'Together as one' in the FREE Players Drum Corps.
The Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc – also known as FREE – Players Drum & Bugle Corps., based out of Bethpage, Long Island, is the first differently-abled drum corps in the world.
“We’re a group that has disabilities, and we’re really perfect because we all come together as one. We all got together and wanted to join it,” said James Hausmann, one of the members of the FREE Players.
The group, who performed at the 84th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Huntington, was so excited to have the opportunity to perform. Their participation in the parade was not the only thing members have to look forward to. In August, they will be performing in Indianapolis at Drum Corps. International (DCI). “This year, we got chosen to go to Indianapolis to go to DCI World Championship. It took hard work,” Hausmann said.
Carl Mascioli, another FREE Players member, said he joined the organization because he was inspired by the wonderful music. “When I first found them, I wanted to join them so badly because I’d seen how great they can do,” Mascioli said. “It really inspired me.”
His mother Jeanne D’Esposito couldn’t have been more proud of her son, who was able to find a community of like-minded individuals while pursuing his passion for music.
“I’m amazed at the difference in him,” D’Esposito said. “I was very worried when he graduated school as to where he was going to find his place. Since he found the FREE Players he’s found this family that is so important to him.”
Brian Calhoun, the Corps director, was inspired to form the organization through his own experience with his brother.
“My younger brother has autism, so I grew up in the field my entire life. I have been volunteering at special education schools and the Special Olympics since I was eight years old,” Calhoun said.
Shaun McLeoud, the section leader of the tenor drums, believes teamwork is what got the drum corps to where they are today. “Team work makes a dream work. We all work together, and we keep on going, we never give up,” McLeoud said.
Carly Schoenfeld, another member, started out in the color guard, but later moved to the snare drum – an instrument that not many women play. “I was in the color guard before, I was on the flag,” she said. “This is my first time being a snare and I have more challenges to do and more tricks I can do with snare. It’s really fun and I really love it.”
Despite all of the hard work and practicing, Hausmann knows it’s all worth it in the end. He is motivated by something beyond music. “It’s really hard to practice. We’ve got to take our time, move our lips and spit, he said. “Like I always say, never give up.”
Calhoun believes anything is possible. “I say, show them what the possibilities are, they’re going to pick up something,” Calhoun said. “The possibilities are really endless. If you’re willing to work hard enough, you can really achieve almost anything.”