2017 group photo

Some of the hardest working extraordinary human beings that the Pioneer Corps has ever had, ended the season on Sunday. All of the buses and trucks are back, members drove or have flown home except for about 15 who are hanging out at Pioneerland, not wanting to end it all yet.

Our victories came in the face of taking on challenges and solving them. Even though we had a smaller corps than the past average of about 94 members, we put on quite a production that so many fans in the stands were excited about. Your staff did a wonderful job of helping to make that excitement happen. During each show we experienced several rousing applauds and very often the shows ended with a standing ovation!

The judging system was not very generous to us, basing their stingy scores on individual performance issues. It is very hard to believe that with the enthusiasm and applauses ringing in our ears from literally thousands of people who eagerly watched our production, that our scores and improvements from show to show were not recognized or given credit from the judges.

Listed here are the awards that were given at the Pioneer Banquet on Monday night. A unit full of highly talented that our 56 year system was strained to acknowledge so many.

Our soloists were outstanding, led by our “star” Jackie Hirn. Her beautiful voice and characterization was the high point of our show all season. All Pioneer hearts stopped and eyes teared up as her microphone malfunctioned in the Quarterfinals. It was hard for the corps and for her too. Besides being an outstanding drum major and corps leader, she WON DCI’s Top Individual Vocalist award, outscoring others for the 3rd consecutive year at their solo-ensemble (I&E) contest. Jackie sang her song beautifully, confidently, and stellar! Her personal characteristics added a lot to the show. She also organized the Pioneer Choir which placed third.

Our trombone soloist, Jacob Pike, aged out after three seasons. His personal characteristics added a lot to the show, besides receiving the Section Award and being the winner of the Veteran of the Year Award. He was always, and I mean always the last and the first to the equipment truck. He will be missed!

DCI winners of the I&E Auxiliary Awards (flags, sabers, rifles) was a star, who with his outstanding skills was often hard to see in front of the corps, but definitely was a crowd-pleaser, and now the recipient of the Guard Award, Austin Crawley. He was the happiest man in Pioneer.

Joey Tackett, our 5 year vet (tuba for 4 years & drum major for this season), received the DCI Scholarship Award for his contributions to many outside activities, an imposing leader and future band director that will excel for his students. Thank you, Joey!

So many others…talented Flugel Horn Soloist, Andrew “VK” Pearson, produced a beautiful tone quality that filled the stadiums with awe from fellow brass players…Zak, a veteran leader for the percussion… Shane, veteran leader of the front ensemble and “Waffle King!”…T.J., Gloria, Cloe, and our South African baritone, Johannes, running away with the Rookie of the Year award, section leader award, and unanimously the Bus General with the cleanest in the fleet…Armond with 4 years the trumpet rock from Texas. Notice our “Gear Department” on the road with many, many, great new designs. Mr. Jeff Williams put the Corps’ name out there….Props, or focal points that every corps must now have, giving credit to chairman Josh Pier and Ja’Malh Wallace, as well as kudos to art designs by Jackie Bilder and John Schoenknecht. The construction of our props was done by Dr. and Mrs. Knepp, the grandparents of Garet Williams. Wind, tornados, or hurricanes, would never blow down these well-constructed props. Thank you!

Rumor has it that our brass caption head, Randall Bennett, might step down after 6 years. He was an awesome recruiter, a steady leader, a person who noticed everything (P.W.N.T.) and led the brass section with his whole heart and soul. He was voted twice as staff member of the year. He will be missed. He says that he needs to move on with his career now that he has graduated. We look forward to hearing what “lucky” band has the good fortune of hiring him…Randall you are among the best ever!

While the applause of the crowd still rings in my ears, I cannot say enough about everyone involved. We all worked endless hours to achieve excellence. A few dropped off along the way, but were quickly covered by truly magnificent other individuals.

Thanking you a hundred times would not be enough, but cherish the memories that we created, the challenges we took on, and the masses of people that bonded together for 80 days. We were Better Every Day, Just ask us! RB


We celebrate our successes and encourage those successes throughout the Corps, especially at our Annual Awards Banquet held on the last week of our tour in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The following people, voted by everyone concerned, were the best of our

Extraordinary Human Beings” living the Pioneer Motto,



  • Veteran of the Year      JACOB PIKE      Baritone      Arlington Heights, Illinois

    • Runner Up      Joey Tackett      Tuba      Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    • Runner Up      Katy Jansen      Guard      Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Rookie of the Year      JOHANNES MOTLHABANE      Mellophone      South Africa

    • Runner Up      Gloria Garner      Tenor      Fredericksburg, Virginia

    • Runner Up      Austin Crawley      Guard      Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Best Instructor      BILL McCLENDON      Brass       Jacksonville, Florida

    • Runner Up      Josh Pier      Visual       De Forest, Wisconsin

    • Runner Up      Javier Ramirez      Tenor      Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Best Support Staff      TANYA BARE      Food Department      Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin

    • Runner Up      Charity Brook      Bus Driver      Cudahy, Wisconsin

    • Runner Up      Jerry Culbertson      Food Department      Columbia City, Indiana

  • Most Appreciated      JERRY CULBERTSON      Food Service      Columbia City, Indiana

  • Best Trumpet      ANDREW MODISANE      Trumpet      South Africa

  • Best Mellophone      JOHANNES MOTLHABANE      Mellophone      South Africa

  • Best Baritone      JACOB PIKE      Baritone       Arlington Heights, Illinois

  • Best Tuba      SAM KEARNS      Tuba      Champaign, Illinois

  • Best Snare      CHIAKI MATSUDA      Snare      Amagasaki Hyogo Japan

  • Best Tenor      GLORIA GARNER      Tenor      Fredericksburg, Virginia

  • Best Bass      PETER HANDERHAN      Bass      Bel Air, Maryland

  • Best Cymbals      J.D. MESGER      Cymbals      Gotham, Wisconsin

  • Best Front Ensemble       TIFFANY WANG      Front Ensemble      Downers Grove, Illinois

  • Best Flag      ASHLYN JONES      Flag      Pilot Mountain North Carolina

  • Best Weapon      AUSTIN CRAWLEY      Weapons      Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Best Dressed Male COLIN SCHAKELFORD     Trumpet      San Antonio, Texas

  • 2nd Place      Austin Crawley     Guard      Indianapolis, Indiana

  • 3rd Place      Ernie Vera      Guard Instructor      Walnut, California

  • Best Dressed Female      MEGAN WEAVER      Guard Kenosha, Wisconsin

  • 2nd Place      Ashlyn Jones      Guard      Pilot Mountain, North Carolina

  • 3rd Place      Katy Jansen      Guard      Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Zildian Award      ARIANNA JUE      Cymbals      Cumming, Georgia

  • Perfect Attendance      ARMOND RIGGS Trumpet      Wadsworth, Ohio

  • Perfect Attendance      SAM KEARNS      Tuba      Champaign, Illinois

  • Perfect Attendance      SIENNA JOYCE      Tenors      Waterloo, Ontario Canada

  • Perfect Attendance      CONNOR WIGART      Trumpet  Derby, Kansas

  • Perfect Attendance      ANGELICA BARE      Guard      Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin

  • Perfect Attendance      JESSICA NEISES      Mellophone      Wichita, Kansas

  • Perfect Attendance      CRYSTAL HARGRAVE      Mellophone      Sabina, Ohio

  • Perfect Attendance      JACKIE HIRN      Drum Major      Urbana, Illinois

  • Perfect Attendance      ALLY FARRAND      Guard Sargent      Germantown, Wisconsin

  • Perfect Attendance      JACOB PIKE      Baritone      Arlington Heights, Illinois

  • 2017 Age Out      CAROLINE RAMIREZ      1 Year      Guard      Sterling, Virginia

  • 2017 Age Out      CONNOR WIGART      1 Year      Trumpet      Derby, Kansas

  • 2017 Age Out      DAVID STENWALL      1 Year      Bass      Brookland, Arkansas

  • 2017 Age Out      MASATO HIRATA      1 Year      Bass      Oita, Japan

  • 2017 Age Out      ZACH HEWITT      2 Years      Snare      Greenwich, New York

  • 2017 Age Out      ANDREW PEARSON      2 Years      Trumpet      Miami, Oklahoma

  • 2017 Age Out      LANCE REISETTER      2 Years      Trumpet      Ardmore, Oklahoma

  • 2017 Age Out      JESSICA NEISES      2 Years      Mellophone      Wichita, Kansas

  • 2017 Age Out      SAM KEARNS      2 Years      Tuba      Champaign, Illinois

  • 2017 Age Out      JACOB PIKE      3 Years      Baritone      Arlington Heights, Illinois

  • 2017 Age Out      ARMOND RIGGS      4 Years      Trumpet      Wadsworth, Ohio

  • 2017 Age Out      JOEY TACKETT      5 Years      Drum Major      Milwaukee, Wisconsin