Drum Corps and marching bands come in all different shapes, styles, sizes but when it boils down to it most of them share commonalities. Those similarities have less to do with performance and more to do with life skills such as teamwork, commitment, dedication, cooperation, responsibility, time management and perseverance.
Having students participate in drum corps can provide some challenges to the high school marching band. Drum corps students may miss summer marching band rehearsals or indoor rehearsals for drum corps auditions or camps. Drum corps students may return to the high school band with knowledge of other ways of doing things and depending on the personality of the students, this could be a challenge.
However, having high school students participate in drum corps can be beneficial to the high school program. Depending on the part of the country, the time conflicts can be minimal or non-existent. The majority of drum corps kids return to the marching band tired but very knowledgeable and motivated. The level of commitment and dedication usually is tremendously increased in a drum corps student and most of the time that rubs off onto other students in a very positive way. If students participate if a world-class junior corps, they learn to live on their own and be responsible for themselves. This pays dividends to a high school marching band because these are the students that can model responsibility for the others in terms of behavior on overnight trips, remembering all items needed for rehearsals and performances and how to behave in public.
Students in open junior corps or all age corps, may not be travelling for the entire summer, but they do gain immense knowledge or time management and how to prepare for events. Their travel is usually on the weekends and since they probably don’t drive themselves to the events they are often participating in carpools, which require good communication and organization skills. This is helpful to the high school marching band when other students start to complain about not having rides to events. The all-age corps students will jump right in and describe how getting a ride five miles is much easier than coordinating rides for a rehearsal 90 miles away and a performance 120 miles away on the following day for the entire summer. Those students also start to appreciate the organization and convenience that a high school band program provides by doing things such as organizing and providing transportation to performances.
After students experience a summer of drum corps, they typically are more knowledgeable than their peers in terms of movement, music and performance. Most of them have a thorough understanding of chain of command and keep their thoughts to themselves. However, discussing their experiences with them and allowing them to take on leadership roles based on their experiences can be invaluable. If they have learned new techniques or different ways of doing things, they may have some good ideas for incorporating them into the high school band rehearsals. If that’s not your cup of tea, they can at least serve at an outstanding model for the rest of the students as well as learn that there are many different rehearsal and performance techniques and methods.
It is important to celebrate the high school students that participate in drum corps and encourage the rest of the marching band to attend shows and watch them perform. This will also increase the background knowledge of the entire ensemble, motivate all students to achieve more, give the ensemble a sense of pride and make the drum corps students feel great.
Having high school band students participate in drum corps can be a huge benefit to the high school band program.
About the Author
TONIA ASEL KAUFMAN is the band director at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in suburban Philadelphia and the Choral/Instrumental Coordinator in the Colonial School District, a 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 NAMM Best Community for Music Education and 2014 and 2015 Grammy Signature School Semi-finalist. She was awarded a Citation of Teaching Excellence from the Pennsylvania Music Educator Association and has been recognized as a Master Teacher by the Colonial School District. Under Kaufman’s leadership, the PW Band Program has won 24 championships and is regionally acclaimed for being a highly creative band program. She has had groups perform at and has presented at the PA Music Educator Association State Conference. In addition to serving as high school band director, she has worked in a variety of roles including adjunct professor of music education, concert band guest conductor, jazz adjudicator, marching band consultant, show designer, drill designer and musical arranger and has taught a wide variety of music electives from elementary to high school. She also has held various leadership roles in the local band competition circuit. Kaufman has a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and Music Performance from Slippery Rock University, a Master of Education degree in Educational Administration from Temple University and National Board Certification in EA/YA Music.
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