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Percussion Palooza Judges

Mr. Ryan Helenthal
Judging Melodic Percussion (Mallets & Timpani)

Ryan Helenthal is a freelance percussionist in the Central Illinois area. He studied at Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville under Daniel Smithiger. Ryan served as principal percussionist for the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra in the 2014-2015 season. He was also principal percussionist for the St. Louis Brass Band. Other groups that Ryan has performed with include The Heartland Festival Orchestra in Washington, IL, The Agape Ringers in Chicago, IL and The Downtime Band in St. Louis, MO. Ryan has been active in musical theater, playing for The Clinton Area Showboat Theater, The City of Bloomington, Hard Road Productions, Looking Glass Playhouse Theatre, Community Players Theatre, St. Charles Community College, Illinois State University, and Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville. Ryan has also commissioned a work by Casey Cangelosi titled "Iktsuarpok."

Ryan also taught percussion and front ensemble at Alton High School in Alton, Illinois as well as front ensemble for Galesburg High School in Galesburg, IL. He was on faculty for the SIUE Percussion Institute for 2 years. Ryan has also participated in the accessories masterclass led by Phillip O'Banion of Temple University at PASIC. Over the years Ryan has studied with or taken lessons from Daniel Smithiger, Erick Saoud, Steven Hemphill, Ryan Lewis, Nancy Zeltsman, Mike Vercelli, Will James, Shannon Wood, Ryun Louie, Tom Marko, Amanda Legner, and Miles Vandiver.

Ryan is endorsed by Artifact Percussion and is a Beetle Percussion ambassador.

Megan Hobbs
Judging Drum Set & Multi-Percussion

Megan Hobbs is the current Director of Athletic Bands and Director of Indoor Marching Arts at St. Ambrose University, which houses both a competitive winter guard and indoor percussion program.

Ms. Hobbs has been involved in the marching arts since 2007, participating in marching percussion in her hometown of Kenosha, WI. Her introduction to drum corps was with the Kilties Drum & Bugle Corps in 2010. As a member, she went on to win the DCA I&E marimba competition in 2011. She also attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she pursued a degree in percussion performance and music education.

Her world class marching experience includes the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps and Rhythm X. She has also enjoyed being a part of professional entertainment ensembles including the Milwaukee Bucks Drumline and Tundraline, the official drumline of the Green Bay Packers.

Her previous educational appointments include work as a technician, coordinator, arranger, and consultant. Her experience spans front ensemble and battery instruction with various high schools in Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Iowa; ConneXus Percussion, the Kilties Drum & Bugle Corps, and the Colt Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps, where she is currently the percussion caption head.

Ms. Hobbs has been with St. Ambrose University since 2019, where she began working as a battery technician. Since then, she has spearheaded the addition of a front ensemble to the Fighting Bee Marching Band, as well as starting the competitive Indoor Marching Arts program at SAU. Under her leadership, the SAU Indoor Percussion ensemble was a WGI A Class World Championship Finalist in their two years of existence. She also runs the percussion studio and chamber percussion on campus. Reach out to for information on SAU's numerous scholarship and music camp opportunities!

Rich Nicola
Judging Snare Drum

Retired and living with his wife, Linda, Rich has music degrees from Northern Illinois University in Dekalb and Marycrest College in Davenport, Iowa. He began teaching with the Black Knights, the Colts, The Neei-His and the Los Amigos Drum Corps. He has been a judge for DCI and DCMW, including leadership roles for many years, and has evaluated Marching Band contests in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky, along with international competitions in Japan and Canada. Rich's most recent involvement includes being an instructor with the Racine Kilties All Age Corps, and a snare performer with the Knights Alumni Drum Line, plus playing in his church band. He continues to teach private lessons, and continues to consult for many high school groups.

Mr. Gordon Warren
Judging Snare Drum & Percussion Ensembles

Mr. Gordon Warren is a retired music educator and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education from Illinois State University and an Master of Arts degree in Music Education from Vandercook College of Music in Chicago. He began his teaching career at Rock Falls High School in January of 1971 as the Assistant Band Director and Percussion Instructor under Mr. Richard C. Davis, and was also the Choral Director.

Mr. Warren thrived as the Assistant Marching Band Director. Mr. Davis imbued the Marching Rockets with the Blue Stars drum corps style, and Mr. Warren appreciated, respected and expected this in his teaching of the Marching Rockets. Furthermore, his drum lines featured more personnel and instrumentation than most marching bands, and they were the envy of many competitors. Two members of his percussion section marched in DCI finals: Tim Como (1974, Racine Kilties - 6th), and Ramiro Martinez (1975, Phantom Regiment - 10th). Ramiro Martinez succeeded Mr. Warren as Percussion Instructor at Rock Falls High School. The Davis and Warren era is considered by many the "Platinum Years" of The Rock Falls Marching Rockets: 1974 - Illini Marching Band Festival Governors' Trophy Champions; 1976 - Marching Bands of America Grand National Finalist. Mr. Warren also taught Music Theory, Music Appreciation, and directed the Jazz Ensemble at Rock Falls High School.

Mr. Warren later taught at Newton High School (Newton, Iowa); Jackson High School (Massillon, Ohio); and Bloomington High School (Bloomington, Illinois). He worked with many competitive high school drum lines and marching bands in Illinois and Iowa during his career: Rock Falls (Illinois); Dakota Marching Indians (Dakota, Illinois); Irving Crown Imperials (Dundee, Illinois); Newton (Iowa); Oskaloosa (Iowa), making them the dominant drum line in the state of Iowa; Brown County (Iowa); Webster City (Iowa), and Bloomington (Illinois).

Mr. Warren also was an adjunct faculty member for two colleges. He taught percussion lessons at William Penn College (now University) in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and percussion lessons and the percussion ensemble at Mt. Union College (now University of Mt. Union) in Alliance, Ohio.

Mr. Warren’s son, Mark, would grow up to march in the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps snare drum line for two years. Mr. Warren currently resides in Bloomington, Illinois.