In the world of percussion, a lot of attention has been given to high school and drum corps drum lines because of how competitive they are. The competition aspect is (usually) fun, and with so many videos now posted online, it’s easy for anyone to be a fan.
But what’s often lost in the shuffle is the college drum line. Most of my experience has been teaching at the high school and drum corps level, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to have played in and taught college drum lines. The high school kids I teach have very limited visibility into the world of college percussion, and so I’m often asked, “Should I march in my college band?” To which the answer is a resounding, “YES!”
Band students—drummers or otherwise— tend to hang out together and are used to having a big group of friends who all share a common passion. Well, guess what—it’s no different in college! Except the college band is usually larger, connecting you to even more friends. As a freshman in a new situation, potentially far from home, nothing is more “normal” than to have that band or drum line experience to immediately share.
Different Skills and Goals
The other concern I sometimes hear from high school students is how the college drum line experience will be different than high school. Will it be good? Is it serious? I think for a lot of students, it’s a mystery because there isn’t the same access to college drum lines online. Every school is clearly different, but what makes the college experience so good is the diversity of the students. Everyone is coming from a different school and bringing different skills. There is a lot to learn in a college program that will ultimately make you a better drummer.
Just because the band may not compete does not mean it’s not serious. Plus some bands—namely those in large football conferences— learn different shows for every game! And the drum line is asked to learn several cadences and scores of beats to entertain fans.
Is it different than a competitive high school or drum corps? Absolutely. But potentially in all the right ways … more notes, more fun, less worrying about trophies.
About the Author
Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. During the past 10 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.