Beverly’s drumline – and all drumlines – are underappreciated.* Go ahead and ask any non-band member what drumline is. Some might pull out the textbook definition, “a group of percussion instruments in a marching band.” Others might just refer you to a Nick Cannon movie. And then, there are those who simply do not know.
“Some people really appreciate the amount of work that goes into it [drumline] and enjoy us at football games and enjoy us when we go on stage. Other people don’t really think twice about it,” former drum captain Harlan Tat said.
Drumline is the backbone and “pulse” of the marching band, and arguably the best part.
“Drumline is the section of the band that people probably enjoy most, but also disrespect the most because they feel like it requires the least amount of musicianship,” Tat said. “Drummers put in an extraordinary amount of work. They produce amazing sounds. People really enjoy it, and a lot of work goes into it. People just don’t understand that.”
To demolish a false predisposition, no one is simply put on drumline. Membership requires a high level of skill and dedication, not to mention a good first impression during an audition.
And don’t overlook the audition. This year, five exercises were part of the drumline audition. All together, that’s 54 measures of music expected to be constantly rehearsed to perfection and later on memorized. Once on the line, the real practice is only just beginning.
With a minimum of four hours a week of practice, drummers risk the health of their vertebrae and the skin on their palms to produce short arrangements of grooves and beats known as cadences. To a drummer, a callused hand is a job well done.
Last year, each Wednesday at 4 p.m., the drumline gathered outside of the band room with two instructors, Ben Harounian and Jason Karuza, to practice cadences or perfect techniques. Ask any veteran member and they’ll say the same thing: it was torture.
Eights on a Hand, the first exercise to ever be learned, which is literally just eight notes on each hand, was played on repeat for at least 10 minutes. Feet never ceased to move. Not marking time was considered a sin, and putting a drum or cymbal down was an even bigger blasphemy.
During “showtime,” or a football game, drum cadences can be heard during timeouts, kick-offs and in-between downs. The band marches down to the field to the beat of the marching cadence, which is one of 12 cadences that must be memorized.
But, just when drumline seems to be too daunting, we are presented with a gift: drum battles.
These occur as two drumlines from separate schools attempt to out-drum one another with cadences, returning fire until one line is crowned champion. It seems as if the drum battles are the only times in which we garner any sort of crowd.
While viewers from the outside see drumline as “nerdy” or “too hard”, it is a never ending amount of fun for all involved.
“Drumline practices are the best moments of my life. I’m with a bunch of friends that are really hot and we have a lot of good laughs together,” bass captain Brandon Lee said.
With the amount of time, sweat, effort and dedication that is shoved into this extracurricular activity, drumline remains relatively unacknowledged in the sense of popularity. Not everyone knows what drumline is, and not enough people decide to give drumline’s hard work the time of day.
Part of what is incredible about a home football game, or any Beverly event, is that there are so many perspectives from which a spectator can watch the game. There’s cheer, there’s the Norman Nation, there’s the game itself, there are crazy soccer moms and there are even crazier coaches.
And then there’s us.
Take a peek at the drumline at the next football game. Listen for the perfect cadence and watch the smiles on our faces as we do what we love.
*Disclaimer: I am a percussionist in band and a member of drumline.
Veronica Pahomova HS Insider writer