With the turn of a rainstick, the Tyler Junior College indoor drumline started a performance filled with the sounds of drums and marimbas, the dance of young women in kimonos and the shouts of men.
The TJC indoor drumline competed with this show in the Winter Guard International World Championship in Dayton, Ohio, last week.
The team missed the finals by three spots, placing 18th out of 19 teams in Friday's prelims. The top 15 teams qualified for the finals held Saturday.
What is drumline?
First and foremost, “it's not like the movie “Drumline,” McGowan said referring to the 2002 flick that follows a Harlem street drummer as he joins a university marching band drumline.
Unlike marching band, indoor drumline features two main components, the front ensemble and the battery.
The battery is behind this group, and they play a variety of drums and cymbals while completing drills that incorporate a lot of dance movements with their feet and bodies.
In order to prepare for the shows, members run up to five days a week. They start at one and a half miles and build up to four miles. McGowan said the running helps to build their endurance for competition.
Training also is intense with students training from 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays, 2 to 11 p.m. Fridays and 9 to 6 p.m. Sundays during the competition season.
Members spend the Christmas break learning the drill and the music before competition season begins in January.
The indoor drumline participated in six competitions this year becoming state champions in World Class for the second year in a row.
For the majority of the season, they were competing in the Open Class category which is an intermediate class.
However, after a strong showing at regionals in Kentucky — TJC placed first in the Independent Open Class — WGI decided to move the school up into the World Class category.
“The skill level we were doing was advanced and they needed to judge us on those sheets,” McGowan said of the move.
Although it’s a positive because it shows that TJC has a high level show, this also meant stiffer competition at worlds.
The scoring system
McGowan said the judges consider three categories when scoring a performance: a performance analysis, visual caption and general effect caption.
In the performance analysis, judges are looking at how the group executes the show and the demand on the players musically.
In the visual caption category, judges are looking at the performers’ movement, how well they complete the body work and marching drill as well as the pictures they are making with their moves.
Finally, with the general effect caption, the judges consider how the music and visual presentation come together to create an effect.
“It’s basically a work in progress,” McGowan said of a show. “We start thinking of shows as early as the summer what we could do as a theme that somebody would get easily in the first 30 seconds or so and try to keep that theme all the way through and cause an effect.”
This year the show’s theme was “Geisha.” For the first time, WGI allowed indoor drumlines to use lights in their shows. So TJC created large silhouette screens for seven girls to perform behind.
The girls appear to dance, wash their faces and put on makeup as they perform behind the screens.
Kelsey Wellar, 20, a sophomore vision care technology major, was one of the performers behind the silhouette screen.
She said their moves are designed to portray them learning how to be geishas. They learn how to dance, learn how to drum and when they come out at the show’s end, they are supposed to be full geishas, she said.
An amazing feeling
The students said they enjoy the energy of the show and the opportunity to perform with their peers and friends.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Carina Alvarado, 19, said of the opportunity to perform at the WGI World Championships.
Ms. Alvarado, a freshman general studies major, plays “the rack,” which is made up of a bass drum, large and small gongs, and a pad which can make a lot of electronic sounds. She said it has been challenging to learn because she played trumpet in high school, but she enjoys the energy of the performance and the camaraderie among the members.
Philip Zeig, 20, a sophomore music major who plays the marimba, said he got into the indoor drumline after several family members were involved.
He said the energy he experiences when playing before a crowd is an amazing feeling.
Cory Thompson, 19, said he’s enjoyed being a part of the battery this year after playing in the front ensemble last year.
Thompson, a sophomore music education major who plays the snare drum, said it is a challenge to play.
“It’s just being mentally engaged and physically engaged the whole time and performing on top of all of it,” he said.
McGowan said the indoor drumline members have really given their all this season with some having to go to hand and knee specialists for injuries. He said they’ve pushed themselves to the limit and he could not be more proud of them.
“We’re keeping on a very good tradition here at the school,” he said. “The school really supports this.”