June Alumni Feature: Interview With Evan Saddler

June 1, 2018

Evan Saddler

All of us who have been through the rigors of drum corps have used the experiences we gained during our time as members to become more productive citizens. Some of us have become teachers or doctors. Some of us have become laborers or accountants or nurses. And, a few have continued on to be professional musicians. One particular alumnus is Evan Saddler. Evan grew up in Dubuque, and attended Sageville Elementary, Jefferson Middle School, and Stephen Hempstead High School.

At the age of eight, he began playing the saxophone, and soon after started dabbling in piano. Around the same time, he attended a Music On The March show at Dubuque Senior High School and got the "drum corps bug." He noticed that drum corps did not march saxophones and decided to try out for the Colt Cadets on percussion at age 13. In 2007, Evan started on marimba and vibraphone. In 2008, he played top bass drum, and during 2009, his final year with the Colt Cadets, he was on the snare line.

In 2010, Evan made the cut and secured a spot in the Colts front ensemble playing rack and auxiliary percussion. 2010 was Evan's only year marching World Class drum corps, but he credits the instructors from all four years with the Colts Youth Organization as fundamental in discovering his passion for music and pursing it as a career.

After his summer in the Colts, Evan spent his last two years of high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan. After graduating in 2012, Evan was not certain if a music career was what his heart was driving him towards, and he enrolled at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. There, he began a liberal arts degree with an interest in economics and communication, while still pursuing his musical interests.

After his freshman year, his heart and mind nudged him towards fully pursuing a music performance degree. He transferred to the University of Michigan, after being strongly influenced by Joseph Gramley, the percussionist in the Grammy-Award winning group Silk Road Ensemble, led by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

After spending three formative years in Ann Arbor, Evan's skill and drive led him to one of the coveted spots at The Juilliard School in New York City. In May 2018, he graduated from Juilliard with a Master's of Music in percussion. It should be noted in the undergraduate and graduate program combined there are only 10 students.

When preparing for this article, Evan was caught by surprise that we wanted to speak to him. When he began to reflect about his time in the Colts, one could sense his humbleness. You could sense the emotions he holds from his marching days had a strong impact on him as a person and as a musician.

"All of the values and skills I learned in corps gave me the confidence to work and communicate with lots of different people. The Colts mission, 'We use music and excellence to teach each other about success in life,' was taught through the lessons of hard work, like the 12-hour rehearsal days in the July Texas heat, playing a show, then sleeping on buses and arriving in the wee hours of the morning in a new town so that we could do it all again the next day. We were always striving to be better, while having some fun along the way."

Evan elaborated on how his days in corps have helped him today. "Being one of the younger guys in the corps, I learned a tremendous amount from the older members who were much more musically advanced than I was. Being around people who were a lot better than me provided a great opportunity for me to grow from their experience."

Evan noted, from leaving home to going to school at Interlochen to making ends meet in New York City, that drum corps has helped him deal with hardships. "Drum corps taught me how to tackle almost any situation with a positive attitude. This has helped a lot in living in New York, where it seems that everything that can go wrong does."

Evan has stated that the strongest influencers from his time with the Colts and Colt Cadets were Brian Zeglis, JJ Thomas, Ronnie LaGrone, Max Mullinix, Vicki MacFarlane, and Greg Orwoll.

In particular, Evan recalls during his first year in the Colt Cadets, he thought he would only march one year. However, after the Dubuque home show, Greg Orwoll spoke with the Cadets and Evan said he "felt like I was part of something much bigger than myself, the sense of family that everyone talks about hit me." This pushed him to march three more years with the organization.

While at Juilliard, Evan has not only pursued his Master's, but has been active as a music educator. He served as an instructor for middle school students in a program called the Music Advancement Program, as a mentor for high school students within the Juilliard Pre-College program, and as a teaching assistant in Juilliard's freshman Entrepreneurship course.

Evan is also the co-artistic director and percussionist for Conduit, an ensemble he brought to fruition with another student and friend from Julliard. Drawing from his drum corps days, Evan is tying together elements from music, choreography, and staging to fulfill Conduit's mission of creating performance experiences for Millennial audiences.

You can see Evan in Iowa this summer at ChamberFest Dubuque during the first week of June. ChamberFest was started by another Dubuquer, Juilliard graduate, and Pulitzer Prize finalist, composer Michael Gilbertson. You can also see him in August in Madison, where he will be performing at the Madison New Music Festival with Conduit. You can learn more about Evan Saddler at evandsaddler.com

Evan also hopes to be in attendance for the alumni festivities on July 13, 2018, at Music On The March. "Hope to see you all there!"

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