Creating a championship ensemble: Rhythm X Winds CEO reflects on 2015 season


In 2014, Rhythm X Winds was just an idea on a piece of scratch paper. But thanks to the guidance of Rhythm X CEO Mike Scott, the ensemble not only materialized, but took gold at the 2015 WGI Championships.

Mike walked us through the process of getting a new ensemble off the ground and what lies in store for Rhythm X Winds in 2016 and beyond.

Congrats on your incredible success your first year out of the gate. What did the win at WGI Championships mean for your students/members?

Thank you so much. Our goal for this first year of Winds wasn’t to win. In fact, I would say that the competitive nature of the activity came second to our search for what Rhythm X is in this new arena. We set out to explore this new idiom and bring the voice of Rhythm X to WGI Winds. Of course, a part of that voice is taking a program and pursuing perfection. Winning a world championship is a huge bonus and an incredibly reassuring side-effect of what we set out to do.

To our cast members, I think this win was a perfectly appropriate reward for their sacrifices. Every student on that retreat floor on Sunday afternoon, regardless of class or division, took a bet and committed to an activity before it even existed. At Rhythm X specifically, we had a performer move from Thailand, some drive from Chicago, others Nashville; we even had a performer (with a full time job) drive every weekend from New Jersey!

The cast’s nearly blind commitment to Rhythm X, Inc. and to each other was humbling and inspiring at the same time. It seems to me that their emotional and physical commitment to being the best, and finding themselves and “Rhythm X” in this activity led them to their championship.

(Photo credit: Rhythm X Winds)

How do you balance the competitive nature of the activity and the education of the students?

Nearly every cast member in Percussion is usually college aged and performs at a professional level. We’re fortunate in that regard. This year in Winds the average age was lower and many of our students had little to no experience in the competitive marching activities. As a result, we spent much more time with Winds on fundamental skills. Still, I don’t think that this changed our approach much.

For the past fourteen years in the WGI Percussion arena we have spent very little time discussing “competition.” Our goal is to create a show that the cast can connect with and perform to it’s fullest. The experience in the Rhythm X performance ensembles is about people and their connection to each other. It’s about finding a voice through their program. In order to do that, you have to perform it at an extremely high level. Sometimes this leads to competitive success, other times not.

On Sunday night it wasn’t the goal of Winds to win. Their goal was to finish a long an arduous journey and to complete this lofty goal that we had all gambled so much on. Just as Percussion spent Saturday night experiencing the moment that so many closed doors had brought them to, Winds spent Sunday afternoon exploring truly uncharted territory.

What’s next for Rhythm X Winds? What are your goals for next year and what are you hoping to accomplish long term in the WGI Winds activity?

We are in it for the long haul. We started Winds because we believe in the potential of WGI Winds and we want to be at the table. I think that WGI Percussion has had a tremendous impact on the percussion community – both in drum corps, college, and high school band rooms. I believe strongly that WGI Winds will have this same impact in the realm of wind students.

At Rhythm X, Inc. we’re going to continue to explore and to create things that we find beautiful and necessary in the activity. What is really exciting is the opportunity for other ensembles to do the same. There were so many programs in both WGI Winds and WGI Percussion that I loved this year. I’m eager to see what comes out of Winds in the next several years and how the activity will change because of it.

We’re going to spend the next five months recruiting and planning for another incredible season. Winds is here to stay and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!

What do you think about Rhythm X Winds’ story? Let us know in the comments section below.

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