A lot of you can relate back to this situation: You’re a high-performing 8th grade percussionist. You get the coolest parts in the concert band pieces. You perform solos and are a part of multiple concert percussion ensembles. Then you become a freshman in your marching band or winter percussion ensemble and find yourself relegated to the back of the “pit,” spending your time playing concert bass drum, effect cymbals and electronics while wondering why you are not part of the snare line or on marimba. Marching percussion is so different from other music sections in that you often have to spend years working your way toward playing a particular instrument. But all is not lost!
Put the Ensemble First.
It’s great to have goals, but it is even more important to master the parts you are given and prove that you are willing to put the ensemble needs first and your own playing desires second. This is the time where you learn how marching percussion ensembles work, what it takes to succeed and how to practice. Make sure your instructors know your goals, but then show them you’re patient, willing to work hard and firmly dedicated to the group.
Master the Skills.
There are a host of new challenging skills young percussion members need to master—not just how to listen back or how to perform in front of hundreds of people but also how to budget your time around a vigorous rehearsal schedule.
Embrace Your Role.
Everyone plays a critical role in the percussion section. The entire band depends on that electronic sample being played at the exact right time, and those chime notes are immensely important to the ensemble sound. This is your chance to be a soloist on a massive stage.
It’s important for all older members of an ensemble to help the younger members understand how they can progress and help them not get down and consider quitting. Underclassmen are the future of your program!
The sooner everyone understands their roles, how they fit into the big picture and how to successfully navigate through the ensemble over four years, the more everyone can focus on maximizing their performance potential.
About the Author
Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. During the past 15 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.