(Photo courtesy of Catherine Lee)
Chino Hills High School

‘Pit always plays together’ — My experience in musical ensemble

“Pit always plays together”

I remember how Ian, the instructor for Chino Hills High School ensemble would tell our pit family every time we practiced on the field. His confident voice sounded pleased at first of telling this life advice, then it was with seriousness as a rule that demanded unquestionably compliance, and finally grieve exasperation as what we’ve accomplished was the most awful sound of chalk on a blackboard.

But the front ensemble was a phenomenal group of friends and musicians. They’re a two times WGI World Percussion Championship record breaker, with their 2018 spring show of “Seek and You Shall Find” and 2017 spring show of “Through the Aging Eyes.” I was instantly mesmerized upon first spectating their performance during several rallies.

Our practices this year began early in the sweltering heat of summer, several hours a day standing bare shoulder on the track field, with some bending their backs and others listening attentively to the steady beats of metronome echoing across the field.

“Last time. After this you guys are getting water!” Instructor John yelled at us from the

By this time I would always shake off from standing erect by my synthesizer, with burning knees and an ear surreptitiously listening to grunts from behind.

My opinion on the ease of playing piano and the mindset of simply having fun was immediately altered by the sorrow of these rehearsals. The instructors were down to business. We were down too. With Monday and Thursday practices ranging from five hours, to Saturday practices and weekends tournaments, the front ensemble held a zero tolerance policy for absences, and one lap was demanding enough for tardiness.

Those four hours of standing statue-like behind our instruments, those sunburns which have long left their rampageous marks on our shoulders, and those echoing sounds of metronome have long automated our natural movements and generated what was called by Ian as “Music” has grabbed the attention of almost every listener like a magnet. We listen to it, we sing it, we practice it, we memorize it, we make it the special one part of joy that sparks all parts of our life.

Section pride and solid achievements have made us content that we’re now the national champ, but the actual fulfillment is the understanding that music is a soul-penetrating entity that is able to carry genuine emotions and touch all people varying in ages and professions. This is what good musicians can do, and we have been coming closer and closer to it as a remarkable ensemble by every step we stride and every moan we heard.

Drum line is more than what the eternal adage “No pain, no gain” can teach us — it is the experience of true camaraderie and ravishment. Through great pain but yes, ravishment.

I still play with my pit.