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Many of you have heard the name Donnie VanDoren: DCI Hall of Fame member and longtime brass instructor for corps such as the Crossmen, Garfield Cadets, Star of Indiana and more. Over his career, Donnie has influenced a tremendous number of instructors, including Crown’s very own brass caption supervisor, Matt Harloff, and his team. But Donnie influenced a person with a far more personal connection-his son, Evan. Evan was a trumpet player and drum major with Crown from 2004 through 2008. And after five years working with the Madison Scouts, Evan returns home again to the corps he cut his teeth with. 

We caught up with Evan this spring at one of the first camps of the season. We got the chance to talk with him about his return to Crown, what he’s been up to, and his relation with his famous father.

Evan VanDoren with Crown Brass

CC: You marched with Crown from 2004 through 2008, three years in the trumpet section a two years as drum major. What was it that inspired you to come to Crown? 

EVD: Originally, what attracted me to Crown was the teaching faculty and administration. My family, namely my father, already had established relationships with several members of the faculty, most notably Matt Harloff [Crown Brass Caption Supervisor] and Michael Klesch [Crown Arranger and Music Director].  Jim Coates [Crown Executive Director] was literally a neighbor of ours in New Jersey, where we lived for the first decade or so of my life! These are people that my family trusted to create positive experiences for me and the other students with which I was participating.

CC: How did you get started in music?

EVD: I began playing trumpet before I can remember… With my father’s background in the drum corps activity, I had a trumpet in my hand from a very young age.  Through my childhood, I had a well-rounded musical experience including singing, piano study, and trumpet.  Ultimately, on my road to becoming a band director, I focused on trumpet through my collegiate studies.

CC: Tell us a little about what you’re doing now.

EVD: I am currently in my seventh year as an Associate Director of Bands at Cedar Park High School, just north of Austin, Texas.  There, I am part of a team of four band directors who work very closely together on all of our projects.  I could not feel more fortunate to work with such incredible teachers, mentors, and friends!  Our program offers four concert ensembles, a jazz ensemble, a marching band, color guard, as well as various solo and ensemble opportunities, as well as leadership study opportunities.  During my time at Cedar Park, we have enjoyed many successes, including two State Marching Championships, selection as a Texas TMEA Honor Band (State Concert Band Championship), as well as participation in the Bands of America Grand Nationals Finals.  We are fortunate to be in a community and in a school district that values the arts in education!

Van VanDoren and Father Donnie

CC: You’ve talked a lot about your father, drum corps hall of fame member and longtime instructor, Donnie VanDoren. Can you share a little about how he influenced you growing up?

EVD: My father has influenced me (and continues to influence me) in ways that I will probably never fully realize.  He is an incredibly positive and supportive force in my life.  I do not remember any specific drum corps rehearsals or performances when I was younger… but I do recall being around the activity.  I remember seeing the incredible passion that my father had (and still has!) not just for the product, but more so, for the people with which and for which he was working, including the students.  This passion was infectious in me… I remember thinking, “If I could only have half the influence my dad has on these kids, on kids of my own someday, my life will be very worthwhile!”  It is my father’s example that ultimately pointed my career goals towards a profession in teaching, and towards participating in drum corps.

CC: You aged out with Carolina Crown in 2008. Where did you go from there?

EVD: The day after I aged out, I placed a resume in Matt Harloff’s hands and asked for a position on the brass staff!  I am very fortunate that Matt chose to take a chance on me and allow me to contribute to his staff as a mellophone instructor during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  I then spent the 2011-2014 seasons as a brass faculty member at the Madison Scouts, where my father was involved.  It was such a pleasure to work for my father at the Scouts!  Watching him work was a daily master class in managing people!  In the Madison Scouts, I found another wonderful drum corps organization that put the experience of their students first.  In this way, I felt very at home during my time there, and continue to feel very thankful to all the administrators and students who were so welcoming! 

Evan VanDoren Receives Jim Jones award

CC: So after a year away from drum corps, you ultimately chose to come back to Crown. What inspired you to return and how does it feel to in a sense be back home? 

EVD: Ultimately, what brings me back to Crown is the same things that brought me there in the first place - the people!  In attending the January Camp this year, I felt so at home - seeing Kevin and Moe Smith [Crown co-founder Kevin Smith and his wife and Office Manager, Moe], Jim and Nancy Coates, Matt Harloff, Michael Klesch, friends whom I marched with who are now teaching, countless volunteers who were volunteering when I was marching… the list goes on.  It’s the people that make the organization, and Crown has some GREAT ones!  Meeting so many new students - Crown members from the last several years whom I had not met, as well as auditioning students - reaffirmed the culture that is taught and maintained in our organization.  Incredibly respectful, hard-working, and genuinely interested in the well-being of those around them - the student leaders of the drum corps continue to be stewards of our Crown values.

CC: What are you excited about when it comes to the Crown corps this year? 

EVD: Personally, I am excited to have the opportunity to work with some of the best students and educators the country!  For Crown, I think this year will be another exciting year of drum corps, where the members of the Carolina Crown will again redefine what is possible in a drum corps performance!

CC: You’ve already had an eventful career as an educator. What are you most proud of so far?

EVD: I feel very fortunate to have had many proud moments in my thus short career.  Certainly, I am proud of the many successful performances and competitive successes my students have enjoyed in the past seven year!  However, I think what I am most proud of is my student’s successes after I leave the “classroom”.  It brings me great pride to learn of my former student’s successes in their lives, especially in learning of ways their experiences in studying the arts have contributed to their successes.  

Evan VanDoren with Group

CC: You definitely have a lot of friends in and out of the music world. And many of them are Crown alumni. Anything you’d like to say to them? 

EVD: Each of us safeguards many treasured memories from our time as members of the Carolina Crown.  Whether you are a teacher, an artist, a CEO, or a parent, you draw on your experiences as you aspire to perform like champions in your daily life.  These students carrying the torch we lit are just like us - dedicated to themselves, to each other, and to the Carolina Crown organization.  I encourage you to find some way to give back to an organization that gave so much to us!  That can mean many things… it can mean time, money, a ticket, applause at a show, sharing social media… even buying a Gatorade for a member!  Regardless of the means, make giving back in some way a priority… in doing so you afford someone just like you to have the experiences we each cherish so dearly.  You’ll never know the true extent of your influence!

But we can't do it without your support.

Carolina Crown, Inc. is a 501(c)3 approved charity by the Internal Revenue Service. Our mission is "Developing Lifelong Excellence in young people". We achieve this through performance opportunities and a commitment to education in the performing arts with core values of Integrity, Commitment, Respect and Excellence.

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