Our Story

In 2021, Sky Ryders Alumnus Jay Smith (1981, 1983 Baritone), now living in Montana, spent a considerable amount of time on the road, recruiting and conducting public relations for his business. This would bring him to the Hutchinson area regularly. Like many Sky Ryders alumni, Jay hoped to see the Sky Ryders perform again.

The realities of starting, or restarting a competitive drum and bugle corps in 2023 is complicated and expensive. Corps that are already in existence have extensive fundraising networks, and are still forced to charge exorbitant dues to the members, with the top corps charging in excess of $5,000 per year. Instructional costs, design costs, equipment-prop-uniform costs, travel costs, and the general expense of managing a performing arts organization have sky-rocketed approximately 1000% in 40 years. It would take special circumstances, and resources to restart the corps in Kansas—or anywhere else for that matter.

Additionally, the extreme costs, combined with ethical issues in the drum corps activity, and changes in the marching arts activity on the whole have created a very different activity in the 30 years since the Sky Ryders folded in Dallas, Texas. There are former administrators, instructors and marching members who believe that the activity has run its course, practically. With fewer corps and higher expenses; high school marching bands that are just as creative—and expensive—many are questioning how much longer the activity can remain viable.

When Sky Ryders alumni gather, we talk about people, relationships, the performances, the shared joy and the heartbreak. We talk about what the Sky Ryders, and drum corps in general, did for us. We are now doctors, lawyers, accountants, university professors, business owners, band directors, elementary school teachers, FedEx drivers, and arts designers. We realize the challenges of restarting a corps, but we also realize the lifelong benefits. That’s why we do this. We believe we have identified the best way to make this restart happen: in a partnership with an educational institution where the corps can thrive in its hometown.

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Our Mission

Sky Ryders Performing Arts Foundation (SRPAF) is a 509(a)(2) non-profit arts education and youth development organization, that exists to provide opportunities and resources for performing arts organizations in Kansas, specifically, the Sky Ryders Drum & Bugle Corps. The SRPAF was founded in 2022 with the express purpose of raising funds for the restart of the Sky Ryders Drum & Bugle Corps, and affiliated organizations—color guard, percussion, and brass ensembles in Hutchinson, Kansas. Past that purpose, the SRPAF is willing to benefit other organizations, as they meet the criterion of an educationally-oriented, performing arts organization for youth.

1) SRPAF solicits donations specifically for distribution to, and for the benefit of, performing arts organizations that benefit youth development in the state of Kansas. SRPAF focuses its philanthropy on the marching arts.**

2) SRPAF provides consultation services to those groups who benefit from its philanthropy. These services focus on, but are not limited to:

(a) Consultation on organizational structure
(b) Instructional staffing
(c) Equipment purchasing
(d) Relationships with competition and assessment organizations
(e) Fundraising with other donors
(f) Image and marketing

** SRPAF does not accept unsolicited grant requests

Help Us Reach Our Goals

Are you ready to take the next step and help support our mission? We make it easy to give, both online and by postal mail. Set up a single or recurring donation. Consult your tax advisor about tax deductible status.

Founding Board Members

Dr. Jay Smith, President
Mr. Dale Antoine, Vice President
Mr. Craig Coldren, Secretary
Mr. Matthew Randolph, Treasurer
Mr. Russ Chandler
Mrs. Lori Hall
Mrs. Mary Searcy-Price
Mr. Steve Vickers

Advisory Board

Darren Davis – Sky Ryders / Madison Scouts / Broken Arrow High School, Director of Bands
Jeff DeMello – Blue Devils / Sponsors of Musical Enrichment, CFO
Rich Garcia – Sky Ryders / Blue Devils / eBay, Yahoo, Intuit, AOL, Bill, Software Entrepreneur
Christopher Knighten – Sky Ryders / University of Arkansas, Director of Bands
Barry Morgan – Spirit of Atlanta / Bands of America / State Court of Cobb County, Solicitor General
J.D. Shaw – Sky Ryders / Phantom Regiment / University of South Carolina, Associate Professor of Horn


Eric Sheffler – Sky Ryders / West Point Hellcats, Percussion Specialist
Kevin Wickliffe – Sky Ryders / University of Kansas, Legal Services for Students

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