Local drummers catch the
Top-notch drum and bugle corps draw talent from foreign countries as well as all 50 states. Consequently, finding three drummers from the Lehigh Valley marching with the Carolina Crown, a South Carolina based drum and bugle corps, is most unusual. This group has been consistently ranked among the top three corps throughout the 2016 season.
Nick Kochanek, of Emmaus, plays bass drum one; John Panza, also of Emmaus, handles bass three; Cody Gross, of Whitehall, performs on the snare drum.
Kochanek and Panza met at Emmaus High School during Panza’s freshman and Kochanek’s senior year. Currently a junior at Lebanon Valley College, Kochanek double majors in music, with an emphasis on composition and audio and musical production. He aspires to work in audio production and has applied for an internship with Pixar.
Panza has begun his senior year at Emmaus. His school year activities include playing with the marching band, jazz band and pit orchestra.
One of the youngest members of this year’s Carolina Crown, Panza intends to pursue a music major in college.
Gross, a 2013 graduate of Whitehall High School, attends West Chester University and majors in accounting and finance. In addition, he gives music lessons to aspiring drummers, a practice he intends to continue after graduation.
This summer, all three immersed themselves in life on the road with Carolina Crown. Becoming a member of this prestigious group began with spring auditions. Those who earn a position then attend a five week, 12-hour-a-day training program.
Carolina Crown’s 2016 competitive season began June 13.
Corps members spentmost of June, July and August traveling, practicing and performing.
The young musicians and their instructional staff slept on buses and gym floors, showered in school locker rooms and dedicated themselves to presentation excellence.
Many of the logistical chores, taking care of the uniforms, providing meals and other such tasks, were managed by parent volunteers who intersected with the group along the way.
By the end of the season, the corps traveled 17,000 miles and performed in venues from San Antonio’s Alamo Dome to J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown.
The members of Carolina Crown demonstrate the rewards of discipline, work ethic and esprit de corps. Stunning performances ride on an undercurrent of friendship and respect. Gross, Kochanek and Panza all possess talent and a unifying passion for music. And, although performers may march from ages 15 to 22, each must re-audition annually.
Circumstances change and these three may not play together again. However, as stated by Panza’s father, John Panza Sr., “It’s been a terrific ride.”