THE Dark Sky Legacy Program
Dark Sky Legacy Members are individual donors that commit to contribute a monthly donation to our organization. The Legacy program also features past members, staff and board members who have made considerable contributions to the Dark Sky organization. We didn't get to year 12 alone and here you will find some stories about the special people who gave of their time and talents so that Dark Sky could flourish.
Financial support allows our organization to fund everything from equipment, to meals, top tier staff and custom uniforms, as we journey each season to the WGI World Championships to perform among the top ensembles in the world.
The Page Connection
At the very northern border of Arizona and the western border of the Navajo reservation, sits a small town of 6500 people overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. Page is over 100 miles from the nearest mall and university and it takes busses hours to travel to competitions - aka, it's remote! Page is also the home town of the Dark Sky founders: Seth, Tanner and Sharon Woodard. Both Seth and Tanner Woodard graduated from Page HS after years of performing with the band and indoor percussion programs. While they continuing their studies, Sharon who retired as the band director after 12 years, continued to direct the high school indoor percussion program. During the summer of 2007, the three Woodards discussed starting an independent program in Arizona. The decision was made to pursue this "crazy idea" and Sinagua HS, in Flagstaff, AZ with their band director, Chris Elias, agreed to host us.
Dark Sky came out in Independent Open for the 2008 season competing in the local WGAZ circuit (2-3 hours south of Flagstaff) and traveling to Dayton, OH for the national championships. It was a pretty ambitious start, but (gulp) it all worked out with DSP earning a performance in the PIO Finals. Of the 30 original members, 10 were former or current Page HS indoor percussion members, 6 former instructors with a few other connections as well. How did we survive and thrive that first year? In large part to the experience of those Page members. They were the backbone - they had already rehearsed long hours, traveled to dozens of competitions in Denver, Boulder, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Dayton. There is no doubt that there is a Dark Sky because there was a Page Indoor Percussion. Talented, hungry musicians from a small, remote corner of the country, many of whom were part of the PSA ensemble that won the 2005 gold medal in Dayton were ready for more.
Enjoy these memories and photos from some of our "Page Connection" members:
WHITNEY HANSEN: I have so many great memories from being apart of indoor percussion with Page and Dark Sky. They center around the people I got to perform alongside and the Woodards. With Page, getting ready for a performance came with pre-show traditions. One that still makes me smile was when we would ask Sharon for her predictions on that run and she would sing “I feel, I feel a (insert score number/box)!” We’d all start singing and dancing along to the prediction as a hype and then would go carry those good vibes onto the floor. Even at our final home show at the end of the season with no score to compete for, we gathered around our prop in the back of the floor and sang and danced to our made up song. Having fun, believing in each other, and have the trust of our instructors was the best pre-show ritual.
Whitney studied music at Northern AZ University and now lives in Tucson, AZ. She works with the Walden Grove HS band, is on the Breakthrough Indoor Percussion staff and this Fall will be teaching music at Sierra MS in the Sunnyside School District, Tucson.
JORDAN BUMGUARDNER: During my indoor percussion memory search, I kept returning to this one specific moment, the morning after the '05 WGI Championship PSA awards ceremony. Returning to the hotel after receiving our gold medals, the idea was brought up, by a roommate, that we conquering heroes should sleep in our black velour uniforms, and we all enthusiastically approved. (The humor is NOT lost on me that three seventeen-year-old guys had a matching pajama party 1700 miles away from home.) On a cloud of dopamine and velour, the three of us stayed up very late, until one by one, we passed out into what I'd argue were the softest beds I've ever had the pleasure of sinking into. Waking the next morning remains, to this day, one of my most treasured memories.
Our hotel room was facing an easterly direction, and despite the directions to sleep in, one of my tenor buddies had risen early and parted the curtains, spilling waisthigh beams of morning light into the room and rousing me from a well earned slumber. Between the soft uniform, the cradle of the bed, and the warm golden sun, I thought I had to be dreaming. I leaned up and saw Cory at the window, surveying the urban expanse of downtown Dayton. I asked him "Did we really win?", and he smiled. It was a meditative state . . . one which I've chased ever since.
Most recently, I've chosen to chase it in the form of film, as a writer/director and cinematographer. I live in Scottsdale, but but plan to move to California in order to more fully pursue this endeavor.
The single most valuable lesson I learned from this activity is to forgive, not just for ones own health and well being, but for the greater good of the group.
SHELBY FISHER CHENEY: One of my very favorite memories was the time that our group stayed in an empty house in Las Vegas because some clerical error made it so that we didn’t have a hotel. We had people sleeping in closets, on bedroom floors, and in the living room. It was tricky trying to get 20+ people showered and ready with only two bathrooms! It was my 16th birthday, and I got to wake up surrounded by my favorite people in the world.
When I found out that Dark Sky Percussion was starting up in Flagstaff where I was going to college, I was ecstatic. Many of my high school friends also joined the team, and while there were many new faces in this group, we had just as much fun together. My time with Page Indoor Percussion helped me to develop focus, determination, leadership, and teamwork which I continued to cultivate with Dark Sky. These valuable skills have been utilized in every aspect of my life since leaving the indoor percussion scene ten years ago.
I now living in Thatcher, Arizona. I am a mother of two, married to an orchestra teacher, and maintaining my own music studio with 15 current students. I spent a couple of years playing marimba with a small group at Eastern Arizona College, and I currently play bassoon with the EAC symphony orchestra. I accompany the local Children’s Theater, my husband’s orchestras, and many church solos and choirs. Much of the ability to accompany well comes from my years of experience playing with a group and “listening in” to make sure everything lined up and sounded just right.
I am so grateful for my time with both Page Indoor and Dark Sky Percussion, for the things I learned, for the lasting friendships I formed, and for the musicality I developed that continues to bless me every day.
MEGAN PARKS TILLER: Performing in WGI with Page High School and Dark Sky Percussion, was a cornerstone in developing my personal foundation. I LOVED practice, traveling, performances, the challenge, the family-like connection, the physical intensity, and the art of playing music and putting all of the components together.
I remember like it was yesterday pulling the tarp back after finishing our scholastic A winning performance at finals in 2005. I can see the expressions of the Woodards and rest of the group as we unanimously felt the satisfaction of leaving it all on the court. One of my favorite memories was rolling across the Glen Canyon bridge back into Page. Most of us were exhausted and asleep in a dark bus but we were roused awake by the lights of a police escort to our school. Our parents proudly met us there with refreshments and "We Are the Champions" blaring to celebrate the collective accomplishment.
To this day when I'm feeling down my Dad likes to remind me, "You were on a World Championship winning team - how many people can say that!? Anything is possible with the right mind set and efforts." I think that was my main takeaway from 7 years of WGI. I am glad to have had the experiences and to still have many of the friends from those years.
Currently, I am happily married to Bryan Tiller and approaching our 3rd anniversary. I am the senior escrow assistant at Ticor Title Company and we are purchasing our first home. I am an enlisted member of the Oregon National Air Guard with the Air Force. My unit is an all hazard response unit and is tasked with assisting with any national disaster. I am learning medical treatment and search and rescue skills and loving every minute of it!
JESSICA DRELLA: During the Spring of my senior year of high school I had the privilege to perform with both Page HS Indoor and Dark Sky. The memory that sticks out the most is getting to perform for both groups in one day at a WGAZ show. I was up early to practice for hours with Dark Sky, then running over to my high school group to warm up, performing, taking a quick (much needed) nap in between, throwing on the next uniform and performing again. It was exhausting and exhilarating. Looking around at my fellow performers as we all put everything we had into each performance is a mighty memory. No matter how fast paced the day was, it was as if time stopped with each performance as we worked in sync to make something powerfully beautiful. It taught me to live in the moment. Whether you are in one group or even two at the same time, Indoor is still the best sport to be in and I am so thankful for the experience.
Jessica graduated from Grand Canyon University and is teaching private voice and piano lessons at a Phoenix studio.
ZAC ESKRIDGE is one of our "heart and soul" members and our first feature member from our original city of Flagstaff, AZ. Zac auditioned in 2008 while a student at Flagstaff HS. He earned a spot on the bass line for "Fresh Snow" and went on to participate from 2009 - 20013 on tenors. Zac stuck with Dark Sky as we made our move in 2010 from Flagstaff to Scottsdale and then traveled over to CA in 2013 when a position opened midseason. We were thrilled to have Zac age out with us. He was a popular ensemble member in AZ & CA and audiences loved his performance skills.
Here is a memory shared by the guy we called "Zac Attack":
"I think my favorite memory was doing our last run through in the church (rehearsal zone) the night before finals in 2013. That final run through marked the final hours of a 6 year journey I shared with the Woodards and so many other staff and ensemble members. It was a huge chapter of my life coming to a close. I remember getting set for that last run and thinking about finals the next day. Halfway through the 2nd movement I realized I was headed towards my last performance. As it started to sink in, I had tears rolling down my cheeks as we finished the last phrase of the show. Coming off the tarp afterwards was a jumble of feelings, but the thing I felt most was pride. I was so incredibly proud of how far this group had come - not only Dark Sky as an organization, but of that 2013 group in particular. It was a challenging season for the organization moving to CA not knowing for sure if the group would fill all it's sections to KILLING it in finals earning a 4th place finish."
Zac's last participation in the Indoor activity was as the Ensemble Coordinator for Breakthrough Percussion (AZ) the 2016 season, contributing to their best finish in the PIO division. Zac is busy these days as the kitchen manager at the Scottsdale California Kitchen restaurant. He hopes to free up some time in the future to continue contributing to the indoor activity that he loves.
OWEN DAVIS: My time as a tenor player in the first season of Dark Sky Percussion is something that I'll never forget and the lessons that I learned through this experience are things that I still draw on today as a full time music educator. I participated during my first year in college at NAU studying percussion and music education and even though it was difficult at times to balance long rehearsals on the weekends with the heavy workload and practice expectations of college, it was all worth it when we arrived in Dayton, OH and got to perform in the World Championships. I think most of all what the experience I had in Dark Sky Percussion showed me was the power of community. The power of people saying yes to things, coming together, and going above and beyond to help out the greater good.
Now as a private percussion teacher and elementary school general music teacher, these are the same values that I try to instill. I teach that music is more than just sound – it's also teaching us how to be good people. As a curator of an experimental music series in Flagstaff, I get to continue bringing new experiences to the same Flagstaff community where Dark Sky began. I am so proud to have taken part in the inaugural year of this great organization run by some truly great people.
Come back and visit again as we'll be updating Legacy stories monthly.
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