Growing the Marching Arts From Afar and From Within
Aaron Spevak was born and raised in Chicago, IL and currently resides in Lithuania. Aaron started his European adventure immediately after he aged out of drum corps as a Blue Devil in 2011. His journey began in Austria when he was invited to attend a university there. Soon after, he moved to Belgium to continue his study of marimba for two more years. It was at that time a System Blue Educational Event was being held in Eastern Europe featuring the Blue Devils Drumline. While Aaron did not attend the event in Lithuania, he connected with some of the System Blue students nearly six years later. They continue to talk about that event to this day.Aaron remarks, “That System Blue event made a big impact and remains a big influencer to this day here in Europe.”
A few years later, a fellow alumni invited Aaron to come teach at an educational event in Lithuania. Aaron fell in love with the area, the culture, the cost of living, the opportunity, and most of all the untapped talent. Two weeks out from exams back at his university in Belgium, Aaron decided to forgo graduation and moved to Lithuania instead. With no plan and only an intense passion for teaching and growing the marching arts, Aaron has completed his seventh year of educating in Europe.
“I enjoy every single day, and every day is different,” says Spevak. It’s a huge adventure and things are growing in a great direction.”
Currently, Aaron has his own percussion studio where he teaches the groundwork and the basics of drumming. This studio resides within the American International School of Vilnius and they are extremely supportive of his ideas involving the development of the fine arts. The mutual System Blue Educational experience, internal connections, and the organic growth of programs in Vilnius, Lithuania has resulted in four European students performing in four different world class drum corps in the United States.
“Many of the students who attended that System Blue Event over six years ago are currently my students and still talk about it to this day. We put a lot of emphasis on sending students to the world class corps to audition, as we know, whether they make it or not, that the experience will help them grow by leaps and bounds.”
The Blue Devils have been a family affair for the Spevaks, as Aaron’s younger sister, Marisa also aged out of the drum corps.
“One of the best experiences of my marching career was watching her perform and seeing her win just about every award one can,” says Aaron.
You could say Aaron has had a super healthy career in drum corps. He started in the Colts, then marched with the Cavaliers, moved on to Carolina Crown, and aged out with the Blue Devils. And if that was not enough, he also marched seven seasons of indoor percussion. His sister, following his path also completed one season with the Colts, two seasons with Phantom Regiment, and three seasons with the Blue Devils – aging-out as center marimba of the front ensemble.
“A common question many of us have when aging out of drum corps and indoor is ‘what is next’?” remarks Spevak. “After completing over 180 drum corps shows, I was faced with the question of ‘how can I share this experience?’”
“I received my BDPA emails and became aware of their Special Needs Guard, as well as saw the Free Players at DCI finals. I was touched by the experience that was being created for these performers as well inspired by the organizers of these groups.”
Spevak never envisioned himself organizing a special needs group himself until the day he heard the song This Is Me from The Greatest Showman. The lyrics inspired him as they spoke about marching to the beat of your own drum. His current drumline, Iron Wolf Drum Line, had been searching for the next experience. They wanted to be able to attract more attention in order to the organization. Aaron wondered what could be next for his group. In an effort to add another dimension of creative energy, he soon incorporated the basketball team’s professional dance squad. This enabled him to bring additional excitement to both the performers and the crowds as they built the program.
Recently, Aaron received a call from LKL, which is the equivalent of the NBA in Lithuania. They offered a contract to Iron Wolf Drum Line to perform a half-time show at an all star game. Over 10,000 people would be in attendance and a half million would watch online. Given the magnitude of the opportunity to create a remarkable halftime show, Aaron decided to include special needs performers on this incredible stage. He reached out to local programs and quickly recruited special needs drummers and dancers. Spevak had much support and was able to include state-of-the-art sound and lighting to the performance.
In addition to the overwhelming support from many different partners, Aaron also received some remarkable help from another fellow Blue Devil alumni, Preston Howard. Preston traveled to Lithuania and donated ten days of his time to this incredible cause. He staged the entire performance via 3D animations. This was Preston’s second self-funded trip to the Baltic State of Lithuania.
“He contributes his time and resources with a kind, professional, and highly motivated heart – a common trait of a Blue Devil,” according to Aaron.
Sixteen special needs performers paired up with the drummers and the dancers to pull off an incredible show that wowed the audience. The performance had such a profound impact on all the performers. They are ready to hit the stage again and again. Aaron Spevak and his drumline are awaiting the next opportunity to bring these performers together once more.
“I promised all of them that I would take time out of my schedule to find us another opportunity,” says Aaron.
All of Aaron’s passion and energy are helping to create more awareness and support for the marching arts. His program has inspired a yearly drumline battle which brings groups from all over Europe to compete. Included in the competing drum lines is a group from Central Europe. This program is headed by educator, Samuel Kmotorka, who also attended the System Blue Educational Event over six years ago. Two years into the drumline battle, Samuel’s group, spawned from Slovakia, has won the Gold Medal in Lithuania against some healthy competition.
Aaron is building something special and unique in Europe. He is using his skills and education from drum corps and the Blue Devils to make an impact. Every year there is growth and more performers who aspire to march in a World Class Drum Corps or in an indoor drumline. Special needs musicians and dancers are anxious to perform again. His journey started out as a performer and a Blue Devil age out and now he influences so many aspiring performers all over Europe.
We are proud of the work Aaron is doing and are excited to see what the future holds. We too are inspired by Aaron’s drive and passion and love to see the remarkable work of our Blue Devil age outs.