The Bushwackers Academy, created in partnership between the all-age Bushwackers Drum and Bugle Corps and ASPIRA of Pennsylvania in 2017, has turned into an even larger initiative to bring music education into Philadelphia schools.
Formerly, the 11-week Bushwackers Academy, held on Saturdays at Olney Charter High School, provided 45 middle school and high school students with the opportunity to learn from corps instructors. Participants showcased their newly honed skills at performances such as the Bushwackers Family, Friends, and Alumni Event, where students performed in the arc with the corps’ brass line.
ASPIRA of Pennsylvania, part of a national program that creates leadership development for minority students, chose to team up with the Bushwackers, based in Princeton, New Jersey, due to a previous relationship between their leaders.
“[ASPIRA’s] goal is to provide ensembles and performance opportunities … that are similar to what the kids in the suburbs, or in a private school, get,” says Steve Lanciano, the organization’s arts coordinator.
Toward the end of the course, local not-for-profit Musicopia partnered with Bushwackers and ASPIRA for the final few practices and the last performance.
In 2018, the Bushwackers Academy evolved into a program that reaches students more directly. Musicopia teaching artists now provide music education at area schools during the school day. With this strategy, the program reaches at least four times more students, Lanciano says.
Philadelphia has not had a competitive marching band in at least 25 years, but ASPIRA hopes to create one soon, Lanciano adds. The initiative is being called the Drum Corps Academy Cohort at Olney Charter High School. Those interested in being a member or instructor can find out more information at drumcorpsacademy.com.