As I’m writing this column, the indoor winter percussion season is just wrapping up—and, wow, what a great season it has been for schools across the country and the activity in general. One thing that becomes more and more apparent every season is that your non-drumming performance qualities are often just as important as your drumming qualities. In other words, how you move, act, connect with the crowd and portray a character is immensely important and only growing.
Raising the Bar
When I first became involved in indoor winter percussion, every ensemble wore their marching band uniforms and marched with “normal” size steps around an arena with no specialized floor or props. It was still an exhilarating activity but nothing like the elaborate productions that are put on today. Music is entertainment, and people want to be entertained when they watch today’s percussion groups. Drum lines are playing roles in everything from movies to Super Bowl halftime shows—which is amazing but is also raising the bar on what “entertainment” means for marching percussion ensembles.
As a performer in a marching band, drum corps or especially winter percussion ensemble, you need to understand the large role of your overall presentation as it will help you and your group be successful. The great news is that you can log on to YouTube as well as the WGI or DCI Fan Network to see what others are doing. But like with everything else, it takes practice to become a good performer. And performing is much more beyond just your technical drumming skills.
The performers that are most successful are the ones that take some risks. Don’t be afraid to get your head up and make eye contact with your audience. Also be open to ideas from your instructional staff—however uncomfortable they may be at first. Using your entire body to convey the music you play is not easy for most performers. The more you trust your instructors, practice movement as seriously as music, and experiment with your own ways to connect with an audience, the more you will set an example for your ensemble. And ultimately, the more entertaining your show will be.
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.