Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Beyond the Kit: Indoor Winter Drumline

Guest Blogger: John Mapes via Eric Nix. Thanks, gentlemen!

Why should music programs include winter drumline?

We wouldn't ask football players to train for four months playing soccer to then introduce them to the game of football for the remainder of the year... Would you expect your color guard program to be very good every year if they took eight months off in-between marching seasons? The indoor percussion activity was started on this philosophy with these principles in mind.

To run a successful, effective marching percussion program, you need/desire at least 20-30 percussionists in the fall. What do those 20-30 students do from December through June? You only need so many percussionist for wind ensemble, and percussion ensemble is great, but it is still hard to build the excitement that marching percussion inherently has to the masses. 

The two seasons fall hand in hand for the percussion side of things. It is very difficult to have a great fall marching percussion program without some sort of year round training. For wind players, the skill sets from the field to the chair are very similar and work together to give those students what they need  year round. For marching percussion it simply is different. Obviously there still needs to be some wind ensemble percussion training and experience happening in the class room, but what about after school?

Ignore the hard-hat-wearing construction shows and the "Zombies from outer-space" shows you may have seen. There are some incredible displays of musicianship that are possible in this activity, and it is our job as educators to make sure that is the goal. It is our responsibility to produce an experience that is founded in legitimate musical concepts to demonstrate to the rest of the community that this activity is valid. 

Every time I do a percussion circuit clinic someone always asks how they can promote growth in their circuit. The answer is simple - put out better products that entice other groups and band directors to want to participate! Maybe the electronic techno remix show with the volume level of "as loud as possible" or the artsy show where the deep meaning is so deep that even you don't know what the show is about aren't the best choices to promote local growth. (Was the the tribute to Britney Spears really the right choice?)

The argument I often hear is, "What about preparing students for college?" For myself, I never played much concert percussion in high school, but simply took what I learned from the marching activity and applied it when I went through the college percussion process. The importance of consistency, tempo control, simultaneous responsibility, team work, time management and - of course - the love for drumming are enough to prepare our students to achieve whatever they want. 

Most of my students will not continue in music for many reasons and I have no problem with that. Real life is scary and music is not the easiest path to pursue. I just want my students to get the best opportunity and experience they can have while they are involved in music.


  1. I agree but think that too many percussionists these days (at least in Utah) are so focused so hard on Marching that they let the other stuff (Orchestra and Wind rep) fall to the wayside. When, in fact, this should be the easy stuff. Also I agree with using the skills learned in Marching Percussion as applied to Concert Percussion for College or beyond, but too many students aren't necessarily capable of making the distinctions on their own. As educators I think we should show them the path from Rudiments to the concert hall and help that transition be a little smoother. Thanks. Great Article.

    1. I'm hesitant to chime in, but I tend to agree. When you get past high school or college, or you age out of DCI eligibility, what do you do with all those chops other than move into the concert and/or drum set (and other) venues? You're certainly not going to play much or be a good teacher without being well rounded and balanced in your approaches.

      There IS a strong, healthy, big place at the percussion table for the hardcore rudimentalist, so long as he/she is also a total percussionist, and - first and foremost - a musician.


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