Publisher Profile

Interview with Peter Connell, Director of the Disneyland Band

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Peter Connell is the gentleman in front leading the Disneyland Band.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with Peter Connell, the director of the world famous Disneyland Band. Peter leads a group of the most entertaining musicians around. Anyone who has spent time on Disneyland’s Main Street at the Anaheim, California park gets to be entertained listening to live unamplified music by this wonderful musical group. Peter is a composer who has scored for various ensembles and settings, including the hit video game Fortnite. Peter also writes and designs for a number of high schools, universities, stage productions and theme parks like the Disneyland Resort.

Peter has been a performer in the Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps. He was a cast member in the West End London production of Blast II Shockwave. He was a performer at SeaWorld. He has done all of this while being a dedicated husband as well as a father to three wonderful kids. He credits his success to the love and laughter of a supportive family. He also credits the subtle nudging of his beautiful wife, which has allowed him the freedom to pursue his purpose as an artist.

Peter is also the new corps director for Impulse Drum & Bugle, a non-profit youth organization that both my wife and I have been involved with for over 20 years. I have had the opportunity to see his skills and dedication at work since he became leader of this organization.


Byron: How did your music journey begin?

Peter: My Dad was the band director at an Iowa high school for 35 years and so I started playing piano in kindergarten. I eventually moved to my primary instrument, the trombone, in the 4th grade. I always had a very supportive family around me growing up, which helped my love for music flourish.


Byron: You seem to have performed with just about every type of musical group.

Peter: Yes, as a teenager I performed with the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, which is a World Class competitive junior drum and bugle corps based in Rosemont, Illinois. The Cavaliers were one of the thirteen founding member corps of Drum Corps International and is a seven-time DCI World Champion. I considered this my first time performing professionally. After that I performed for the West End Of London production of Blast II, Shockwave. The West End of London is London’s version of Broadway. Moving on to performing at SeaWorld in San Diego and eventually ending up as a Disneyland performer. I have also performed with a number of orchestras and jazz bands.

Peter obviously loves performing.

Byron: How did you get the job at Disneyland?

Peter: That is a pretty good story. I moved out to California 17 years ago with my wife. I had played at Disneyland with the college band so I had some contacts. I let them know if you need a trombone player to let me know. Right away Disneyland needed some trombone players, so they called me up. I started subbing at Disneyland playing part time maybe once a week for a few years. Eventually I came on board full time.


Byron: So you really did not have a job?

Peter: No, I was just going to do some freelance work. I played in some big bands, did some musicals, shows, and whatever was available.


Byron: Tell me about the Disneyland Band.

Peter: When Walt Disney first opened the park in 1955, he wanted there to be a Main Street band so there has been a Main Street band performing since the park opened. The current version was started about 6 to 7 years ago. The current version of the band is more high energy with movement and choreography while still playing Disney songs and music.


Byron: I have listened to the Disneyland Band perform and I told my wife these performers are not only entertaining; they are also very talented musicians.

Peter: These are some of the most talented musicians around. A number of our musicians also perform with world class symphonies, such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, the Long Beach Symphony, among others. Other members also perform with some of the top big bands around, such as the Gordon Goodwin Big Band. The Disneyland Band not only hires the best musicians, but periodically we all have to audition again to make sure we are maintaining that level of skill. I had to audition again a few years ago.


Byron: I watched the Bernie Dressel Big Band performing at the Los Angeles Audio Show in 2017. Bernie was Gordon Goodwin’s former drummer. You can also run into Bernie at some of the local audiophile events so there is a lot of crossover with the high-end stereo activity.

Peter: I would like to listen to a high-end stereo system, maybe someday you can play your stereo for me.


Byron: You also write and arrange music for a number of ensembles?

Peter: Yes, I have written and arranged for the Disneyland Resort, Epic Games: Fortnite, Westone Music Group, Sea World in San Diego as well as a number of high schools all over the country.


Byron: What type of musicians do you look for to perform in the Disneyland Band?

Peter: The vision of the current version of the Disneyland Band is to be a home base for everybody. There is a certain camaraderie among musicians. We wanted everyone to care about each other and like being around each other. Being a part of this family will show when you perform as a group, which gives a little of the Disney magic that is so enjoyable to everyone young and old.


Byron: Your wife Sarah is also a very talented musician?

Peter: Yes. That is how we met. She played cello at the University of Iowa and after practice we would attend a church ensemble together. I was her ride. She is currently a high school music director.

Peter and the Disneyland Band entertaining the crowd on Main Street with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Byron: What are your current projects?

Peter: I am trying to rebuild a youth musical group called Impulse Drum & Bugle Corps. This competitive music ensemble was formed in 1998 and competed every year becoming the Drum Corps International Division III World Champions and winning the Spirit of Disney award in 2006. Unfortunately the pandemic shut this activity down in 2020 and there were only limited performances in 2021. 2022 will be the first year these music ensembles will be back in competition. I have recently put together a staff for this group that will have the same type of camaraderie that exists with the Disneyland Band performers. My goal is to have everyone care about and like each other. Eventually I would like this camaraderie to trickle down to our students, so when they perform, it is obvious, and puts a very entertaining performance on the field.


Byron: Being the director of a drum and bugle corps is a pretty big commitment, isn’t it?

Peter: Yes, I see this as my way of giving back to our community by helping our youth with what I know. My goal is to give our youth a place to feel safe and at home as well as be a part of a great performing arts organization.


Byron: What challenges have you faced?

Peter: Unfortunately with budget cuts, music education is not given a high priority. I would like to help groom a new generation of musicians to maybe one day fill the ranks of the Disneyland Band or symphonies and jazz bands. Participating as a member of Impulse Drum & Bugle Corps can give a taste of performing before a live audience for these young students. The Disneyland Band has also performed for a number of local second grade classes and ten years later a number of these kids would come and tell me they still remember watching us perform.


Byron: How can we help?

Peter: The website for Impulse Drum & Bugle Corps is and it talks about our organization, with a link to donate. Donating helps our organization lower the annual tuition costs for our students.

Peter performing with Mickey Mouse.

Byron: Thank you for your time, Peter, maybe I will get to watch you and the Disneyland Band. I plan to go to Disneyland in the near future, so when can I see the Disneyland Band perform?

Peter: The Disneyland Band performs several times daily on Main Street. You can watch me perform with the Disneyland Band Tuesday through Saturday.



Copy editor: Dan Rubin

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