Arts & Life, Events

Drumline competition keeps campus lively during spring break

There’s nothing else quite like drumline. At competitions, you’ll encounter flashy and often strange props and costumes, the absolute chaos of a parking lot filled with several groups rehearsing their shows all at once and, most notably, a sense of community.

The Long Beach State campus caught a glimpse of drumline culture Mar. 25. through Mar. 26., as the WGI Long Beach Regional took over a large portion of lower campus.

This event is the last big stop for local drumline groups before they travel to Dayton, Ohio for the WGI Percussion World Championships. Vision Percussion member Leela Horner explained why the Walter Pyramid made for great practice before Dayton.

“I think [performing in the Walter Pyramid] was good preparation for how the Dayton arena is gonna be. Really dry, really exposed. Especially for – even though I’m a second-year vet – the rookies,” Horner said. “It’s really important for them to get that read of what a dry arena is gonna sound like for Dayton.”

Chino Hills High School took home first place on Sunday in the Scholastic Marching World category.
Chino Hills High School took home first place on Sunday in the Scholastic Marching World category. Photo credit: El Nicklin

Percussion groups perform at a handful of different venues each season and performers tend to have preferences between these venues. Acoustics can be a deciding factor, and according to Horner, CSULB carries sound similar to the final performance venue in Dayton, making it a strong venue.

Besides the “dry” sound in the Pyramid, Horner also enjoyed the ambiance around the campus.

“It’s a really nice atmosphere, especially getting off the bus coming into California from Arizona. It’s just a really, really pretty campus,” she said.

Members of drumline groups don’t just show up for their performances and go home. Everyone is eager not only to see who they’re up against but to support friends in other groups and check out shows from different divisions.

Sehana J. and Varni B., freshmen mallet players at Great Oak High School, planned to stay through the end of the day. When asked which groups they were looking forward to seeing, the two responded, nearly synchronized, “Pulse! And RCC. Their show’s so good.”

The RCC show is playful, featuring drums being played in unconventional ways.
The RCC show is playful, featuring drums being played in unconventional ways. Photo credit: El Nicklin

Garden Grove’s Pulse and Riverside Community College’s RCC are some of the best Independent World groups that require a vigorous audition process. “Independent World Class” is the highest possible division in competitive drumline. Many performers make it their goal to one day march in groups like these.

Randy Silva is an applied math major at CSULB and a marimba player at Dark Sky Percussion, one of several popular Independent World groups from Southern California.

“I definitely felt nervous here and there since this regional had so many more groups compared to previous seasons, but being a part of such a big event on campus and being able to represent the arts at LBSU gave me a sense of pride,” Silva said.

Silva has played marimba in Dark Sky for three seasons now.

“I age out of indoor next year, and I’m planning to stay at my home, Dark Sky,” he said.

Although Silva will soon age out of competitive drumline, he plans to stay invested in the local drumline scene, as well as the Musicians’ Club at CSULB.

“I want to continue being a part of the growing Musicians’ Club on campus. It’s very important to me that we make music performance as accessible as possible,” Silva said.

Silva is a board member of the Musicians’ Club, and many of his peers came out to support him during the competition.

Independent World groups are exciting to watch from a visual and musical perspective. Most of these competitive performers get into drumline by starting at the high school level.

Great Oak High School performed a charming show titled “The Back Lot.” When asked about their Western getup, front ensemble member Sehana J. explained, “the [show’s] theme is the golden age of Hollywood, so we’re on the set of a movie. The movie we’re filming is a Western, and then the set changes to a film noir.”

This show was extremely entertaining, featuring snare “gunfights” and a live trumpet player in a trench coat.

You really never know what you’re going to see at a drumline competition, but one thing’s for sure – nothing beats the real thing.

“You can’t really get a good read unless you see it in person,” Horner said.

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