These are not your father's marching bands

Music in Motion competition features superstars of drum and bugle corps

June 24, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

The booming of bass drums and soaring melodies of horns will fill the stadium at Westminster High School Friday. Instead of appearing as half-time entertainment, the musicians in uniform - considered the young superstars of the marching world - will be the main attraction, as they participate in Music in Motion, a drum corps show.

Sponsored by Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!), the show will include seven competing drum corps from Colorado, Illinois and New Hampshire: the Cadets, the Crossmen, the Phantom Regiment, Carolina Crown, the Blue Knights, the Boston Crusaders and the Spartans. They are all members of Drum Corps International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to junior drum and bugle corps.

"You take the athleticism of a sport like football, but you put the instruments in the players' hands," said Mark Lortz, Westminster High's marching band director

The Westminster show is one of three YEA! is sponsoring. The corps are next expected to perform at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, and then Pennsylvania's Hersheypark Stadium, said Caryn Goebel, a YEA! marketing associate.

The Cadets, one of the corps YEA! oversees, are also planning to conduct an interactive clinic, Music is Cool, with students.

Last year, about 400 to 500 students from the Mid-Atlantic area came out to the clinic, which marches participants through a drum corps day, with lessons in technique, said Lortz, who was a member of the Cadets.

"These are the superstars of the band world," Lortz said. "They're the professionals."

At Westminster High last week, Lortz's students were already preparing for their own competitive season, with drills and warm-ups. The pounding of quads and bass drums, coupled with the lighter notes of the marimba and other percussion instruments thumped during the mini band camp.

On a parking lot next to the school, the wind instrument players practiced developing smooth and even steps.

"Turn, set, three, push it," students chanted in unison before marching backward and forward to a beat struck by a staff member. "One, two, three, four, five, six - roll down, halt, grab down. Woo!"

"Check your lines," said James Kranz, a 2006 Westminster graduate and trumpet player who had been beating out the solid rhythm. "Make sure that your toes are as close to the ground as possible when backing up, without scuffing the ground."

During their practice breaks, several students said they look forward to the Cadets' clinic.

Sophomores and percussionists Brandon Russell, 15, and Sam Landis, 14, said they hoped to glean some insight from musicians who have a greater mastery of their instruments.

The drum corps basically "taught me how to play," said Russell, who saw the corps perform last summer.

While Landis said he'd seen such shows before, he wanted "to be able to see them a lot more closely, learn some new techniques."

That opportunity is what senior Alyssa Nycum, 17, said she anticipates. Nycum, who plays clarinet, said she plans to join a corps herself - perhaps the Crossmen and, eventually, the Cadets.

"You can always learn something new," Nycum said of the clinic. She added: "It's cool to see the different shows. ... They make it fun."

Beyond the entertainment, said Brian Drake, band co-director, students should observe how the corps rehearse, and their discipline.

"They're so focused and regimented," Drake said. "That kind of focus and attention to the goal is something we hope the kids pick up."

Lortz agreed, saying that, at the beginning of the season, students often lack a full understanding of what marching band is about.

"When they come and see something like this, it is sort of like a shock in the arm for them," Lortz said, referring to the level of dedication and team-building. "It is something that we will never get at Westminster."

But the directors also come away with their own lessons as they watch the various personalities and styles of each corps, Drake added. With the high school marching band season ahead, he said, "we're inspired to be more creative with what we do."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

Music in Motion starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Westminster High School stadium. General admission is $15, reserved seating $27 and VIP $50.

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