At some point in your life, you will receive an invitation to dine at this table.
Winter Drumline (Also known as Indoor Percussion to some) is an active and challenging activity about creating a show and performing it at various events within state separated leagues with either your school or an independent organization. Over the last season, I got the amazing opportunity to be a part of one of these groups. Named Grove Area Percussion, fifty+ students from ISD 279 worked with each other to bring an amazing show to life: To Dine at This Table. Winter Drumline is not a very popular activity, with very few schools running an indoor percussion group, and very few students joining the ones that do exist (Aside from GAP and a few others). I believe that the costs are worth it, for the friendships I made and strengthened and the fun I had made up for the hardships and the long practices that dotted the activity. While it has an audience, it is a small and a niche one, and I wish to grow the group of people that appreciate the sport that is indoor percussion.
One of the first things I heard about winter drumline was that rather than being called drumline, it should be referred to as Dramaline, and that one word explains my entire story: drama. My story begins in October 2016, the month of the interest meeting. The band directors had talked with their classes almost every day about this winter activity where anyone could learn to play drums and perform. I was obviously intrigued, as I love music and always wanted to learn how to play a drum. But I was scared, as I had never done anything with nearly the time commitment winter drumline required. But, eventually I was convinced by a few close friends and family to go to the interest meeting.
OCTOBER 26th 2016: THE INTEREST MEETING
I was incredibly nervous the day of the interest meeting. I had no idea what to expect, or if I was even up for the time commitment. ‘The time I was using for this could be used for YouTube videos, or other more fun things’ I remember my brain thinking. Still, I went to the meeting. At the meeting it occurred to me that I had no idea what winter drumline was. I hadn’t thought about the performance part, only the part of what friends I would have to talk to, and learning how to play drums. At the interest meeting, the head of the drumline (Named Brownie) played for us GAPs’ show from last year, and I had no idea what I was watching. I didn’t know that the performance part meant strapping drums to your chest and running around on a fancy floor. After seeing it, I was even more unsure. For the next few weeks, I wrestled with myself about if I was up for it, because after all I wasn’t sure if I liked the performance aspect of drumline.
The first drumline practice was spent switching between the two pieces of indoor percussion: pit and battery. Battery involved drums and lots of movement around the floor, and Pit involved marimbas, vibraphones, and auxiliary. Like most people there, I preferred Battery, being attracted to the aspect of drumming. Problem: I didn’t know how to play at all. Brownie started us off slow, having us play eights and double beat, two easy rhythms. Eventually I got the hang of eights, but struggled with double beat. Eventually we were told to mark time by mowing our legs to the beat, and I couldn’t do it. Despite this, I was put on the Tom line (Essentially snares but with the snare turned off), and I was happy. That wouldn’t last long though.
Late in November, I went through a breakup with another member of the drumline, and the person I stood next to in the Tom line. That breakup almost made me quit drumline on its’ own. I didn’t want to go to drumline just to stand next to her. I emailed Brownie saying I couldn’t go, and his response almost drove me to quitting. Just as I thought it couldn’t get much worse, Brownie was considering taking me off of Tom Line. I wouldn’t be able to learn how to play drums, my one unbroken goal of joining drumline. These two factors drove me dangerously close to a mental breakdown, and quitting drumline. But, I didn’t quit. I went to the next meeting, one of the most dramatic practices ever. During warmup, Brownie brought me to a room, and told me he wanted to switch me to Aux. I knew it would happen, I wasn’t great at marking time and I needed time to learn how to properly play the drums. The Rack involved drums, so it was a decent compromise. I reluctantly agreed, but there was still one problem: my ex had switched to Aux the same day. I was now in a section with her. Soon after, my closest friend in drumline switched to Aux after being moved from cymbal line, which really helped me. I had a friend in the section with me. I didn’t hate my ex (And still don’t), but it would have just been too awkward. If my friend hadn’t joined Aux, I would have quit, much like how I quit Mock Trial earlier that year after another friend quit.
After December, the drama died down, and I actually grew excited to perform the show. I grew to appreciate, and even like the performance aspect of it, and while I wasn’t going to be running around on the floor, Pit was still fun.
THE FIRST SHOW
After many long Saturday practices and many weekday practices, To Dine at This Table was ready to be performed. The show was about a person refusing to die, but eventually accepting it. Dining at the table was a symbol for death, and once you dined at the table, you can never return. ‘To Dine at This Table means your walk on Earth is done’.
We were all ready to perform, and when the first festival began, we were all ready. We got second place. After that, the show kept improving, the drumline and pit kept improving, and we all grew closer.
After the first show, we got first a few times, second place a bunch, and made it to finals in the WGI Regional. But it was all building to Prelims, where we got first, and then Finals.
THE FINAL SHOW
After another few months of improvements, the final show came. At the Civic Center in Rochester, MPA Finals took place on April 8th. The hours before the final performance were hectic and scary. The trailer carrying half of GAPs stuff broke down, and didn’t arrive until right before warmups began. During warmup, we played our two warmup songs one final time: Can’t Stop the Feeling, and Emotional.
After that, the time came to perform. After the announcer referred to us as ‘Groove Area Percussion’, we performed a great show, with only a couple issues at the beginning.
We got first place. I had never thought I would ever be a part of such a close knit group that actually wins, but under the direction of great people and through our ambitious goals, we did it.
While winter drumline may not be as well known as any major sport or even marching band, the things I took away from it are things I never want to lose: responsibility, commitment, and a feeling of belonging. I wish every school, district, and college had their own indoor percussion group: it’s a great group of people, the people who enjoy it. And maybe the group will even have a great director. Probably not as good as Brownie, but they might be good.
While sometimes the shows are a bit hard to understand, and some of them are downright stupid, the vast majority of shows are fun to watch, and you can tell how much fun everyone had while putting it all together.
At some point in all of our lives, we will receive an invitation to dine at this table, and when I do, I’ll be glad I spent my high school years with the music program, especially the winter drumline.
I know I wasn’t always in the front of every picture, I was never really one of the loud, outgoing members of the drumline, but I still love the group.
And, finally, this amazing video by a great member of the drumline.