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Scottdale resident revels in role as a Bluecoat horn player

| Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Kelly Vernon | The Independent-Observer
Aaron Dugger performs with the BluecoatsDrum and Bugle Corps June 25 at Gateway High School in Monroeville.
Kelly Vernon | The Independent-Observer
Aaron Dugger of Scottdale prepares to enter the football field June 25 with the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps during the Drum Corps International tour at Gateway High School in Monroeville.

Aaron Dugger is living the dream, performing with The Bluecoats on football fields across the nation.

“I'm so blessed to do what I love and have dreamt about for years, every day,” said the Scottdale resident.

The Bluecoats is a world class drum and bugle corps based in Canton, Ohio.

Bluecoats Director David Glasgow said Dugger was one of 150 young musicians from all over the world to be chosen to perform with the drum and bugle corps in both 2013 and 2014.

“Aaron is not only an outstanding musician and performer, but also an outstanding guy,” said Glasgow.

He added more than 700 musicians audition each season for the opportunity to participate in the non-profit organization each year.

“Being a performer on the field and having the opportunity to tap in to so many of my own emotions, as well as trigger emotions for the audience is the most rewarding experience,” said Dugger.

Dugger said music was always a huge part of his family. He began playing the tuba in fifth grade at Southmoreland Elementary School. He also plays the trombone. He said he knew early on that music was the right choice for him, and always had a passion for it.

Being a part of a drum and bugle corps has been a dream of his since attending high school at Southmoreland, when the band would watch videos. He added he always tried to emulate the performers in the videos, even at the high school level.

“I often think to myself, ‘If my freshman year of high school self could see me now,'” Dugger said.

Jamie Gore, Southmoreland band director, said it was obvious from the beginning that Dugger was one of those extraordinary students that would go on to do amazing things.

He was involved in every music program and ensemble available to him, she added. Gore remembers when he performed nationally at Carnegie Music Hall in New York City under the direction of H. Robert Reynolds, one of the top wind band conductors in the world.

“He was a role model to his peers academically, socially and musically and a leader in every sense of the word,” Gore said. “It is no wonder he is performing with one of the greatest drum corps in the world. I have no doubt he will go on to continue inspiring individuals and changing lives through music.”

Dugger manages to juggle his curriculum and band activities at Penn State University, along with the grueling practice and performing schedule with The Bluecoats. He is able to use the same techniques in college on the field with the Bluecoats.

He said, “we are all musicians first and are always striving to play at the highest level.”

He is required to audition each season for a spot in the drum and bugle corps. He receives an audition book and routine packet in the fall. He said the first of several audition camps is held in November and based on visual and music auditions, a potential Bluecoat may be offered a call back to attend the January camp.

He travels more than 10,000 miles each summer with the organization, performing approximately 34 shows spanning a little more than seven weeks. The corps begins training and rehearsing 12 hours a day, seven days a week. After that they leave for tour, which consists of daily rehearsal, as well as performances. Each high-energy performance lasts about 12 minutes.

Dugger must learn new music and a new routine each season. The Bluecoats performance was titled “ look for America.” This year the corps performed “Tilt” with a local performance June 25 at Gateway High School in Monroeville, where they earned second place in the Drum Corps International competition.

Dugger plans to audition one last time for the Bluecoats, as DCI limits performers to the age of 21. He is a music major at Penn State University and aspires to be a high school band director in the future.

“Being a member of the Bluecoats is something I will always cherish and I am honored to march with them every day. It is a true honor to be a member,” said Dugger.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-747-5722 or