Monday, March 07, 2016

Give the drummers some

You don't really want another post about the Donald, anyway. So let's talk high school winter drumline.

It's not universal by any means, but there are a number of high schools in the area that compete in winter drumline. As it happens, Irondale High School, the school of both the Benster and Fearless Maria, is one of those schools. Fearless Maria plays marimba for the Irondale drumline, which is in the middle of an outstanding season. So what does a drumline performance look like? Here's an example of an Irondale performance from back in 2009:


It's an odd mix of motion and music; not surprisingly, the schools that compete successfully in drumline tend to have strong music programs and often compete in marching band competitions as well. Irondale has been competing in drumline for nearly 30 years now and is usually one of the better teams in the state. They compete in the Minnesota Percussion Association, a circuit that goes beyond Minnesota and includes schools from South Dakota and western Wisconsin.

Every year, the schools that compete have to come up with a show theme and a new musical theme, which can be a pastiche of existing music, or original composition. At Irondale, they've done both over the years. Last year's show featured some music of recent vintage. This year, more of the music is original. Students who compete in drumline often stay with the music and join independent drumlines such as River City Rhythm or Minnesota Brass. As with most things, the longer you are into it, the more elaborate the shows become. RCR's show from last year had a silent movie theme and was tremendously entertaining:


The practice time involved in drumline is substantial. Maria's drumline practices at least twice a week and usually most of the day on a performance day. It's hardly unusual for Maria to spend north of 20 hours a week at it. We've been able to visit exotic ports of call such as Foley, Elk River and South Saint Paul this year, and we'll also be going to the state championships at St. Cloud State University later in the year, where Irondale has a good chance to win. We are also thinking of going to the national championships in Ohio, which take place in April.

Participating in high school activities is much more of an all-in proposition than it was when I was a student; ask a hockey parent about the level of commitment in time and treasure required to have a child play. I'm not particularly comfortable about it, because at times it seems more like work than fun, especially when you are leaving the high school in the shadow of 10 p.m. What I try to remember is that the experiences will pay off down the line, because you can't help but learn life skills that carry over into other areas -- teamwork, dedication to a goal, the value of continuous application, persistence, and most importantly answering the bell when you'd rather not. It's been a great experience for our family.

14 comments:

Brian said...

I actually referenced my experience as being a drum major in high school in my last job interview (to be clear, I had done a *few* things in the intervening 17 years that we also spent some time on), as an example of a time I had to be a leader among peers.

Mr. D said...

As well you should have. Being the drum major is a big deal, especially at schools with competitive marching band programs. It's a significant accomplishment at a young age.

R.A. Crankbait said...

It was an interesting and illuminating competition Saturday night, even if we couldn't work up much fervor against the "hated Dassel-Cokato" squad.

Gino said...

(sorry Brian, but for us, drum majors were for mocking.)

back in my day, some of the most outrageous parties were band parties. glad i did it. still have a some friends from that time (Ramsonvacation from FF is one)

Brian said...

I went to an arts-focused school. We were kings among men.

Mr. D said...

It was an interesting and illuminating competition Saturday night, even if we couldn't work up much fervor against the "hated Dassel-Cokato" squad.

We were so pleased that you could join us. Yeah, it's tough to get your hate on for Dassel-Cokato. Had those weasels from Burnsville showed up, it might have gotten ugly. ;)

R.A. Crankbait said...

We would have held up newspapers in front of our faces and pretended to read them as Burnsville performed!

Bike Bubba said...

At my high school, the drum majors could generally beat up the football players. This includes the wonderful drum major named "Laura." To be fair to her, this says more about our football team than about the band. The speech team generally would have given the gridiron kids a run for their money, too.

(ever do BOA contests, Brian? I remember a school from Rocky Mount being really good back a few years before you were in high school....pretty sure my school, Chesterton, wasn't very good by the time you were DM)

Gino said...

I went to an arts-focused school. We were kings among men.

hard to compete with that....

Brian said...

@Bubba--As I recall (it's been a while; I graduated in '96) the competitions we went to were all local/regional, which in our case meant within an hour's drive of Atlanta. I don't *think* any of them were BOA. (My mom probably remembers those details better than I do.)

We were actually pretty good (I think we placed a couple of times), but small (roughly 80 people on the field) compared to a lot of high schools in Georgia (mostly in the northside 'burbs) that could routinely field 200-300.

Bike Bubba said...

You might have gone to regionals--those were at the Georgia Dome in your years. (http://www.musicforall.org/resources/fall-results/1996) Nationals were at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis--I bet you'd remember that trip.

And I don't know about the Georgia Dome, but I can affirm that the acoustics of the Hoosier Dome were enough to drive any drum major crazy. You'd still have nightmares--I was just marching with a clarinet and I can still remember the echoes as we tried to key off the drum line.

And those huge bands--mine was about 180, but a couple of bands from Indianapolis would field 300 or more. We always felt they got away with a lot that we never could. Probably was good for us that way. :^)

Mr. D said...

Our kids go to the BOA Super Regional in St. Louis every year. They've made the finals multiple times, although it's a tough one to win, because there's a giant high school band from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, that dominates every year. Our numbers were down a bit this year, but we expect an upswing in the next few years because the incoming classes are larger than the classes that are graduating.

R.A. Crankbait said...

Do they include a video of the Irondale Drum Line performing as part of the freshman orientation? If not, they should. Perhaps even include snippets of other schools from the competitions, let the kids know how athletic and dramatic the performances can be.

Mr. D said...

Do they include a video of the Irondale Drum Line performing as part of the freshman orientation? If not, they should.

I'm not sure if they do, but I agree. We give the kids from the middle schools that feed Irondale free tickets to our shows and that makes a difference. Maria's middle school band teacher is an outstanding individual.