These are the testimonies from the members, parents, and volunteer of STRYKE
Delisa Rufus (STRYKE Member 2009-2013) - J.P. Taravella HS / Florida Atlantic University
Hi! My name is Delisa and I've been in STRYKE's front ensemble for five years. I play marimba. Seven years ago, I stepped into Olympic Heights HS band room and started a new chapter of my life. When I see the word STRYKE I automatically think of one word: family. I came in not knowing a soul to having lifelong friendships. The amount of education that was instilled in me was unimaginable.
Before becoming a member, I've only known one way of doing things. STRYKE opened up parts of my brain that I never really explored before and made me a better musician and person because of it. I didn't know if I was able to pay the full fair share mount my first year but I pushed myself to the limit and rose to the occasion because I couldn't imagine life without being a part of this amazing ensemble. This ensemble helped me grow as not just a musician but as a person. I was never as vocal as I wanted to be sometimes but then I did STRYKE. I was never as strong as as I wanted to be but then I did STRYKE. People constantly ask me how much I get paid for doing this and I love seeing their reactions when I tell them I am paying a fair share to them to cover the expenses everyone does to participate. The only reason why I laugh is because I feel like I haven't paid them enough for all that this organization has given to me.
January 20, 2011, eight days before our first show, my mother left this earth to become an angel. My heart was ripped out of my chest and I didn't know what I was going to do. My mom was my best friend and I felt alone and scared with nowhere to go. It was the most traumatic experience of my life. When I say this organization or what I like to call them, my family, stepped up to help me in my time of need, I mean it. This organization is such a pillar to the community and I consider them my family.
Kingsly Alec McConnell (STRYKE Member 2014-2017) - Boca Raton HS / Florida Atlantic Univ / Univ of Washington
Back when the WGI Boca Raton Regional was actually in and at Boca Raton HS, I saw STRYKE for the first time. After watching “Pressure”, I knew immediately that someday I was going to be a part of something bigger than myself. I turned to my friend and said "I'm going to do that one day." My junior year BRHS was pushing to march a scholastic group, but it fell apart one Friday because of paperwork, money or something else...my percussion tech, Drew Tucker (@itsnotaxylophone) called the front ensemble tech of STRYKE, David, and that same day I drove to John I. Leonard HS to audition, knowing nothing about competitive marching percussion. I remember how scared I was going in and how beat up I felt going out. I was given the opportunity to be a part of the ensemble even though there wasn't even an open keyboard spot for me... and that year I marched xylophone. I am forever grateful to my percussion techs for taking a chance on me to succeed. If it wasn't for STRYKE, I would have never learned what it means to breathe and live as a musician. I recall going home after one of the first weekend practices and just crying because I wanted so badly to be a part of this family, but everyday felt like I didn't deserve it. If it wasn't for STRYKE I would be a completely different person. I would have never experienced true friendship, to perform with people who see you give in, give up, and be reborn all in the same hour.
This year I'm so blessed to be marching cymbals and opening up an entirely new skill set for myself. Learning our entire show's drill in 3 days has taught me a number of things. First off, sunscreen is important and I very genuinely need to take better care of my skin. I have learned that just when I am on the brink, just when I am about to give in from fatigue and exhaustion, I can keep going. STRYKE has taught my body a different kind of discipline. Almost on a spiritual level, I've discovered that I have serious physical and mental self control, and only I can decide how I succeed on a daily basis and more broadly, in my entire life. Looking back on making the World Championship Finals for the past two years, I simply can't imagine my life without the sweat, the tears, and the laughter. The hardest thing I've ever done was be a part of this ensemble. Peeking behind the UD Arena curtain to see a crowd of people that goes farther than the eye can see... there are simply no words for that feeling.
In the words of Drew Tucker, why do we partake in such a strange, stupid activity? ...because it's in our hearts.
Lois Kohlmann (STRYKE Member 2015-2017) - Park Vista HS / Florida Atlantic Univ
When I decided to audition for STRYKE Percussion for the 2015 season, I was terrified. I was dreading the first audition. I was still in high school and I thought to myself "There's no way I could play on the level as these people. I'm not that good." When I got there, it didn't matter if I was good enough or if I was still in high school, they took me right in and accepted me for who I was as a person and as a player. I ended up making STRYKE and being an outside vibe for the 2015 season and it was the most amazing thing that I could've done for myself. During that season, I learned to accept myself as my new second family always did. They taught me that it's okay to not be perfect as long as you are yourself and you're always trying to be your best self. I'll always be grateful to the people who marched in 2015 with me. These people will always be my friends, but also my family. I love them with all of my heart.
It is in this organization where I've experienced true friendship and also what it means to truly give everything you have for something. The blood, the sweat, and the tears that all of the members put into this ensemble is all worth it when you get to Dayton and perform your heart out in the UD Arena. Last year was such an amazing opportunity for me and I want this group to keep growing and achieve everything that we are capable of.
Auriel Franquiz (STRYKE Member 2010-2013) - J.P. Taravella HS / Florida Atlantic Univ
I first learned about STRYKE when I was in 9th grade on the winterguard at JP Taravella. Little did I know then that 6 years later I would actually begin my own journey with that awesome ensemble. Sophomore year of high school I decided to audition for the cymbal line in marching band, after having never picked up a pair of cymbals in my life. It was the greatest decision I ever made. Jason Bloom taught us that year. Fast forward a year post graduation and my best friend Delisa auditions for STRYKE and tries to convince me to do it with her. At this point they didn't have a cymbal line so I said no! The next season she tries to convince me again, and I was still reluctant. Then I remember so vividly getting a call from Jason Bloom out of nowhere asking me if I would join STRYKE because they needed people in order to keep the cymbal line they were starting. Of course when you feel needed you're more apt to doing whatever it is! So I figured things out, and walked into the next camp scared out of my mind. The only person I knew was Delisa! Now nearly 6 years later, I've made so many friends for life and have made countless unforgettable memories from joining this ensemble. Starting out I was shy, kept to myself and rarely spoke my mind but being in STRYKE forced me to come out of my shell. This has helped me in many aspects of my life and I don't know if I'd be this way without the experiences I had in STRYKE. I've even been able to teach a few indoor cymbal lines and helped several students make it to World Class ensembles! Also rehearsals were a much needed escape from reality that so many people were able to benefit from and it is like a home away from home!
Andrew Smalling (STRYKE Member 2014-2017) - Coral Springs HS / Florida Atlantic Univ
As most of you know, music is something that is very important in my life and has made a big impact on me as a person. I remember the first time that I listened to a song that I really had a connection with, it made feel like I wasn't so alone in this world. It was at that point where I realized that I wanted to make music so that others could feel the same way Idid in that moment. STRYKE has given me that wonderful opportunity to make music that brings out the emotions in people that see our show. The people that are a part of STRYKE are some of the greatest people I have ever met.
Dean Elvis Tunks (STRYKE Member 2015, 2017) - Boca Raton HS / Florida State Univ
When I decided to audition for STRYKE's visual ensemble in October 2014, I was super naive. I had barely any idea what WGI was about, and even less about STRYKE itself. The journey the 2015 season took me on was phenomenal. I was given an opportunity larger than I expected and worked tirelessly for months. I learned so much not only about music but also work ethic. The family I developed was there for me, and I can't thank them enough. Even though I'm not marching this winter, I am excited to see where my drumming takes me, and wherever I land I will have my instructors and STRYKE family to thank.
Grace Luxton (STRYKE Member 2015-2016) - Jupiter HS / Northwestern Univ
While most of us were in a Thanksgiving food coma this weekend, some of the most talented and dedicated people I know were working 12 hour days putting an amazing show together! STRYKE Percussion is so much more than a musical ensemble--it's a loving and supportive family that helps young people find their way in the world of music--and they need your help!! Putting a great show together takes just as much support from the community as it does from each of its members.
Franco Flores (STRYKE Member 2015-2018) - John I. Leonard HS / Palm Beach State College
The first time I watched STRYKE was in 2011, and I fell in love. I was amazed at what they were doing. From that day I knew I would march there;I didn't know how but I would. I auditioned for winter that season on tenors I didn't make it but they made a cymbal line because we had so many extra people. As soon as I picked them up I knew that was how I would make STRYKE. I marched 3 years of indoor at John I. Leonard HS nd was taught by amazing STRYKE alumni that marched before me. Without Bryan Washington (@b_wash89) and Eric Caballero (@ericcaballero117), I wouldn't have made it in 2015, and returned again in 2016, 2017 & 2018 without their teaching. STRYKE means a lot to me! I grew up watching them and dreaming I would be there one day and now I am. They are my second family.
Emily Vander May (STRYKE Member 2014-2016) - The King's Academy / Florida International Univ
In the summer of 2014 I was probably crying and puking from anxiety because Alex DaCruz was pressuring me to audition for STRYKE that fall, and I was absolutely terrified because I was just a baby goose (the nickname given to me in the infamous Cici's pizza thanks to Ben and Melissa). Just months before I hadn't even known what WGI was until Alex invited me to come see him perform at local competitions. I was so glad I did though, and I walked around with my little DSLR camera taking photos in awe of how outstanding I thought these percussionists and performers were. From then on I learned everything and anything Alex wanted to teach me, and then I auditioned and made a marimba spot in 2014, getting to perform in "The Fine Line". The past two seasons I've had with STRYKE Percussion have been incredible experiences where I've made great friends, learned new Yunisms, adopted new parents (Melissa and Chris), watched someone's butt for timing and it worked (Raz Aloni), got out of my comfort zone, and truly learned that being great and playing at a higher level doesn't just happen. There's no magical secret to be great - it all comes with hard work and other people giving their heart into the organization (that of course would mean the staff too, not just the members). Isn't it incredible that the very people this organization brought up are coming back to help and nurture the new up and coming members? Or going out into the music world and spreading the teaching that STRYKE offered them? That must mean something great is going on here.
Danny Smith (STRYKE Member 2015-Present) - West Broward HS
I first became familiar with STRYKE in 2012 when I went to my first indoor show. I was a wind player in my high school marching band with aspirations to one day be on the snare line in my high school. Little did I know back then how far all this would go. Through high school I eventually made it onto my high school's bassline as a sophomore and then to the snare line finally as a junior. Throughout that time I'd seen quite a few of my own friends from high school join STRYKE once they graduated. Seeing the success of my friends when they joined was really what got my attention and made me want to join STRYKE. I went to audition at STRYKE my junior year of high school (2014) with hopes of gaining new knowledge and meeting new people. The goal was achieved and I was hooked from there. I had such an amazing time with a group of people I'd never met before. Learned from people who'd never taught me anything before. It made me want to keep coming back until I made it. In 2015 I came back for my second attempt at a spot on the STRYKE snare line and was cut for the second time, but through some rare form of luck a spot opened up and I was lucky enough to be called back for a last minute audition. Needless to say, I got the spot and the rest is history. My first season at STRYKE was one of many emotions, ups, downs, laughs, tears and many many memories that will be with me forever. To be a part of the STRYKE family in my eyes is truly to be a part of something larger than yourself. Nothing compares to a large family of extremely talented people all putting in so much effort towards one goal, all while enjoying the small victories along the way. Now having entered my third season (2018) with the STRYKE Percussion family, I feel as though I've grown tremendously as a person and a musician. I couldn't be more excited to embark on this new journey with my second family. No matter where my marching career takes me I will always give thanks to the STRYKE staff as well as the late Anish John who was a very active member in the PAC organizations for giving me the best information possible and always inspiring me to reach my goals.
Elijah Bright (STRYKE Member 2016) - Charles W. Flanagan HS
This past year, was the first time I ever heard about indoor percussion and WGI, throughout that year I had the opportunity to travel and perform with The Falcon Sound Percussion Ensemble. When that season started I really didn’t know a thing about marching, cymbals, or how to push myself to achieve that certain level of performance that it takes to be a musician. Since this was my very first time seeing indoor percussion, it was my very first time seeing STRYKE perform their 2015 show "Empire State", and from the moment I saw their show, I felt something telling me that STRYKE is the place to be, it`s the ensemble to be a part of! During the time I was a part of Falcon Sound Percussion, every single rehearsal and show I tried my very best to perform and rehearse like I was a part of STRYKE. By seeing their show and the way they carry themselves, it motivated me to put myself within a mindset to achieve greatness, even though I may have to go through many obstacles to achieve greatness! Seeing STRYKE made me want to push myself past limits and for that it helped me become the best I could be for WGI Finals in 2015 with Falcon Sound Percussion.
As soon as that season ended and I began hearing about auditions for STRYKE, I knew for a fact that I needed to go to that audition, because I knew I had what it took to be World Class! When the audition process was over and heard that I made the cymbal spot for the newly formed STRYKE Percussion 2! I knew I was on the right track to achieving something great, because of all the hard work and effort STRYKE motivated me to put within that 2015 season. Because of that motivation, I earned that cymbal spot and was able to push myself over a single weekend to put a whole entire show together in 3 days! While learning and being motivated by the staff to push ourselves past our limits, in achieving our goals, and that the only key to success is through ourselves! STRYKE is a group that is family oriented and teaches many different life skills.
Meghan Cavallo (STRYKE Member 2016) - Park Vista HS
Two winter seasons ago (2014), I played marimba for the first time and got hooked on an instrument that changed my life forever. As the 2015 winter season started, my school's program fell through and I decided against joining an independent group. In 2016, I gained 40 new family members. STRYKE Percussion is an amazing place for me to be challenged with harder repertoire, to expand my musical knowledge, to make new friends and memories, and to now gladly call home.
Zack Novack (STRYKE Member 2016-Present) - West Boca Raton HS
Around January of 2015 was my first experience with STRYKE. Second competition of the winter season (we missed their show at the first one), we rushed from loading the truck to see "Empire State". I don't think words could really describe how excited I got throughout that show, and really any time they performed in the season. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to join their ranks, to join the great young men and women who gave 110% every week of the winter and spring.
My decision to audition in Sept of 2015 was one of the best choices I've made in my life. After three weeks of intense music and really beating up my hands, I was offered a marimba spot at STRYKE Percussion 2! I remember how excited I was when I got that contract in my email, and how honored I was to be part of this amazing family.
Over those first few past months (especially that first weekend), I truly began to learn what giving your all was really about. Not about the high score, or the medal, it's about the point 18 hours into rehearsal, hands tearing up from multiple blisters, when you keep on pushing and you don't care, because you love what you're doing and who you're doing it with. I still had my first season of STRYKE ahead of me, and I can't wait for all the experiences and knowledge I'll pick up along the way.
Ryan Ross (STRYKE Member, 2010-2013) - Monroe Woodbury HS (NY) / Florida Atlantic Univ / Band Director, L.C. Swain MS
Not many people know this, but the reason I moved away from New York was to seek a "marching experience". By the time I was a senior in high school I had already known what I wanted to do with my life, and was lucky enough to find a college that had accepted me into the music school, and had a D1 football team so I can march with the marching band. I had absolutely NO idea what WGI was. Fast forward a couple of months, the fraternity I was in had volunteered service to help out this WGI Regional, whatever that was. I went, I helped, I saw drum lines warm up, forgot I was supposed to be helping, and snuck in to see the host of the show, STRYKE (@PAC_ STRYKE). From that moment on I didn't care what I had to do, I was going to be a part of that somehow. Fast forward to 2010. STRYKE needs members for a cymbal line? Count me in. From that day on I knew I had entered something that was much bigger than any experience I expected. STRYKE has given me the opportunity to better myself as not only a musician, but a leader, and educator as well. With the skills I developed from marching this wonderful organization, I have been fortunate enough to work with some very great schools, teaching outstanding students, who some have gone on to march DCI and WGI groups themselves. STRYKE is way more than just a marching ensemble. STRYKE was my home for the weekend, with a family that simply could not get better. I can never fully express how grateful I am for how much this organization has changed my life.
Cito Smalls (STRYKE Member, 2014-2017) - Seminole Ridge HS / Florida Atlantic Univ
My high school front ensemble instructor use to always talk about STRYKE and how he was auditioning and how he knew some of the instructors. All this talk over the marching band season, I made the decision to try out one day. Understand I litterly had NO IDEA what winter percussion was, or STRYKE, or any of that. I was just going off of the tales of my instructors. After graduating and not feeling ready yet, he messaged me out of the blue something along the lines of "Hey, STRYKE has an opening, you should come and fill the spot." and after spending the next hour hesitating, worrying, wondering whether or not I should go, I ended up going. Despite me planning on auditioning in 2015, I was tossed into the 2014 season and glad for it.
With that season came lots of new friends, connections, and experiences I never thought I could even dream of having. Yet all the trials, tribulations, tears, sweat (lots of sweat) STRYKE put me through, it all made me a better, more focused, directional and aggressive individual (with some better chops to). STRYKE put me outside of my comfort zone and taught me to me 'figure it out', told me to do it better, faster, cleaner. And eventually, I did! But really the best part is, you're never alone when going through all this strife. You may be outside your comfort zone, doing new things, but you're out there as an ensemble. You may face discomfort, but its as an ensemble. This activity really gave me something special. Family, no matter where I am.
But honestly my favorite part about the STRYKE organization is the way it influences others to be amazing. Because of the experiences and knowledge I have obtained through STRYKE, I have been able to pass that along to my students at Seminole Ridge HS and seeing them succeed is really what this whole band thing is about for me.
Tomas Santana (STRYKE Member, 2016) - Charles W. Flanagan HS
Two years ago, my friend dragged me along to a show, and I saw STRYKE perform "Speech Patterns", having no clue that any of these organizations existed. But, after seeing them I knew I had to be a part of it, and I started the music program at Flanagan High my junior year.
If you told me "Tommy, you're going to do that, and play multiple instruments, and that guy on bells, Chris Vosburgh (@christhebossvos) is going to be your teacher, you're going to make all these friends, meet very famous people, go to master classes, you're going to audition for this group and that group, march Jersey Surf, go to Dayton, and make STRYKE on marimba too and this is going be your life." I would've thought you were joking.
Just being with STRYKE for the 2016 season, has made me realize how far I can go, figure out my future, and how many great people are in this organization and willing to help. I have the honor of being with the very group that started this fire inside of me.
Jay Morel (STRYKE Member, 2015-2017) - Miami HS
Let me take a second to introduce you to my family, STRYKE Percussion. A group that I believe is a cause worth donating to. In 2009 I first learned about STRYKE. I was being introduced to the activity by two fellow classmates who were trying to convince me to audition for my high school drumline and they showed me a video of STRYKE's 2008 production, "The Program". Being a young impressionable kid from the streets of Little Havana, I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen and was immediately hooked. I needed to be a part of that ensemble one day. So I ripped a drum pad off of my rock band drum set, found a pair of sticks and got to work. Fast forward to 2015. I had been part of a few ensembles to gain experience, practiced my tail off and on my second try, I earned a spot at STRYKE. That season I learned so much, made life long friends and performed before a crowd of 20,000+ in an exhilarating program designed and taught by the all volunteer staff at STRYKE. A collection of educators considered to be amongst the best in the world, donating their time and knowledge. People that have spent years perfecting their craft wracking their minds and pushing themselves to be better for us... for FREE. If that wasn't enough, they've created the family environment that is STRYKE. A place where young adults such as myself can learn not only how to play, march and perform. But also life skills such as self accountability, punctuality, how to be a decent human being, etc. When you choose to give to STRYKE, you're giving to my brothers who break their backs to raise funds to be a part of this. To my sisters who balance school, work and practice, my family that gets together every weekend to strive for greatness. You give to a bunch of great kids that want nothing more than to put out the greatest show you've ever seen. Please consider STRYKE on this #givingtuesday. For the long hours spent rehearsing, the friendships, the thrill of performing and the smiles and positivity we hope to spread throughout South Florida.
Ximena Rivas (STRYKE Member, 2015-2017) - Charles W. Flanagan HS / Berklee College of Music
Ever since I was young, I always admired incredible performers and musicians. I always thought that to become a great musician, you had to pay your teacher a ton of money. One day, my friend convinced me to join my high school front ensemble and I marched my first season of band and indoor my Junior year; the next year I became section leader. Once I graduated, I began college the next year studying music composition and percussion performance in New World School of the Arts. My teacher was the Front Ensemble Coordinator for STRYKE Percussion and with his guidance and lessons, I persisted and got a spot as a rookie outside vibraphone player in 2015. Now I am an inside marimba. After a year of being in this ensemble I can most definitely say that I'm someone completely different. STRYKE is a professional and hard working ensemble that molded me into someone much more focused and determined than I used to be. Our persistence and motivation to push through and be perfect together has bonded us to become one. We are all a piece of a whole and I genuinely feel so much love for these amazing performers that I get the absolute pleasure of playing next to. STRYKE has given me so many opportunities to make connections and develop my career as a musician. STRYKE has made me a more mature musician and person unlike any other club or program I've been a part of. STRYKE has motivated me to get through hard times when I didn't know where I was going to live the next month or if it was even worth living. The staff has done so much for all of us and they don't get paid a single dime for it. STRYKE staff is just as persistent as our members and they are determined in helping us become the best we can be. Instead of spending their hours working to help themselves financially, they spend seasons working to help large groups of people become the best they can be and I feel that this Giving Tuesday you should donate to STRYKE Percussion because STRYKE Percussion is not just an ensemble, it's an activity that has legitimately changed hundreds of lives including mine.
Yohance Richard (STRYKE Member 2016-2017) - Palm Beach Central HS / Loyola Univ
I was only a part of STRYKE Percussion for less than a month and the impact it's had on my life was insane. I'd wake up at 6:30 AM every Saturday and Sunday morning to come to this place where I just play music with a bunch of other people who want to achieve the exact same goal that I do. Earlier that year in February 2015 was the first time I saw STRYKE Percussion in action. I had heard things about it but before that I never actually saw a show. Watching their program “Empire State” was an amazing experience for me and I knew from that moment that I want to be a part of something this amazing. I went to audition and was contracted to STRYKE Percussion 2. Those first few weeks were just been absolutely amazing and I couldn't wait to achieve big things with this group. I ask that you support this ensemble by donating or even just sharing this post with your family or friends. It’s a great place for musicians to come together to further their education.
Katie Gusko (STRYKE Member, 2014-2017) - Charles W. Flanagan HS / Univ of Central Florida
When I first saw STRYKE it was on complete accident. I was at a show to support one of my guard friends and STRYKE just so happened to be performing that day. It was their 2011 production "Pressure" year. I had just joined marching band so I had never heard of indoor percussion. From that day on, I knew I wanted to someday be a part of that group. In 2013, I decided to audition for vibes however that same year my school had reopened their Winterline for the first time in 10 years. I knew I had to march my senior year with them so I put STRYKE on hold for one more year. I came back in 2014 not thinking I would have a shot at making the line because I hadn't picked up a pair of mallets in months. But I was offered a vibe spot where I made huge strides in my playing.
Two years later, I finished my second season with STRYKE placing 8th at WGI World Class Finals. I decided at that point I needed to take a break from percussion and focus on school and work. From that point on, I feel into a deep sadness that I wouldn't be doing what I loved anymore. I wouldn't be driving 3 hours every weekend for 6 months to do what makes me happiest. But after hearing of an open rack spot, I decided to jump right on in it because I knew I had to be with this ensemble no matter what it took. This group has inspired (haha, get it) to always go above and beyond about the things you are passionate about. I've become more responsible and a much harder worker. I hope that STRYKE will inspire others like it did me.
Ricardo Roca-Paredes (STRYKE Member, 2015-Present) - Park Vista HS / Florida Atlantic Univ
When I was a sophomore at Park Vista, I started learning how to play the drums. I marched fourth bass during the marching season, and I felt that I needed more experience. Park Vista did not have an indoor winter percussion, so I went to Santaluces to march indoor for the 2013 winter season. We had our first competition, and the first thing I heard was "Hey!!! STRYKE is here!" I had no idea what STRYKE was, so I went to check them out in the lot. It was the first time I saw an 8 person snare line. I sat and watched their lot, thinking about how great it would be to march there. I went behind them to watch that years show entitled "Speech Patterns". I was so inspired, I started spending my time practicing and practicing so I could march tenors my junior year. But before marching season started, we had a change in percussion staff. My junior year was the first year that Cisco Hance would be the percussion caption head at Park Vista. This was amazing!!! The guy that taught STRYKE now teaches my school!!! I went to the first drum line audition in school and I played for Cisco. He decided that it would be better that I marched snare. I took his word for it, and it turned out to be the best decision that I have ever made in my life. I went on to be drum captain my senior year, and decided I would audition for STRYKE that year too. I auditioned and earned a spot on the 2015 snare line. From there, I went on to face one of the hardest challenges in my life. I had never been the worst player until I was at STRYKE. while I was there, everyone helped push me to become better and it soon pushed me to want to be better on my own. I also started applying what I learned at STRYKE to how I live my life, and things have been going well for me. In 2016, I was the ensemble captain of STRYKE Percussion 2, and I couldn't be more proud!!!! STRYKE is something very special to me. I was enlisted in the U.S. Navy, but decided that I wanted to stay because the impact STRYKE left in my life was so great; I don't know what I would do without it. Without the friends I have made at STRYKE, my life would probably be a lot more chaotic.
Maria “M-A” Alex (STRYKE Member, 2008-2013) - Miami Palmetto HS / Florida Atlantic Univ / Rutgers Univ
Ten whole years ago (geez), I met these two crazy people named Christopher and JP Infante. They picked me up the day after moving to Florida for my first day of high school band camp, yelled at me about paradiddles for several months, and then told me I had to go to this WGI audition with them. Me, being the new quiet white girl from Chicago, and not knowing what the hell WGI was, I did as I was told.... lol. At 15 years old, I auditioned and played in the pit for Paradox in 2006 and 2007, being welcomed by Tony, Cisco, and the rest of the staff with open arms. My friends and family at the time questioned me as to why I wanted to give up all my weekends just to play drums, but looking back on it, as ghetto as it was sometimes, it was incredible- I never knew this world existed. During those two years, we only competed against one group locally- STRYKE Percussion. We always outwardly hated them, but secretly wanted to be them....except for that Phil Collins show (kidding!!). Unfortunately, due to the lack of funding of this activity, PDX had to fold, and we decided to merge all of our talent with STRYKE Percussion.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I was granted a spot on the STRYKE marimba line for the 2008 season (with that cool ass woodblock solo) and I never looked back. Karpinski and Raymond taught me so much that year, and I also learned Scott wasn't THAT crazy. Paige even opened up their home to long-distance travelers like myself and those sleepovers were sometimes what made long rehearsal days that much better! 2008 was also the year I met my best friend Alexander. This group, after performing a phenomenal show, received the Bronze Medal with 3rd place in World Championships- the best STRYKE had ever done at the time. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it....like, how did I get here? How could I be so lucky? What if I hadn't met these incredible people?!
2009 brought a new influx of talented members and staff. David Yunis showed up and even though we had our fair share of beating up on him (he loved every second of it), he turned us into an incredible ensemble, and it has only kept growing from there. It was also this year that I met this crazy head named Delisa. I still like to call her my friend too.
2010 brought incredible opportunities- we performed at the Pro Bowl AND Super Bowl. We had our whole show completed early, and our hard work paid off, earning the Silver Medal with 2nd place at the World Championships in Dayton.
As the next few seasons progressed, the feeling of family, dedication, and passion, only continued to grow stronger and stronger, getting another Silver Medal in 2011. We were determined to put South Florida on the map for WGI and we were bumped up to World Class in 2012. There were so many hot and cold emotions, but once we were there, performing our hearts out, dancing in the confetti, AND not being dead last- it was confirmed. We had made it - WE built this - and WE succeeded. There are no words to describe the rush of how excited we were, and still are.
2013 was my age-out year, and as much as a lot of us hated the outcome of that season, I couldn't be more proud to have performed an incredible show surrounded by all of my friends that had now become family. I wouldn't change it for the world.
It is now 2015 (almost 2016), and even though 'real life' is now taking me over, there is not a day that goes by where I don't think of the people, the memories, the laughs, the tears, and everything that came with marching for almost a decade. I've talked about STRYKE for all of my dental school essays, job interviews, and just about anyone that'll listen to me. I should also note that I spent EVERY one of my birthdays from 18 to 23 on the STRYKE bus, and every birthday since I have aged out hasn't compared....lol.
This group, this family- STRYKE, will always be mine, and hold a dear place in my heart. There are so many other people I didn't get to mention in this post, but each and every one of them has helped mold me into the person I am today. I am so proud to call myself a member and see what I and the rest of the alumni (and obviously Scott and the rest of the staff) have built for all the generations to come.
Stanley Dessalines (STRYKE Member, 2015-2017) - The King's Academy / Florida International Univ
As a freshman teaching myself how to play traditional from just watching YouTube videos, I never thought I'd be where I am today. I want to thank STRYKE for always welcoming all drummers in South Florida, with open arms, and always striving to make them the best possible musician they can be. The friends and memories I've made over the past 3 years (2 years auditioning, and finally making it in 2015 :D) are ones that will never be forgotten or replaced. While being a part of this organization for only a year, not only did the amazing staff teach me and push me to become a better musician and performer, but it has also changed me as a person in general.
STRYKE is my second family and they'll always have a special place in my heart.
Daniel Caballero (STRYKE Member, 2016) - Felix Varela HS
When I was younger, I remember my cousin (Eric Caballero) telling me about marching band and me wanting to follow in his footsteps to make him proud, little did I know how far I would get. He would tell me his experience with marching with STRKYE and I thought it was the coolest thing and that I would want to do it someday. Coming across STRYKE lot video videos made me realize what I wanted to do. Here comes my Junior year with having been in the front ensemble for three years, my intructor tells me that STRYKE Percussion 2 is looking for mallets players and I immediately know what I have to do. Unsure and very anxious of the outcome, I come in and I already feel at home. I haven't been with the organization long being that I walked into my first rehearsal with them this past weekend but I can already feel that everyone there to achieve greatness.
The staff, the member, the parents and everyone in between all put in effort as much as next person. The STRYKE organization not only teaches you to be a better musician, but teaches you how to be a better person in life and everything in between.
Emily Bloch (STRYKE Member, 2010-2011) - South Broward HS / Florida Atlantic Univ
When I first watched STRYKE Percussion perform in 2009, I thought they were rockstars. A high school freshman, I never thought I'd be a part of an organization like that, and surely not a year later. My 2010 and 2011 seasons with @stryke_percussion shaped me into who I am today. Aside from two back-to-back silver champion wins, STRYKE shoved me into adulthood. I was one of the youngest during my years there and one of only a handful of girls in the entire group. To see how STRYKE's grown in the last few years has been so rewarding, especially because it has done so much for me. STRYKE gave me a second family to call my own but it also gave me skills in leadership, showmanship and confidence. I'm so grateful to be a part of its history just as it's a part of mine.
Jacquelyn Kent (STRYKE Memeber, 2012-2015) - John I. Leonard HS / Florida Atlantic Univ
These people and more are STRYKE.
My STRYKE story begins in 2009. This was my first year playing keyboard percussion. In that first year, I started a journey that I would have never dreamed about. Joni and Rudy were my instructors and both were heavily involved with STRYKE at one point or another. They had said that we should check out this group to see what they were doing and that we should possibly imulate their style. After seeing them perform, I was obsessed. The next year, the dream of any fan girl came true when STRYKE'S home became my high school. The relationship between my band and STRYKE Percussion was the best thing that could happen to sophomore me. Our school used their instruments for the marching band season and it was like a new world had been opened up. Playing on the keyboards of my dream group to march felt exciting. During the next few years of my high school indoor career I began to know some of the members like Josh and Emily, and oh boy, they were THE COOLEST RACK PLAYERS EVER. I only hoped to perform like these two did. I attended camps for the educational experience and learned more about the activity. Later, I met Karpinski and Raymond A Donato. These two would always tease that one day I would perform in this ensemble and always encouraged me when I ran into them.
My senior year I was finally given the opportunity to march with Alex in the ensemble we both looked up to. He always pushed me to be better and I am glad that I have met him and marched indoor next to him for 5 years. Fast forwarding to this season. I am deeply saddened I am not able to march due to school. But I am honored to be an intern on the administration staff knowing I am giving back to this organization. STRYKE is a place for young musicians to grow. I know I did. I hope that when I become an educator that I can also light a fire within my students to become better musicians, performers, and more importantly, better people.
I am not sure when this happened exactly, but I met Scott Hughes. I believe it was in 2010 (the first year John I. was STRYKE's home). I will always look up to Scott for the lessons he has taught me. I have learned to be responsible, how to lead, and how to be passionate. Scott and Paige 's selflessness to the PAC organization is incredible and infinite. Thank you. And lastly, Milton Joselyn. He has opened up his band program to me not only as a student but as an educator. Without him, I would not know STRYKE. Thank you for handing me that set of mallets all those years ago.
These people and more are STRYKE.
Neal Cain (STRYKE Member, 2016-Present) - William T. Dwyer HS / Palm Beach State College
Music has been such a huge part of my life and I've always wanted to go very far with my talents. I play baritone, drumset, and keyboards (mallets). In high school, my percussion instructor Matt Murray always pushed me to go beyond my limits and kept me busy with percussion, even recommending me to audition for an independent percussion ensemble. Being that I was still new to percussion and reading music, I didn't know much about the activity and felt as if I wasn't ready to do something so demanding and life changing. Entering into my senior year, I became the percussion captain and knew that I needed to do something to keep me occupied in music and improving musicianship. At that moment, I made the decision to audition for an independent ensemble. I knew of STRYKE Percussion being a world class ensemble and didn't feel mentally stable to go to that level so suddenly so I went to an A Class Ensemble: REEF Independent. Playing drumset for an A Class ensemble taught me so much, mentally and physically. I became more mature, smarter, confident, and willing to put my all into something that I really wanted. As a musician, I made it a necessity to always learn something new every day. I thought that I couldn't call myself a percussionist if I didn't know how to play all percussion instruments. This lead me to learning how to play mallet instruments such as, Marimba and Vibraphone. During the last month of my season with REEF and all summer, I practiced non stop learning how play marimba. I bought different books, printed vast amounts of music, taught myself some music theory, I even went to clinics because learning how to play was a huge goal of mine. As the 2016 auditions for indoor season started up, I immediately registered for all keyboard instruments in STRYKE Percussion.
Being a part of STRYKE has been a goal of mine since 2014 when I saw their show "The Fine Line" at John I. Leonard HS. Their execution of a show like that made me want to be a part of a family like them. Throughout the audition process, the front ensemble staff members gave great instruction and really pushed me to keep practicing and pushing myself. They were amazed by the amount of time it took me to learn this instrument and progress on it with no prior experience before. I was invited to the callback audition which was the time for solidifying the ensemble. By the end of the day I received a contract for vibe. Receiving a contract for the world class ensemble astonished me. I practiced day and night for several months and realized that it finally paid off. So far STRYKE Percussion has taught me a lot in just a short time. I read music much better than I did when I played baritone in high school, I'm growing into a better musician and performer every weekend, and I couldn't ask for a better second family! STRYKE has made me truly realize what it means to be inspired. This ensemble can change lives and reach out into the community making musicians better than what they were before.
Joseph Meacham (STRYKE Member, 2016-2017) - Coral Shores HS / Florida State Univ
I started playing drums in high school my freshman year and was put on 4th bass and had no idea what i was getting into. The practices were long and the drum got heavier but I muscled through and had a blast. I then moved to quads and had just started hearing of the activity called drum corp. I auditioned at BAC and was cut. At Boston I met Calvin Holt who was wearing some weird jacket that said STRYKE on it. I was so disappointed with getting cut I wanted to quit the activity all together. Soon after auditions I went to Lely HS where I met @gio_thebaker who also marched STRYKE and encouraged me to keep at it. He told me I had chops and we even played some of the 2014 Bluecoats break together. After that I was super excited and looked into other programs one of which was STRYKE Percussion.
After that summer I noticed STRYKE was closer to me than I had thought and I auditioned and got contracted for the STRYKE Percussion 2 snare line! Now that I'm here I now know that STRYKE isn't just an ensemble looking to win. We are a family and all love each other and want nothing but the best for each other and the program and I couldn't ask to start my marching career at a better place. It's a home for so many talented young musicians. I couldn't ask for a better place to start. Everyone here is super friendly and will do anything for anyone in the ensemble.
Alex DaCruz (STRYKE Member, 2012-2015) - The King's Academy / Univ of North Florida
Oh boy, where do I begin. Let's back track to 2011, my first year of indoor percussion. I was a wee little babe playing marimba with the Jacquelyn Kent at John I Leonard High School. I was a sophomore in high school and had been introduced to STRYKE by my instructor, Michael Kolar, the center marimba at the time. The first show we performed at, I had the opportunity to watch STRYKE perform. I knew, right when I watched them, that I had to be a part of this group. For the season I played the role of fanboy and helped STRYKE move their stuff on to the floor. The next year, as a supremely immature 16 year old, I auditioned for STRYKE and played vibraphone. Honestly, was not sure how I felt about STRYKE until we got the news that we had been bumped to World Class. It was incredible. Once we performed in the UD arena for Finals, I was hooked. Four seasons later, here I am. 650 miles of distance didn't keep me from being a part of this family last season and it was the season of a lifetime performing with some incredible folks. Sadly, I will not be a part of this group this year, but will be it's greatest fan!
STRYKE is not merely a percussion ensemble, but a world class family consisting of incredible individuals. I grew up with this group and would not be the same without some of the incredible instructors and administration I have gotten to know such as Scott Hughes, Paige Stanton Hughes, David Karpinski, Matt Swift, and David Yunis.
Kelsey Hernandez (STRYKE Member, 2016) - William T. Dwyer HS / Palm Beach State College
The first time I ever spun a flag was my sophomore year of high school. The season was already over so I only got to spin colorguard two years with my high school and one year of winter guard as captain! Graduating was hard for me because I didn't know where to go from there. I knew I wanted to spin this winter season, but after going to two auditions and leaving early because I didn't feel right about any of them I lost hope. I told everyone that when I audition it'll be like falling in love, I'll just know if it's the one. And STRYKE was. My best friend played for STRYKE Percussion and when he told me that they created a guard I was incredibly happy! My confidence was still lowered because of the other auditions but that didn't stop me. After finally getting to audition I just knew this was the place for me. As soon as we started stretching I knew. It wasn't because I knew people there or that I spun with a few of them, it was because no matter how hard it got the instructors helped me push through and in the end I got nearly everything right. One of them even knew me because of how much I shared my excitement on Facebook! Not to mention, Park Vista was always the school I looked for. I used to sit in the stands complimenting them on their uniforms just hoping they'd be my friends, and now I'm spinning with them! How insane is that?! It really is a dream come true and I am so incredibly happy to have spent my first independent year with STRYKE!
Jonathan McGrath (STRYKE Member, 2015-2018) - The King's Academy / Palm Beach Atlantic Univ
STRYKE is an awesome organization. My first year with STRYKE was the 2015 season and now I'm hooked. STRYKE has impacted my life in many ways. I've become a better musician, a better worker, and I've been accepted into my second family there. The people at STRYKE are some of the best people I know. Every week I look forward to seeing those people again that weekend. I've made friendships there that I know will last for the rest of my life. Aside from the amazing family at STRYKE, I'm also receiving some of the best instruction in the world on how to be a great musician and leader, and I've definitely seen improvement in myself over the past year.
Stephanie Guevara (STRYKE Memeber-2016) - Fort Lauderdale HS
Ever since I first auditioned for STRYKE Winterguard I knew this program was unique in so many ways and I knew this is where I belonged. STRYKE is an organization with so many dedicated performers in all the ensembles who are amazing at what they do and I'm so honored to be a part of this family this season. Thanks to STRYKE I've grown not only as a person but also as a performer and I've challenged myself in ways I know I wouldn't have been able to somewhere else. This isn't just an organization, it is a family. STRYKE staff are determined to make us the best that we can be and motivate us. Thanks to them I learned to never give up even in the toughest battles because with hard work and dedication anything is possible.
Paige Hughes (STRYKE Parent/Volunteer)
I am the STRYKE Executive Director's wife. I am married to Scott Hughes, who is filled with passion for creating a place where young adults can go to fulfill their need for creativity. He is a rector, a teacher of life lessons and someone who mentors young adults. He is the kind of person who would do anything to benefit STRYKE, it's member and staff and who is there for all the right reasons.
Now, I have a child in STRYKE but in my heart they are all mine. I care for them, their victories are my victories and their heartbreaks I share. I watch practices (endless practices), and even though I am a bundle of nerves and excitement, I watch all their performances as well. You will not find anyone in those stands more proud of those young adults than me.
We have celebrated and laughed, we have been there for band aids, sunscreen, water, an ear and whatever is needed. We are more than an ensemble, we are family.
Nina Kohlmann (STRYKE Parent/Volunteer)
When my daughter Lois Catherine Kohlmann decided to audition for STRYKE, I wasn't really sure what it was all about except she would be playing with a performing ensemble. As a family, we had just spent 8 years participating with the HS marching band and I was looking forward to a break. Then she earned a position on vibraphone. Since I always support my children in everything they choose to do, I started spending time watching and helping at practices.
What I found was unbelievable. This was not just a group where my daughter was being taught to improve her skills as a performer. Everyone in this group from the Executive Director to the instructors and even the techs are all volunteers. They give of their time to teach these young adults not only to achieve success in their music, but also in life. They work together with the members to make everyone feel part of a family and have created something these young adults are proud to participate in regardless of the grueling schedule and hard work.
These performers then go back to their communities and teach and serve the younger groups that look up to them. On top of that, most of them work part time jobs while going to school to be able to pay their fair share to participate in STRYKE.
As I result, I am now a regular volunteer, and hope that I am contributing positively to these young adults in the process.
William Hill (STRYKE Volunteer)
I am supporter of a "Sport of the Arts" Percussion Ensemble named "STRYKE". My involvement stems from a desire to GIVE BACK, coupled with a 33 yr. love of Drum Corps. After all ... this activity was responsible for delivering my most cherished possession, my wife (and former seat partner on the "83" Summer Tour). My STRYKE story was the result of my wife getting me an impromptu audition, late 2014 as the show was being molded into form for 2015. My first exposure was with David Yunis and the front ensemble, and it simply blew my mind. He explained that I would have to wait for Scott Hughes, and all I could remember was, the last words my wife told me: "Scott is MY friend...don't screw this up!". Scott arrived and explained, they may have a spot in the "Prop Fabrication" line, and/or "Trailer Logistics" line. My audition involved some rather complex theories of drill (Makita or Black & Decker) with some formation theory (have you ever designed the New York skyline out of foam?). I was so excited to receive my #2 rating, and was invited for a call back audition, and that's where I met my section leader Jack Adams. My excitement level continued to grow, because I knew that 20 plus years of experience with Trucking and Logistics had given me the confidence that I could contribute to the ensemble. I couldn't help but grow more eager to get started, when I kept hearing Scott & Jack say; "We want to do something that has NEVER been done before." it really fell in line with a personal mantra of mine, "Where there's a WILL, there's a Way". Many nights after work, and a few sleep deprived weekends, culminated in a Finals run in Dayton, Ohio. The dream of being a contributing part of the "Empire State" show, had come true. Before I knew it... the season came to a close, and I quickly realized that my new STRYKE Family had given me more than just a place to make a contribution!
Rudy Flores (STRYKE Educator/Volunteer)
Since I started teaching here I have always considered STRYKE my home. It has touched the lives of many great young people and I feel privileged to be a part of something so special. There are too many people to list but I have made countless lifelong friends thanks to this group.