Percussion Staff
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Percussion Staff

Percussion Arranger - John McFarland

Caption Head  - Chris Tarka

Bass Drum Technician - Lukas Snyder

Cymbal Technician - Kristin Smith

Cymbal Technician - Jennifer Tarka

Percussion Technician - Kenji Okubo

Percussion Technician - Ian Conyers

Percussion Technician - Bob Ballengee

Percussion Technician - David Edwards

Front Ensemble Technician - Nick Riley

Technician - Charles Gardner


John McFarland

John Max McFarland received his degrees in Composition (B.M.) and Percussion Performance (B.M., M.M.) from Western Michigan University. He studied percussion under Judy Moonert. John has performed as the principal percussionist and Principal Timpanist for the University Concert and Symphonic Bands, as well as the University Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed with the Kalamazoo Symphony and Battlecreek Symphony as a substitute percussionist. John was also a marching member of the Kiwanis Kavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps as well as the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum & Bugle Corps. John studied composition under Curtis Curtis-Smith, Dr. Richard Adams, and Dr. Robert Ricci. His compositions and arrangements have received international recognition with performances all over the United States as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan. His concert band piece "From Chaos..." was runner up in the Metropolitan Wind Symphony's 2005 North American Student Composer Competition. His chamber music piece "Thoughts and Dreams of a Dying Man" was selected as a winning composition in ERM Media's Made in the Americas recording project. His most recent piece, "5 Songs in the Age of Stupidity" for 2 percussion and mezzo-soprano, received 1st prize in the Ironworks percussion duo composition contest. His percussion music is published through Tapspace Publications where he is also on staff as a music engraver. John has arranged percussion for many marching bands and winter percussion programs throughout the United States. John is currently the assistant director of bands and director of percussion for Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio. On top of those duties he is also the composer and arranger for the marching band and winter percussion programs at Notre Dame College. John resides in Parma Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with his wife Sydney, his 2 cats (Zoe and Minkah), his 4 greyhounds (Jason, Jasper, Lola, and Walker), and Italian Greyhound (Sophia).


Chris Tarka

Chris Tarka is the Director of Percussion at Midlothian ISD, just outside of Dallas, TX where he oversees all of the percussion students grades 6-12. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Chris earned his Bachelor's Degree in Percussion Performance from the University of Akron in 2010. While at UA he was a member of many ensembles including the Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble 1, Marching Band, Percussion Ensemble, and the Steel Drum Band. In addition, he has also performed with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Wooster Symphony, and Summit Choral Society.

As a member of the Grammy and Emmy nominated University of Akron Steel Drum band he was fortunate to perform alongside many well known artists in the pop and steel drum genres such as Tony Lindsey (Santana), Andy Narell, Relator, Liam Teague, Michael Spiro, Robby Greenidge (Jimmy Buffett), and Cliff Alexis. In his time with the band he recorded on two CD's as well as a live concert/documentary DVD called "Hammer on Steel" which aired nationally on PBS and was nominated for 8 Emmy Awards. He also had the privilege of performing for President Barack Obama on his 2008 campaign tour stop in Akron, OH.

Chris has been very active in the field of marching percussion as an educator and arranger. He has worked with many high school, collegiate, and independent ensembles throughout the country. Some of the groups he has taught or written for include Midlothian HS (TX), Legends Drum and Bugle Corps, The University of Akron Marching Band, Notre Dame Indoor Percussion Ensemble(WGI), Edgewood HS (IN), Martinsville HS (IN) and many more. As a performer, Chris was a member of the University of Akron Drumline where he served as the section leader, he is also an alumnus of the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps. Chris has had the opportunity to study with many great teachers in marching percussion including Rob Ferguson, Jon Meritt, and Chris Hestin.

As a versatile performer in Jazz and popular music Chris has found himself on stage performing alongside many distinguished artists such as Joe Lovano, Maureen McGovern, Larry Coryell, Steve Houghton, Marvin Stamm, Randy Newman, and Marvin Hamlisch. He has performed and recorded with numerous groups throughout the country and still maintains an active performance schedule.

Chris has been greatly influenced by all the extraordinary teachers he has had the opportunity to study with throughout his career. His primary teachers include Larry Snider, Matt Dudack, Mark Gonder, Kevin Bobo, and Michael Spiro.


Lukas Snyder

Lukas Snyder will be instructing the rudimental bass drums for the 2012 Pioneer. Lukas is returning for his second year as a member of the teaching staff. His marching experience includes five years with the Pioneer as well as a year with the Kilties Drum and Bugle Corps. Lukas is currently studying at Ball State University for his masters in statistics.


Kristin Smith

Kristin will be joining the percussion staff for 2014 as Pioneer's Cymbal Instructor. Kristin is currently a student at Bowling Green State University studying Marine Biology and Conservation. Kristin marched her age-out season with Pioneer in 2011, and marched cymbals with Matrix Indoor Percussion Ensemble. She is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota Music Fraternity, and Tau Beta Sigma, National Honorary Band Sorority. She is currently the cymbal instructor at Marion Harding High School. Kristin looks forward to returning to her Pioneer family this summer as a member of the instructional staff!



Jennifer Tarka

Jennifer Tarka, is a performer and music educator in the Chicago-land area. She graduated from VanderCook College of Music, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in music education. Before instructing for Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corps, she taught several indoor percussion ensembles, including Downers Grove South High School Indoor Percussion, L.e.a.P. Indoor Percussion, Green Thunder Indoor Percussion, and Pioneer Indoor Percussion. Jennifer began her marching cymbals career in 2004, when she marched her age-out year of DCI with Pioneer. That year, she was the recipient of the “Zildjian Award” for the most outstanding cymbal player for Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corps.
Currently, Jennifer works as a general music teacher in Chicago, where she teaches kindergarten through 8th grade. In November 2012, she won the 2011-2012 “Outstanding Teacher Award” at her school. Outside of teaching, Jennifer continues to perform with the Chicago Bears Drum Line and the Chicago Bulls Stampede Drum Line.
Jennifer has been the cymbal instructor for Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corps since 2008. 2013 is the first season where she will serve as the Corps’ program coordinator, in addition to cymbal instructor.


Bob Ballengee

Bob Ballengee is in demand as a percussion performer, teacher, and arranger. He currently performs with several different music groups ranging from classic rock and blues, jazz, country, and classical.
Mr. Ballengee is the band director at Damascus and Glade Spring middle schools in Washington County Virginia. He is the percussion arranger and instructor for Abingdon, Patrick Henry, and Holston High Schools. He has arranged for groups from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Mr. Ballengee also maintained a private studio for over 15 years. His students have gone on to study at some of the finest percussion schools in the country including Morehead State University, Ithaca College, James Madison University, New York University, Radford, and University of North Texas. He has had 8 students selected for the Virginia All State Band in the past 10 years.
Mr. Ballengee’s drum corps experience includes performing 4 summers with the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps from Canton, Ohio and teaching on staff with The Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps from Milwaukee, WI.
Mr. Ballengee currently resides in Marion, Virginia with his wife Candy and three children Christina, Ashley, and Tyler.


Dave Edwards

David Edwards is returning for his second year with the corps. He began his marching percussion career with the Little Americans where he played snare from 1993-2000. He went on to perform with Rochester Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps 2001 and 2002. He also marched with the 5 time World Champion Empire Statesmen Drum and Bugle Corps from 2003-2006, earning a championship in 2004. He returned to the Empire Statesmen in 2007 as a percussion tech but his season was cut short when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served his country for five years before being discharged in March 2012. Soon after his discharge he joined the 2012 Pioneer percussion staff as the tenor tech. He is currently teaching the snare line.


Ian Conyers

This is the first year Ian Conyers will be with the Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corp teaching the Tenor Line. He started his marching career in 1993 with the Algonac High School Marching Band. He was with the Marching Band 93-98, winning a State Championship and Best Percussion in 1994. He started his Drum Corps Career with the Kiwanis Kavaliers from Kitchener, Ontario.  He marched with the Corps from 1998-2002. He was in the Bass Line in 98’ and the Tenor line 99-02. (01-02 section leader) He also received the Award for Most Improved his first year on tenors (99’). He marched WGI 99-02 with Spirit Performing Youth Ensemble (AKA S.P.Y.E.) in the Tenor Line. In WGI 2001 the S.P.Y.E. show” SPYvsSPY” winning fans favorite.  After he aged out of DCI, he continued his marching career in DCA with the Empire Statesmen from Rochester, NY 2003-2006. (Tenor Line Section leader/Tech)He won a World Championship with the Corps in 2004. In 2009 he marched with the Brigadiers from Syracuse, NY. (Tenor Line Section Leader/Tech) Thru the years of marching, Ian has taught a variety of marching bands from the Upstate NY area. In 2010 he placed his focus on teaching in WGI with Onondaga Community Collage a PIO Winter Drum line and in the summer of 2011 he worked with the Empire Statesmen Drum Line and Tenor Line.  Ian is very excited to be involved in DCI again with the Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps. 2013 should a very memorable year for the Corps. Come check us out!


Nick Riley

Nick Riley is thrilled to be joining the percussion staff of Pioneer in 2014 as a front ensemble technician. Previously, Nick was the Assistant Visual Caption Head for the Legends Drum and Bugle Corps (MI) from 2011 to 2013 where the corps was a consistent DCI Open Class Finalist and was named Most Improved Open Class Corps in 2012.

Nick is currently the Director of Bands at Liberty Center Local Schools in northwest Ohio where he teaches 3rd and 4th grade general music, middle school band, high school band, marching band, pep band, and conducts the musical pit orchestra. Since his appointment in 2012, the Liberty Center band program has seen growth in quality and membership. Prior to joining the faculty at Liberty Center, Nick was an accomplished marching percussion instructor in central and southwestern Ohio where the over 15 ensembles that he worked with or composed for annually consistently earned superior ratings and championships in a variety of local, state, and national contests.

In addition, Nick is currently the Ensemble Director/Music Coordinator of ConneXus Independent where he also arranges for and teaches the front ensemble. In 2013, ConneXus' inaugural season, the ensemble was named OIPA State Champion and was a WGI Regional Finalist in Percussion Independent A. Nick is a regular percussion consultant on the staff of the Ohio State University Marching Band, a sought after percussion adjudicator, and an accomplished composer/arranger with nearly 30 high school marching bands, drum corps, college marching bands, and indoor percussion ensembles performing his music annually. Nick's compositions for marching band and indoor percussion are published by Marching Show Concepts, Gary P. Gilroy Publications, and Arranger's Publishing Company with several new works being considered for publication currently. He also presented a clinic on marching percussion arranging at the 2013 OMEA Professional Development Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Nick is a 2011 graduate of Capital University in Columbus, Ohio with a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education. While at Capital, Nick studied music education with James Swearingen and Jim Dowdy and percussion with Bob Breithaupt, Nate Anders, and Eric Paton. Nick was a four‐year member of Capital's premiere wind band, the Symphonic Winds, where he served as Principal Percussionist for three years. Under the direction of Dr. Barry E. Kopetz, the Symphonic Winds performed numerous showcase concerts with conductors Ray Cramer, Mark Camphouse, and Brian Balmages, performed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and on recording sessions for Wingert‐Jones Publishing, and at the OMEA Professional Development Conference. Nick was also a member of Chamber Percussion Ensemble, Concert Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Percussion Ensemble, MIDI Band, and World Music Ensemble. Along with his classmates, Nick founded, student directed, and arranged for the Capital University Drumline, a unique ensemble of marching percussion and steel pans.

Nick is a member of the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), the Percussive Arts Society (PAS), and the Central States Judges Association (CSJA). He has been a sponsored educational artist with Vic Firth, Inc. since 2008.

Nick currently resides in Holland, Ohio, a southwestern suburb of Toledo.


Charles Gardner

Charles is excited to begin his second summer with the Pioneer percussion section. He started his music career at the University of North Texas where he participated in multiple wind and percussion ensembles including the UNT Indoor Drumline under the direction of Paul Rennick. While at UNT, Charles studied with Mark Ford, Christopher Deane, Paul Rennick, and Matt Jordan. Charles was a member of the 2009 Boston Crusaders and the 2009 I&E Champion Front Ensemble. Charles resides in Texas where he serves as a high school assistant band director and percussion instructo