘13), and is currently serves as the Director of Percussion at Plymouth-Canton Educational Park (‘14-Present). He served on the percussion staff for the Glassmen (‘03), the Madison Scouts (‘04-‘06), Carolina Crown (‘07-‘08), the Cadets (‘09-‘11), and Rhythm X (‘05-‘13). He has served as the visual designer for Madison Independent (‘11), Eastside Fury (‘11-‘13), and currently works with Spirit Winter Percussion (‘06-present). He has most been serving as the Caption Head and Arranger of the Madison Scouts (‘12-‘14), Infinity Percussion (‘13-present), and Redline Percussion (‘14-present). In 2015, he was also appointed as the Percussion Director for the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps. James is proudly endorsed by, REMO Drumheads, Pearl Drums/Adams, TreeWorks Chimes, Vic Firth Drumsticks and Mallets, and Zildjian Cymbals.
Jennifer LeSeth, ChoreographerJennifer Leseth is a Chicago native with 30-plus years of performance, instruction and design experience in color guard, drum corps and marching band. Her passion for the art grew from performing with color guards such as Destiny, Guardsmen, State Street Review, and Escapade. Naturally driven to excel she challenged herself with marching with drum corps such as Phantom Regiment and The Cadets.
Jennifer came to Spirit of America in 2005 with more than nineteen years of performance, design, and instructional experience, and started her work with Spirit Winter Percussion in 2012. She travels globally to teach including England, Italy, Canada, Japan, Korea, South Africa, and Thailand. Her experience with drum corps includes serving as Color Guard Caption Head for Bluecoats, Crossmen, Phantom Regiment, Madison Scouts, Carolina Crown, and Santa Clara Vanguard. She has served as the color guard designer and director for the following High Schools; Marian Catholic (IL), Plymouth Canton (MI), Spring High School (TX), Winston Churchill (TX), LD Bell (TX) and Flower Mound HS (TX). She is currently the color guard designer for the Lincoln Way HS Marching Band (IL).
Sr. Danielle Dwyer, Theatrical Consultant
Classically trained but also skilled in contemporary drama, Sr. Danielle earned her Master of Arts Degree from England’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the University of London. She also studied voice, acting, and writing with Joanna Weir at Central School of Speech and Drama (London, England); David Male of Cambridge University (Cambridge, England); and Shakespeare & Company (Lenox, MA); and studied Shakespeare at the Stella Adler Studio in New York City. Sr. Danielle is the Artistic Director of Elements Theatre Company and helps Spirit to express the drama inherent to their shows.
Steve Ballard, Front Ensemble InstructorSteve Ballard lives in Manassas, VA with his wife Samantha and daughter Crystal. He has been an elementary school band director for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia since 2003. He is also the winter percussion director and asst. marching band director for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA. His marching arts involvement spans over 20 years of performing, writing and teaching, most notably with Thomas Jefferson HS (since 2003), Carolina Crown ('07-'13, '16), United Percussion ('09-'14) and Spirit Winter Percussion (since '14), as well as several other world class DCI, DCA and WGI ensembles. He has also served as a board member for the Atlantic Indoor Assoc. and judge for US Bands in the fall. Steve is a frequent performer with the Fairfax Wind Symphony and also a member of the Vic Firth Education Team and the National Association for Music Education. He received his Bachelor of Music in Music Education and Percussion Performance ('01) as well as his Master of Music in Music Education ('03) from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY.
Jason Ihnat, Front Ensemble InstructorJason Ihnat is an active teacher, performer, composer and arranger. He is a part- time lecturer of music theory at Eastern Michigan University as well as the percussion arranger and instructor for the EMU Marching Band. Mr. Ihnat performs frequently with the Dearborn Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Philharmonic and Macomb Symphony Orchestra. His compositions and arrangements have been performed at universities and high schools in Michigan and across the country.
Jason was a member of The Cadets in 1998 and 1999, winning a DCI World Championship in 1998, and receiving a Distinguished Service Award when he aged out in 1999. Jason went on to serve on the percussion staff with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps for 15 consecutive years, receiving a Cadets Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his excellent work, commitment and positive attitude. He also was the director and co-founder of the Eastside Fury Percussion Ensemble from 2000-2014, and has taught the Americanos and Kiwanis Kavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps. Currently, Jason is co-director of the Novi High School Winter Percussion Ensemble, on the percussion staff with the Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corps, Spirit Winter Percussion Ensemble, and serves as the director and a performer with the NFL’s Detroit Lions Drumline.
Jason's education includes a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from Wayne State University, where he studied percussion under Keith Claeys, and a Master of Music Degree in Composition from Eastern Michigan University, where he studied with renowned composer Dr. Anthony Iannaccone and percussion with professor John Dorsey.
Kirsti Pfeiffer, Front Ensemble InstructorKirsti Pfeiffer began marching with Spirit Winter Percussion in 2004 at the age of 9, and continued to march with the ensemble for 13 years, aging out in 2017. She was the Front Ensemble section leader for 5 years, center marimba for 3 years, and has been a member of the Spirit Design Team from 2016-present. From 2013-2015, Kirsti marched with The Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps where they won the Fred Sanford High Percussion award in 2013, and where she was co-section leader of the Front ensemble in 2015. Kirsti performed in the Boston Premiere of John Adams Inuksuit with Kadence Arts in 2016. She has studied percussion with Ian Hale, Iain Moyer, Jason Ihnat, Michael Zellers, Colin McNutt, Keith Aleo, and Michael Burritt.
As a performer, Kirsti has traveled to Australia, South Korea, South Africa, Italy, and across the United States, performing and assisting in leading workshops with students in music and the marching arts. Outside of teaching Spirit Winter Percussion, she is a member of world-renowned Gloriæ Dei Cantores, one of the leaders of the Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps, and is the Marketing & Communications Director for Spirit Winter Percussion and the Arts Empowering Life Foundation.
Ted Sullivan, Battery InstructorTed Sullivan is originally from Centerville, MA. He started playing drums at age 12, and graduated from Barnstable High School in 2006. He attended UMass Amherst, where he was a member of the marching band under the direction of Thom Hannum and George Parks. While at UMass, he completed his bachelor’s degree in Jazz and African American Music studies. Today he is a full-time musician and teacher working throughout Massachusetts.
Alex Ollivierre, Battery InstructorAlex was a member of the Dartmouth High School Marching Band and Indoor Percussion Ensemble from 2008-2012 and is currently a member of the instructional staff. In 2010 he marched with the Bluestars Drum & Bugle Corps. From 2012-2013 he marched with the Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps as the snare drum section leader. He aged out as the percussion section leader at Carolina Crown in 2015. He is a graduate of UMASS Dartmouth, with a degree in music education, and is now the Percussion Specialist for Fall River Public Schools District.
Alex King, Battery InstructorAlex King started his musical career at the age of 8 playing both concert percussion and drum set. Since then he has graduated from Barnstable High School, as well as UMass Amherst, majoring in music education. While at UMass, he was a part of a number of musical ensembles, a member of the percussion studio, and section leader of the UMass Drumline. Alex marched four years of drum corps, with East Coast Jazz and with The Cadets. He has been on staff with The Madison Scouts, Carolina Crown, 7th Regiment, and has been working with Spirit of America since 2010. When Alex is not teaching percussion, he is a full time music teacher in Worcester, MA, teaching K-12 general music at Union Hill Elementary and Woodward Day Alternative Middle/High School.
Chris Vale, Battery InstructorChris Vale is no stranger to marching percussion. He began his drum corps career back in 1995 and marched nine seasons through 2003. In his early marching years, Chris was a member of the Royal Columbians, Spartans, and Boston Crusaders. He spent his final five seasons as a member of the snare line with the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps from Allentown, PA. He served as section leader from 2001-2003, helping the Cadets to three consecutive high percussion trophies.
Chris attended the University of Massachusetts – Amherst where he was a member of the snare line from 2000-2003. In his studies at UMass, Chris learned under Thom Hannum and Colin McNutt and served as section leader for the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
Chris began his teaching career working as the snare tech for the Madison Scouts in 2004. Chris rejoined the Cadets in 2005 as the snare tech and continued to work with the battery percussion section through the 2012 season. In his time with the Cadets, as a member and as an instructor, Chris was a part of three DCI World Championships during the 2000, 2005, and 2011 seasons. In addition, Chris assisted in capturing four High Percussion Awards during the 2001-2003 seasons as well as the 2005 season. Currently, Chris is part of the Boston Crusaders percussion staff.
In addition to his work with drum corps, Chris is currently the percussion director at King Philip Regional High School. He also served as the percussion director at Blackstone-Millville Regional High School from 2013-2017.
Currently, Chris teaches science at Holliston High School and resides in Hopkinton, MA with his wife, daughter, and son.
Evan Tropp, Visual InstructorEvan Tropp earned his bachelor’s degree in Music Education from UMass Lowell in 2005. He is currently Band Director and Instrumental Teacher for both the middle and high school in Methuen, MA, as well as Lead Visual Instructor for the Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps (Nashua, NH). He has served in multiple capacities as instructor and designer for corps and bands throughout New England, and he marched with Spirit of America for the 2000 season.
Dan Pfeiffer, Visual InstructorDan Pfeiffer began his time at Spirit Winter Percussion as a member in 2006 at the age of 12. He marched with the group for a decade, aging out in the snare line in 2016. Simultaneously, he marched as a mellophone player from 2012-2015 at the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps where he served as section leader in 2015. Dan combines yoga, static stretching, interval training, and dance in his approach to movement technique and enjoys the intensely physical aspect of the marching arts.
Currently, he is studying Music Production and Engineering at Berklee College of Music, and spending his weekends with Spirit working as a visual technician and audio system engineer!
Sarah Hale, Visual InstructorSarah Hale began her career with Spirit Winter Percussion as a member in 2006 at the age of 11. She marched with Spirit for 12 seasons, aging out with their show, Russia, the Etchings of a Soul: A Russian Illustration in 2017. Sarah had a very diverse career with the ensemble, playing vibe, synth, bass drum, and tenors. She brings a knowledge of ballet, modern, jazz, and hip hop to the visual program, as well as experience & vast education in marching band, fife and drum, and indoor percussion visual programs. Sarah also brings an understanding and educational background in theatre and performance energy to the visual program.
Sarah's marching experience has brought her to Australia, South Korea, South Africa, and across the United States with Spirit of America Band, performing and sharing music and the marching arts as a tool to cross cultural boundaries. In her spare time, Sarah is busy as a member of world-renowned Gloriæ Dei Cantores and Elements Theatre Company, one of the leaders of the Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps, and a web technician at Paraclete Multimedia.