Group earns fourth provincial title in four years
By Craig Campbell
Dundas Star News (May 22, 2015)
Dedication and inclusiveness are two keys that have unlocked ongoing success for the St. Mary Catholic High School Drumline.
The four-year-old group locked up its fourth straight provincial championship this year, while also entering United States competition for the first time – and taking first place in the New York State Percussion Circuit Championship. They won five different competitions, going undefeated all year.
“It’s kids who buy into the program,” Drumline director Corey Pearce said, when asked what accounts for the group’s early and continued success.
The vast majority of Drumline members had no previous musical experience. But Pearce’s philosophy is never to cut a student who is interested and committed to learning.
“As long as they follow the school rules, we find a place for them,” Pearce said.
But that’s just the start. He noted his 18 Drumline members spend more than 50 hours a month learning, practicing and rehearsing.
This year’s competition piece – The Thriller – was complicated to learn, and presented several challenges to the team. It was the first time the group has had an original composition created just for them. The performance features two actors, a set featuring a graveyard and zombie-influenced costumes and make-up for the whole group.
“It’s a lot more complex,” Pearce said. “There are a lot of added things we haven’t done before.”
The additional movement and choreography was a highlight for third year Drumline member, and Grade 11 student, Victoria Caravaggio.
“It’s like theatre. It’s a real performance,” she said.
Victoria came to Drumline with no drumming experience. A friend joined and she decided to tag-along. After three years, the experience has sparked an interest in the arts – and in teaching, a testament to Pearce’s leadership and dedication, and also the law.
“Being a lawyer is like performing,” Victoria said, with a laugh.
To stay competitive and continue building the program, Pearce is expanding into feeder schools. He wants to teach younger students before they even get to St. Mary.
“The challenge for us is now we’re competing in the States – they start playing in middle school there,” Pearce said.
Justine Calcagno, who plays Vibraphone, is one of the first examples of feeder school students already joining St. Mary Drumline. She started more than a year ago – while in Grade 7 – after Pearce visited St. Augustine in Dundas.
Now in Grade 8 Justine doesn’t have a concrete plan for a future after high school, but she knows she wants to continue Drumline when she becomes a St. Mary student – and is already thinking about an extra year of Grade 12.
“I didn’t know anyone last year when I started. Now I know names,” Justine said.
In addition to learning those names – she also learned how to read music.
Both girls notice the hard work Pearce, an educational assistant, puts into the unique program.
“He spends a lot of his own time working with us, to help us get better,” Justine said.
Victoria said Pearce is “the hardest-working person we’ve ever seen.”
And that leadership appears to be rubbing off on the students.
“We try to create a certain character of kid,” Pearce said. “You can win awards, but it’s about creating good people.
“One of the reasons we’re successful is it’s an inclusive environment. It’s hard being a teenager. When I ask you to dress up in crazy costumes – it’s hard to do.”
The group will soon begin its parade season, performing as a marching band to help finance the Drumline program.