By Jasmine Bourgeois
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Pace & FREE Players Drum & Bugle Corps
Jennifer Pace is the captain of the drum line at the FREE Players Drum & Bugle Corps — the world’s first different abled drum corps. Jenny has performed at a number of different events, including the Columbus Day Parade in New York City, and multiple WGI and DCI championships. Jenny is not only a fantastic drummer, but a dedicated teacher and captain. She’s impressive, and according to Brian Calhoun, director of the FREE Players Drum & Bugle Corps, she’s “putting the focus on the abilities and talents of people with disabilities, pushing boundaries and raising the bar, and showing that music is a universal language.” I spoke with Jennifer and Brian about Jenny’s history with drumming and the FREE Players.
TT: How did you get into drumming?
BC: Jenny joined the corps in 2011.
JP: I have a musical family. My sister was the drum major in our high school marching band and my brother was also in the marching band and played snare drum too. I feel great about [drumming]. It’s rewarding. It’s out of this world.
TT: How and when did you join free drum corps?
BC: Jenny joined in 2011. She started in the pit, then moved to snare drum in 2012. She became the first ever captain in 2013. Jenny’s a great teacher. She was chosen to be captain because she’s such a great teacher. She has tremendous dedication and a non-stop desire to improve her own performance. She has a passion to advance the whole corps and make sure everyone is the best they can be.
TT: What do you like about drumming in a line?
JP: Learning how to do new tricks — it’s a great honor to be on the drums. And I enjoy listening to the crowd. And talking to fans.
BC: Jenny is a phenomenal advocate for people who are differently abled, and she’s a great performer.
TT: What’s it like at major events, like DCI?
BC: The first time we performed at WGI; Scott Johnson, percussion director of the Blue Devils, came up to us in the parking lot and played with us and talked with us, and he really liked Jenny.
JP: I’m really good in front of crowds; I like to get them going. I like when fans are cheering for me and I like hearing people say, “go Jenny.”
BC: At the 2016 WGI percussion world championships, one of our players got sick and couldn’t perform a solo. Mere hours before we had to perform, Jenny learned their solo in the hotel room and then performed it flawlessly.
JP: I know everyone’s part.
TT: How often do you drum?
JP: I practice at home 4 hours a day.
BC: She’s practicing any moment she has; she constantly wants to be pushed and perfect her craft.