AMAS Faculty Spotlight: Q&A with John Mapes - Designer & Instructor Faculty


What are you most excited about this year at the symposium?

The overall experience of everything. It’s such a great event. It’s seeing all the people and hearing all the collaborations. The atmosphere - the whole thing. Specifically, I’m excited to hear what Murray Gusseck has to say. He’s a big influence on a lot of things that I do, so that's gonna' be pretty cool. I’m also excited to bring the Chino Hills Drumline over. I mentioned to my students Murray Gusseck’s gonna’ be there and they were gonna’ be able to go. They were really excited about that because we’re playing Basic Strokes. We were already planning on playing the exercise since that’s our new thing, but now they’re like, “We’re gonna’ have to play it for sure now.”

What projects are you working on right now?

Finishing up marching band writing. That’s the biggest thing. Trying to get all that done so my wife and I can enjoy our summer. This is also the time period where I can think about indoor show ideas without being too specific. Ideas to throw around and some research. We're also going to New York City and gonna’ see a ton of plays, music, and dance. It’s one of the best places in the world, so we're excited about that. 

Band or Artist the has caught your attention this year?

Son Lux. I really love them. Just love them. My wife and I saw them again in San Diego a couple of weeks ago, and it’s just life changing.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee every morning. Drinking it right now.

Any session highlights you can give us before the symposium?

I think what’s gonna’ be cool about it is the fact that it’s gonna’ be so early with the drumline. We just had our first real rehearsal this week for the marching band season. So we’re going to debut our whole training program to the public, and there’s something about that vulnerability where some things will probably be good, and other things probably not that good. That’s just part of the process. That’s what Tony Nunez really likes. He almost kind of wants it to be rough. He wants everyone to be able to see the process, but I don’t want it to be that rough (laughs). I’m just gonna’ dive into the reason why we do everything we do. For every exercise there’s a story behind it, and a lot of our process has evolved over the time I’ve been there. I think for the people attending, seeing our process from the inside will be a new experience, instead of just hyping only the drumming. It’s not just about the drumming. It’s about the training. 

Wake Up Time

Lately with the new cats we have it’s been a 5 - 6 AM thing because they won’t stay quiet (laughs). But normally I’m up by 8 AM.

First Thing You Do In the Morning?

Get my coffee and hit the e-mails. 


Not off the top of my head. But the motivation is if we get our work done early for that particular season, then for the rest of that season we just chill until it’s time to plan the next set of projects.

E-mail Strategy

I just try to answer them and not let them pile up. It’s nothing exciting.

Best Habit

I like to finish things. I like to be on time. I like to finish my projects on time at all costs.

Productivity Philosophy

Lately we’ve been hiring people to help so we’re not getting caught up with the things we don’t have to be doing with Box Six. Like the tiny little details. I don’t really have a philosophy. I just get stuff done and we’re always on top of it. That’s it.


John Mapes

John Mapes is a full-time percussion educator and visual designer based out of Southern California. He received his Bachelor of Arts in percussion from California State University, Long Beach, in the spring of 2000. His marching experience includes Velvet Knights and Pacific Crest Drum Corps organizations. He currently has 15 years of drum corps teaching/design experience and an unprecedented 36 WGI medals since 2005.

He started with Pulse Percussion behind the scenes in 2008 as an arranger, and within 3 short years helped take the ensemble to it's first PIW Gold Medal in 2010 as the program coordinator, battery arranger and visual designer. Since then the ensemble has medaled 6 more times and obtained their 2nd championship title in 2014 and 3rd title in 2016! He was also heavily involved in starting the 2nd ensemble under the Pulse Inc umbrella, POW Percussion, which medaled it's first year out in 2011 PIO and has been a PIW finalist 6 times since. John joined the Design team as the battery arranger for the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps and worked there from 2013-2016. He worked with the Blue Devil B Corps as the percussion arranger from 2007 to 2012. After two years the corps became the Open class champions from 2009 to 2011 and received the high percussion award from 2009 to 2012 at the DCI championships. He was the Battery Arranger/ Percussion Caption Head for the Esperanza Drum and Bugle Corps from San Diego, CA from 2002-2006, taking the corps to nationals for the first time, winning the Div II title and moving up to Div I in 2004.

From the fall of 2000 to the winter of 2011, John built and taught the Pacifica High School percussion program with 9 consecutive PSO WGI finals appearances and seven consecutive PSO WGI medals from 2005-2011. In the fall of 2005 he started teaching Chino Hills HS, WGI Scholastic World Class finalist's from 2008-2018. Chino Hills is currently a 9 time medalist and won the championship in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017 and2018. He started working at Los Alamitos HS in the fall of 2005 becoming the WGI A Class Bronze medalist in 2007, WGI A class gold medalist in 2009 and a WGI World class finalist in 2010/2011. He worked at Fountain Valley HS from the fall of 2006 until the winter of 2009, winning multiple percussion titles in the indoor and outdoor programs, including a two time WGI finalist in WGI Open class and an Open class medal in 2008.

Along with fellow designer and instructor Ian Grom, John co-founded in August of 2008, which is the exclusive seller of their original indoor percussion and marching band shows.

John is an official Yamaha Artist, a Vic Firth signature artist, a Remo artist and a Zildjian artist. He became a member of the WGI Advisory Board in 2007 and has been a member of the WGI Percussion Steering Committee since 2010.

Learn from John and many more at the Arcadia Symposium.

Q & ATony Nunez2018