By CORRIE PELC, Valley Community Newspapers writer
After only two years of competing, the Sam Brannan Middle School Drum Line took first place in four competitions during the 2011-2012 school year, including the Drumline Championships held in Stockton in March.
“I’m very proud of them – they did a wonderful job (and) they worked really hard,” said Jeremy Hammond, the band and orchestra teacher at Sam Brannan. “They’ve come so far in the last couple of years.”
On the beat
According to Hammond, the school started the Drum Line about six years ago. This year’s Drum Line included 20 seventh and eighth grade students from the school’s music program.
“Some of them are drummers and some of them are not – some play wind instruments and some of them even play orchestra instruments,” he explained. “They just have to be able to show skill in playing drums.”
Hammond said being part of the Drum Line is an afterschool elective for the students involved, with rehearsals held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, plus all-day Saturday competitions.
“That was a lot of work – a huge commitment for them,” he said.
The Drum Line has gotten so big that this year Hammond hired two instructors to help him work with the students – Sam Brannan and John F. Kennedy High School alumnus Sergio Soto and Patrick Manning.
“Both have been a tremendous help and did a wonderful job with the kids this year,” Hammond added.
Last year the Drum Line had participated in two competitions, and this year they decided to go for four competitions held at McClatchy High School in Sacramento, Elk Grove High School, Woodcreek High School in Roseville, and the final Drumline Championships at Lincoln High School in Stockton.
During all four competitions the Drum Line was scored by judges.
“Each time that they played they got first place, so they did a wonderful job,” Hammond said.
For this year’s performances, the Drum Line played music from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Hammond said the Drum Line students learned all the music and marching choreography in about two months
“They put together a really nice show that has marching and all sorts of different things in it, which is really pretty awesome to watch,” he added. “You have xylophones, bells and vibraphones and cymbals and drums. It’s not just hitting drums, it’s a whole production. We include digital pianos – just you name it, it’s in there.”
In addition to learning the music and accompanying moves for this year’s production, Hammond said the Drum Line students walk away with a myriad of other positive skills as well.
For instance, Hammond said the students learn discipline as playing a musical instrument takes a whole lot of that, as well as persistence to always be practicing the materials and learning from mistakes they make.
“It’s a huge practice in teamwork – it’s such a team activity,” he added. “Everybody is depending on everybody else’s part. Every part is equally important and if one person is not doing their best, it affects the rest of the group, so it’s a huge team sport.”
And of course being a part of the Drum Line teaches the students music.
“They’re learning how to properly play an instrument technically correct and play with dynamics and turn something into music to make a beautiful show,” Hammond said. “There are a lot of really good skills they get out of it, outside of just music.”
After a successful year, the Drum Line team is beginning to look to next year. Hammond said Soto and Manning will still be on board to help instruct the drum line, and they are currently working on ideas for next year’s performance theme. And they are also looking at adding some more competitions to their line-up.
“We want to go along the same line we did this year, except do it a little bit bigger and a little bit better,” Hammond added.