The birth of a drum corps

text and photos by Chris Maher, Drum Corps World staff (



For the past few months my social media feed included news about a new drum corps forming in Central New Jersey.  The hype became reality for me on January 28 when I attended the second audition day of Encorps.  I arrived as members were being fitted for uniforms by a representative of Stanbury Uniforms, while other members were unloading the equipment trailer — YES, they already have a 48’ moving equipment trailer!

Encorps Marching Music Experience is the initial program offering of Jersey Arts and Music, Inc (JAM!), the non-profit 501 (c)(3) youth organization.  The mission of JAM! is to “Enrich life skills through the performing arts.”  Starting as a SoundSport team for 2018, Encorps aspires to be an Open Class drum corps in 2019.  However, for this season they will perform in exhibition at several DCI and DCA shows in the Northeast, putting out a full drum corps show in their inaugural year, including a full battery (9/4/5/4) and 10 in the front ensemble.  Their Dynasty equipment was purchased from the Hawthorne Caballeros, originally ownes by the Santa Clara Vanguard.

I saw a lot of familiar faces among the members.  Most of the musicians and guard members are active participants in the many quality scholastic programs I see during the indoor and marching band seasons.  Immediately upon arriving at the facility, I ran into some staff and students from the Pennsauken band and guard programs.  Students and instructors from other scholastic programs I know well kept popping up during my visit.

I spent the afternoon talking with administration, staff, members and parents.  Executive Director Mona Garbely (Bushwackers pit 1982-1984, 1989, Buccaneers brass 1987, The Cadets tour administration 1990, drum major at Rutger University) gave me a great overview of the program.  She is focused on the logistics — rehearsal facilities, insurance, equipment leasing and more.  As a founding member of the Bushwackers, she could speak to how special it is for this particular group of students to be part of the first year.  It is a special experience.

Encorps came about as a vision from its founder and creative director, Pat Petrillo.  Many know of Pat from his many years as a drum corps snare drummer (Saints 1975-1977, Garfield Cadets 1978-1979, Bayonne Bridgemen 1980-1984, High Drums and DCI solos).

After being inducted into the New Jersey Drum Corps Hall of Fame this summer, he decided the time was right to pursue this bucket list item that had been in the back of his mind for years — to “bring back” another drum corps to New Jersey . . . an encore, if you will.  With a little twist, the name Encorps was born.

Pat launched an exploratory committee and advisory board, then an open house was set and Encorps was on its way.  His connections in both the drum corps activity and the New Jersey scholastic music scene are key to the launching and operations of Encorps and, in just six short months, has the organization in the fast lane.

One of those connections brought much delight to the members and parents when legendary drum corps personality and Pat’s mentor, Dennis Delucia (above left), spent several hours at the audition. I wasn’t always where Dennis was, but I did hear his talk to the parents when he lauded the value of the activity and his excitement of Pat’s vision to create Encorps.

Over the years I’ve photographed many of the technicians on staff when they were performers in local high school, college, drum corp, and independent guard programs.  Each of these techs operates under the guidance of some world-renowned instructors.

The staff Pat has assembled includes his longtime Bridgemen friend Matt Savage (battery arranger for many corps including Jersey Surf’s “Bridgemania,” Velvet Knights, Bluecoats), Amy Savage (front ensemble arranger for many ensembles including Jersey Surf, The Cadets, Bluecoats and Glassmen, as well as being a former member of The Cadets), Joe Itkor (percussion caption head, with scholastic programs and DCA corps as well as a performer with Madison Scouts), Matt Krempasky (arranger with Buccaneers, Caballeros, Crossmen and Spirit of Atlanta), Larry Kerchner (DCI Hall of Fame arranger) and talented color guard performer Tanner Jones (marching member the past two seasons with the Blue Devils, previously with Santa Clara Vanguard and instructor and designer for several area color guard programs).

I wondered how the techs felt working with such a legendary staff.  My friend Bruna Esteves (front ensemble technician) was extremely excited about working with Amy Savage.  Bruna found Amy to be very welcoming, putting her immediately at ease.

Wandering around the cafeteria during a break, I spoke with a number of members, some I knew and others I have photographed, but didn’t recognize in this new context.  Many of the students were recruited by friends, while others were exposed to Encorps through a recruiting visit from Pat Petrillo at their school.  There was a high level of excitement in the room.  Everyone I spoke with was having a great time at the auditions.

The show concept for 2018 falls within the Contemporary/Broadway genre.  The show is called “This is how we do it” and Pat hopes to establish the style of how Encorps will approach drum corps.  The program opens with Roundabout by Yes.  The corps song, Family from the Broadway show “Dreamgirls” is the ballad.  The drum solo is based on In the Marketplace by Earth, Wind and Fire that will segue into another Earth, Wind and Fire gem, And Love Goes On to close out the show.  The concept fits well with the desire to bring back a look and sound to the drum corps activity that perhaps has been missing, with a distinctive Jersey flair, as evidenced by the unique, impressively- bold uniform.

I hope to spend more time this Spring checking out the developments at Encorps.  Clearly at this point they are on a great path to bringing another drum corps to New Jersey and ultimately to Drum Corps International as an Open Class corps.  The group still have openings in the brass and color guard sections, and are offering free tuition to potential drum majors who are college music majors and looking for a mentorship role.

For information about Encorps, visit their Web site at