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Longmont High School drumline readies to defend state title, compete for world championship
By Karen Antonacci, Staff Writer, Times-Call
The Longmont High School drumline feverishly practiced Thursday afternoon to prepare not just for the winter percussion show on Saturday, but for the next month's high-stakes drumline competitions.
On Saturday, Longmont High School will host 31 schools from around the state for the last competition before state championships on April 14 in Colorado Springs.
The Longmont drumline — comprising 35 high school students from Longmont, Mead, Skyline and Silver Creek high schools — will be performing a program based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart."
The program features a prog-rock arrangement, backlit panels to help tell the story, a foreshortened wood plank floor covering to set the scene, double-sided costumes and a recording of a voice-over actor reading parts of the story.
The Longmont drumline has been named the state champions of the Rocky Mountain Percussion Association competition four years in a row and seven times total.
The drumline has also qualified for the Winter Guard International World Championships, to be held April 19 to 21 in Dayton, Ohio. The group went to worlds two years ago, missing out on the final round of 16 groups by half of one point, parent director Mike Dobson said.
LHS percussion director Dave Marvin said that the students are practicing hard to put on the best show they can on Saturday, at the state championships and at the world championships.
"Drumline is very involved. We're not just refining a performance but, in some cases, teaching the kids an instrument as well. So there's an educational foundation to it first," he said. "And we have a competitive advantage and nothing drives like competition."
However, Marvin added that he tries to get the drumline to compete with themselves, rather than others.
"Unlike a sports team, ours is a game of offense only," he said. "The kids have friends in drumlines all over the country and so it's a sense of watching everybody succeed and then a panel of judges will decide who wins. It's not head-to-head like baseball or basketball."
The Longmont drumline have been practicing from 1 to 8 p.m. every day since Tuesday and will continue the schedule through Friday — refining beats, steps and cues for the front ensemble.
The intense practice schedule ahead of what is essentially March Madness for drumline is necessary because the group doesn't have a dedicated gym to use for practice, Marvin said.
"Everybody knows that we need gym time and we're limited in the winter because of basketball," said Marvin, noting that Longmont High's basketball team also won the state championship this year. "We try to live in the seams and stay out of their way so they can achieve their success and then over spring break, there are no sports in there, so we have the gym to do our detail work."
Though well-decorated, Marvin said he is most proud when students he has coached during his 15 years keep music in their lives and come back and support the drumline.
"Sometimes we can inspire the kids to keep music as a part of their life, and that's what we hope for," Marvin said.
Alex Merklein, a senior who plays the snare drum, said that he enjoys the activity because it has allowed him to study percussion.
"My dad is a drummer and I got into it in middle school and then in high school I kind of discovered drumline and it seemed like another step to better understand something I love," he said.
Merklein said that playing while doing complicated choreography around other drummers can get a little chaotic, but that after enough training, he got past it.
Jackson Bigham, a senior who plays the marimba in the front ensemble, said that he has enjoyed learning new instruments, plus the theatrical element.
"My first instrument was actually the trumpet, but starting as a sophomore, I began learning from everyone else and was able to pick up the marimba," he said.
Mariana Tiscareño, a senior in the front ensemble who plays the vibraphone, concurred.
"I like being around cool people with similar instruments because we all get to learn and grow and improve," she said.