Acey B. — Drum Major Program Manager
As a member of the respected UC Davis International Relations Program, Acey Blanco has proven to be a formidable force of excellence in the realm of both academics and drum majoring. During his time as a performing drum major, Acey was a Northern California Band Association Military Masters Champion. He remained undefeated throughout his 3-year career, consisting of 32 competitions all across California. Decorated with numerous other awards, Acey also traveled internationally to the People’s Republic of China where he performed and was recognized for his outstanding abilities, both as a technician and a leader by the People’s Liberation Army Band. Outside of the drum major world, Acey is a former executive for Macy’s Inc. where he led a million dollar sales department to become one of the top organizations on the West Coast. He has had the opportunity to work with thousands of student leaders through the United Spirit Association Drum Major and Band Leadership Program. Currently located in Sacramento, California, Acey is the United Spirit Association’s Drum Major and Band Leadership Program Manager. He will not only be continuing the legacy of one of the most successful Drum Major and Band Leadership programs on the West Coast, but he will also be carrying on the tradition of excellence USA has provided to its students for over 65 summers.
Thomas Gamboa is originally from San Diego, California and is a graduate of Rancho Bernardo High School, where he was the Drum Major for two years as a Military style drum major and a California State Champion in the Masters Division. He is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he received a Bachelors of Arts degree in Music Education and Music Performance on bassoon. He also has a Masters of Music degree in wind conducting from Northwestern University where he studied with Mallory Thompson. During his time at Northwestern University, he worked extensively with the Northwestern University Marching Band and conducted the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Concert Band, and Brass Ensemble.
Thomas Gamboa was a conductor for the United States Air Force Band where he held the rank of Captain. During his time as a conductor for the US Air Force Band, he performed throughout the United States, Europe, and in broadcasts reaching over 2.2 million audience members in over 174 countries.
As an educator, Gamboa taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District at West Adams Preparatory High School in South Central, Los Angeles as the Instrumental Music Director and Music Department Chair. In the inaugural year of WAPHS, Gamboa created and conducted the Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, and Symphonic Orchestra during his tenure. Gamboa was also an instructor for the National High School Music Institute in the areas of conducting and chamber music, in addition to his duties as Assistant Conductor for the NHSMI Wind Ensemble.
Thomas Gamboa is currently working on a Doctor of Musical Arts in wind conducting at the University of Michigan where he is studying with Michael Haithcock. At the University of Michigan, he teaches conducting to undergraduate music students, and works with the Symphony Band, Concert Band, and athletic bands, including the Michigan Marching Band.
Jezreel Ontiveros has proven his drum major skills as a drum major for 3 years at Central Union High School located in El Centro, California, where he was an All-American Drum Major. He had the opportunity to march in the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, LA as well as the New Years Day Parade in London, England. He continues to show leadership through his fraternity Phi Mu Alpha, a music fraternity which object is to promote “the development of the best and truest fraternal spirit; the mutual welfare and brotherhood of musical students; the advancement of music in America and a loyalty to the Alma Mater.” Jezreel proudly serves as a Sergeant in the United States Army National Guard for over eight years as a military police man. He is a graduate from San Diego State University with a Bachelors degree in Anthropology and is currently a full time Archaeologist in the San Diego County.
Jared is a graduate of the University of Oregon with a BS in Physiology and Biology. He also played clarinet in the Oregon Marching Band. He is currently a graduate student at SFSU where he studies exercise physiology and plans on teaching Biology and Physiology at the high school level. Jared was a dual threat drum major as he was both a field conductor and mace spinner at Terra Nova High School. In addition, he was also the Northern California champion in both events. When Jared isn’t working with other drum majors or teaching in the classroom, you can find him on the track or in the hills as he is both the Terra Nova Track and Cross Country coach!
Martin was a graduate from Concord High School in Concord, CA where he was the drum major of the Minuteman Marching Band for 3 years. He was awarded 1st place in the Mace Masters Division his sophomore year, and during his next marching season, he was the #1 Mace Drum Major in the Northern California Band Association circuit. He left Concord with the Maestro award, given to the single most involved, outstanding senior of the program. After high school, Martin attended Diablo Valley College to study music. In his two years there, he participated in every ensemble, instrumental and vocal, including leadership roles in jazz combos and vocal jazz ensembles, as well as being the music department secretary. He left with the “Outstanding Music Major” award, given to him for his excellence in music as well as overall contributions to the DVC music department. Martin finished up his undergrad at UCLA, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Ethnomusicology, with an emphasis in Jazz Trumpet Performance. He studied music under the world-renowned jazz guitar legend, Kenny Burrell. He was in Awaken A Cappella, the first co-ed collegiate a cappella group founded in Southern California by acclaimed vocalist, Sara Bareilles. He was also a part of SLAM, an organization created on the UCLA campus that teaches music to underprivileged students in the Los Angeles area. Outside of music, Martin was a part of UCLA’s Health, Nutrition, and Fitness organization, spreading health and fitness awareness across the campus. He is the founder of UCLA’s Bodybuilding organization, Bruin Bodybuilding, and constantly trains and sends programs to anyone looking to reach their fitness goals on the campus. Martin has played trumpet professionally with various pop and jazz artists in both the Los Angeles area as well as the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the leader and arranger of Bay Area vocal band, Levels of Vocal Expression (L.O.V.E).
With Martin’s array of experience in and out of music, he has worked closely with the United Spirit Association Program Development Team for many years, developing and improving curriculum in spinning, conducting, and leadership. He works with private students, specializing in mace spinning, conducting, leadership, and team building. Aside from his drum major instruction, Martin also loves teaching trumpet, jazz, and a cappella music to students. Martin plans to continue to play professionally, clinic and adjudicate in the Bay Area, as well as find a position as a band director at a local middle or high school.
Colleen Sammut graduated from Capuchino High School in San Bruno California, where she was drum major for 3 years and saxophone section leader for 4 years. She competed in Northern California through NCBA and won many awards over her spinning career. After years of leading the band, Colleen was awarded the John Phillip Sousa award. She currently is pursuing a degree in music education. In her free time, she enjoys teaching private lessons to both drum majors and aspiring musicians alike. She is constantly expanding her knowledge in music, as she can play almost every wind instrument, arranges music for pep and marching band, and has assisted high school bands in planning and running a band camp. Colleen enjoys nothing more than teaching, and cannot wait to share her expertise and help drum majors unlock their potential this summer at USA drum major camps!
Darren Willett will be graduating with his degree in Instrumental Music Education and Trombone Performance from California State University, Fullerton’s School of Music. He is the Director of the Titan Varsity Band on CSUF’s campus, and was President of the Omicron Pi chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Darren was drum major for three years at Canyon High School and has competed in both field shows and parades. Darren is a twin, has traveled to China with the CSUF Wind Symphony, and loves to cook in his free time. He plans to get his Masters in Conducting, and strives to inspire future generations through music.
Douglas Lue graduated from Garden Grove High School were he served the title as a Drum Major for 3 Years. Currently Studying Music Education and Clarinet Performance at Irvine Valley College. He has coached at several High Schools in Orange County/Southern California as a Marching/Visual Coach, Woodwind/Brass Coach, Drum Major Coach. He currently teaches Brass and Woodwinds Privately at the Tustin Music School. He has performed at various Drum Major Circuits, where he has received several 1st Places and has been able to pass on the same accomplishments to several students he has coached the Drum Major arts to.
Michelle Leccese is a graduate of San Pedro High school in San Pedro California, where she was Drum Major for three years for the award winning, SCSBOA Champions, Golden Pirate Regiment. During her time in high school she was chosen twice as a Lead Drum Major in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) All City Marching Band and led a band of 375 students through two Pasadena City Tournament of Roses Parades. During her senior year, the United Spirit Association awarded her the Leadership Medallion and selected her as a an All-American Drum Major, offering her the chance to represent the company in London’s New Year’s Day Parade. She competed in many solo competitions for military, mace, and conducting, and resultingly received awards for each category. Michelle is currently a psychology major at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where she is also a member of the ‘Solid Gold Sound’ of the UCLA Marching Band. She is an active brother of Kappa Kappa Psi, a National Honorary Service Fraternity for College and University Bands and is the Director of Service for her chapter, spending most of her time at school working to engage students in the LA area in music and leadership. As a United Spirit Association Drum Major Instructor, Michelle strives for superiority in performance and teaching, both at camps and as an individual instructor for the company. She is enthusiastic for this year and for what she can bring to music and the Drum Majoring world.
Susan Levine is a music major at CSU Sacramento, with a focus in Clarinet Performance and Music Education. She grew her musical life in the Roseville School District through local teachers Patty Wassum and Mark Toffelmier. Susan was the drum major of Roseville High School and has successfully led her band in many field show competitions. Susan also works for the United Spirit Association with other drum majors all over California. She is currently conducting in ensembles such as the Sacramento Youth Symphony. Susan specializes in woodwinds and piano. She teaches at multiple elementary schools in the Elk Grove and Sacramento areas, and clinics for the woodwind sections of several local high schools. As a performer, Susan plays in local pit orchestras for musicals, orchestras, and live music.
Trilina Mai is a graduate from Cypress High School in Cypress, California, where she was trumpet section leader, band president, and drum major for the cypress high School Centurion Imperial Brigade. In her two years as Drum Major, she led the Centurion Imperial Brigade in both street and field events. As a parade drum major, she placed in SCSBOA adjudicated band reviews, and led the group in the Pasadena tournament of Roses Parade her senior year. On the field, she conducted her 6A band in regional field tournaments and the Tournament of Roses Bandfest. In addition, Trilina served as principal trumpet in the Wind Symphony, and performed multiple solos at concerts and festivals. She was also involved in her high school’s indoor drumline for two years in pit and on the floor. Aside from performing, she led clinics after school to help train future drum major candidates. The United Spirit Association selected Trilina as an All-American Drum Major, giving her the opportunity to represent her band, school, city, and country in the London New Year’s Day Parade. graduating with honors, Trilina is also a recipient of the Semper fidelis Award for Musical Excellence, Brass Player of the Year, Cypress High School Instrumental Music Department Award, Cypress High School Visual Arts Department Plaque, and the John Phillip Sousa Award. Trilina is currently and undergraduate at Long Beach State in Southern California, and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Animation. Her Artistic Studies have garnered her extensive accolades including “Best Animated Picture” at the Cypress College Film Festival and numerous other awards. Trilina was recently selected from a competitive field of candidates to participate in a specialized storytelling intensive held by PIXAR at California College of the Arts. Along with her academic responsibilities, she is also currently the lead animator in Against the Grain’s latest documentary, Light of Day. With her diverse set of skills. Trilina brings creativity and fresh thinking to her drum major instruction. She is proud to be teaching drum majors and band leaders across the west coast through United Spirit Association. Additionally, she coaches private students. Specializing in military baton spinning, conducting, and leadership. She recently accepted a staff position with the Cypress High School Centurion Imperial Brigade, where she oversees drum major training and leadership development. Aside from coaching, Trilina also does private art commissions, and will be apprenticing as a Parade Adjudicator for the Drum Major caption with the Southern California School Band and Orchestra (SCSBOA).
Azeema Yahya graduated from Concord High School in Concord, CA where she served as the drum major for two years for the award-winning Minutemen Marching Band. Her time as a performing drum major started with competing in solo drum major competitions for the Northern California Band Association in the Mace category. During her final year as drum major, she also competed in field conducting. With her experience competing in both spinning and conducting, she’s gained immense knowledge and love for both. During her junior year, she received Musician of the Year and upon graduating she received her music medallion and the Bill Leal Memorial Award for outstanding character, integrity and service towards the program. Outside of music, she was heavily involved in her school and community. She served as the Student Body President, California Scholarship Federation President, a Link Crew Leader, and she ran a non-profit organization. She graduated with the ultimate award of “Minuteman of the Year” for exemplifying scholarship, citizenship, and leadership, which is given to the most outstanding member of her graduating class. She currently attends University of California, Davis pursuing degrees in both Sociology and English with a minor in Education. At UC Davis, she’s involved with campus clubs and organizations. She serves as the Chief Administrative Officer for her sorority where she strives to help the chapter reach its fullest potential. Currently she works for UC Davis’ Undergraduate Admissions Department as a Public Advisor. She’s helped over thousands of prospective and current students find their home at UC Davis. She also volunteers in local elementary and high school classrooms as a teacher’s assistant and hopes to put that to work as she works towards becoming a teacher and ultimately a principal.
Rebecca Cartelli, a graduate from San Benito High School, developed an extensive leadership background as well as a reputable performance record throughout her six years of being a performing drum major. Competing within the Northern California Band Association Circuit, Rebecca maintained many of the top scores throughout her drum major career. Competing in over 20 competitions, Rebecca has created a formidable reputation for herself. Not only has she claimed many prestigious titles such as NCBA’s Drum Major Sweepstakes Winner at the respected Santa Cruz Band Review, but she has also had the opportunity to represent her band internationally at the London New Year’s Day Parade in London, England. Rebecca was also able to tour all over Western Europe for three weeks with a national-level honor band & choir called the Sound of America. During those three weeks, the honor band & choir consisting of musicians from all over the United States toured Western Europe playing local concerts including repertoire from Les Miserables. On her time off from marching, Rebecca performed as the principal 1st chair clarinetist with the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony. Finishing out her high school career, Rebecca was the recipient of the John Philip Sousa Award known for its prestige and honor in her high school program. Now, as a private drum major instructor for many students around the Central California area, Rebecca utilizes her knowledge in order to create a superb set of student leaders that are not only equipped to serve their bands, but their communities as well.
During her three-year drum majoring career at Canyon High School in Santa Clarita, CA, Sabrina led her band through countless SCSBOA competitions and parades. As a flautist, Sabrina performed as a soloist in addition to serving principal chair in several Wind Ensembles and Concert Bands, receiving Superior ratings at Solo and Ensemble Competitions and Festivals throughout Southern California. In addition, Sabrina took on the role of cymbal line section leader as a member of her high school’s indoor drumline program, which traveled across California and Nevada for competition. Furthermore, Sabrina’s drum majoring career enabled her to act as an active member of the Gold Star Brigade’s leadership curriculum and current execution throughout the marching and concert band programs. As a recipient of her Alma Mater’s annual leadership award and medallion amongst several other technical awards, Sabrina holds her experiences and memories created at Canyon close to her heart and is thankful for those involved. Sabrina now serves as an instructional staff member at Canyon High School, working with the marching band’s visual content and training the indoor cymbal line during the spring. Currently attending San Diego State University, Sabrina is pursuing a major in nutrition with a minor in leadership. Outside of academics and the drum majoring world, Sabrina is a member of the Marching Aztec’s cymbal line during the fall season, performing at Aztec Football games in the San Diego Charger’s famous Qualcomm Stadium. Besides performing with the collegiate group during the fall, Sabrina dedicates her time as the only female cymbalist in the World Class WGI group POW Percussion, located in El Monte, California. Sabrina performed in the University of Dayton Arena during World Class Champions in Dayton, Ohio, breaking the group’s records and creating history with the marching ensemble in 2017.
James is currently a student at UCLA studying Bioengineering and continuing his marching band career playing baritone in the UCLA Bruin Marching Band. During his three years as drum major for Christopher High School in Gilroy, California, James led his band primarily through WBA field show competitions throughout California. He also performed with the United Spirit Association in London, England, as well as in Anaheim, Hawaii, and New York with his band. When he wasn’t rehearsing or performing for jazz band, wind ensemble, winter percussion ensemble, marching band or orchestra, he was singing in Chamber Choir, participating in community service projects, or working hard hard to excel academically. He graduated as valedictorian from his high school and continues to strive towards excellence in academics, musicianship, and leadership as an engineering student today.
Stephen Newcomb graduated from Benicia High School where he led the Panther Marching Band all throughout Northern California. Stephen began spinning when he was 12 years old and competed in solo competitions on the NCBA L pattern circuit for 3 years in the Mace Masters Division. During high school Stephen was in both the wind ensemble and jazz band for 4 years where he played lead alto and bari sax as well as playing sousaphone in the pep band and wedding band. While he was in the panther band he traveled to Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta, and London to perform and compete. In addition, Stephen was given the opportunity to perform in honor bands all across California and was awarded the Louis Armstrong Jazz award which is the highest level interscholastic award given to a high school jazz musician. Currently Stephen is attending Cornell University in New York where he is studying computer science and cognitive science as well as being a part of their jazz ensembles. Stephen has a passion for drum majoring and leadership that he is excited to share with all USA campers this summer.