Jim Casella grew up in Cupertino, CA, just down the street from Santa Clara. He marched in the SCV bass line under the tutelage of Kent Cater from 1989-91. During this time, he was studying orchestral percussion at San Jose State University with San Francisco Symphony percussionist Anthony J. Cirone (a longtime, indirect influencer of several SCV percussion legends like Fred Sanford, Curt Moore, Robert Chavira, Allan Kristensen, among many others). Jim had a keen interest in composition but hadn’t any formal experience until he started arranging music for several local school music programs and writing extended bass cadences for SCV as a member.
After aging out, Vanguard Cadets corps director JW Koester hired Jim to take over their percussion program in 1992. Together with his staff, they quickly built a solid program with SCVC, nearly winning the DCI Division 2 championships in 1993. Jim continued writing for SCVC in 1994 while also joining the staff of the A Corps where he worked as the local front ensemble technician. In 1995 Scott Johnson hired Jim to become the bass tech for Blue Devils where he taught for one season.
When JW Koester was hired to become the new director of the A Corps in 1996, he hired Jim as the percussion caption head and arranger where he remained until 2004 (while handing over the caption head reins to his longtime friend and fellow SCV partner-in-crime Murray Gusseck in 2003). He was hired by The Cavaliers to become their new percussion writer in 2006 where he worked for four years until retiring from drum corps after the 2009 season.
In Jim’s own words: “I’m probably supposed to list how many championships came from my tenure, or which years we won drums. During this time, there were years where we won, and years where we didn’t. There were probably also years where we should have won, but didn’t…and shouldn’t have won, but did. For those keeping score, none of that stuff really matters. The competition aspect of the activity can easily become a measuring stick of creative success which can be a big hindrance in making something original and lasting.”
During his time at SCV, Casella became known as an innovative percussion arranger who emphasized musicality, melodic drum writing, and tightly woven blending of the full ensemble. With Ralph Hardimon’s writing as his primary influence, Jim developed his own unique voice in marching percussion as of the few DCI percussion arrangers in DCI writing the full percussion score for both the battery and front ensemble.
Aside from his time dedicated to drum corps, Jim has remained very active in the music industry, co-founding and operating his publishing company Tapspace with Murray Gusseck. They have been building it since 1998 and have become one of the world’s primary publishers of percussion music. They publish music of hundreds of composers all over the globe.
Jim also produced and programmed the popular software sample library, Virtual Drumline – a cornerstone tool used by many marching band, drum corps, and indoor percussion arrangers. Virtual Drumline is often heard in more mainstream contexts like random TV shows, commercials, and pop music.
Additionally, Jim has maintained a career as a composer writing concert music, and occasionally music for commercials and film. He served on the board of advisors for the Percussive Arts Society and is a member of ASCAP. Jim’s signature series drumsticks are manufactured by Innovative Percussion, who also make his signature series keyboard mallets – the first-ever signature line marching mallets created, and which remain widely-used all over the world. He an artist endorser of Zildjian cymbals, Remo drumheads, Pearl drums, and Adams percussion.