By Mac Christie
The St. Mary Catholic Secondary School drumline beat their way to their fourth-consecutive provincial championship in early May.
The 2015 Drumline Ontario Provincial Championship was held in Welland May 9, and the win gave the school its fourth in four years competing.
Corey Pearce, the St. Mary drumline director and instructor said he’s proud of how hard the students work to perform at such a high level.
“They put in a lot of hours learning how to drum and perfecting their competition piece,” he said.
Pearce noted the piece, inspired by Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and complete with costumes and choreography, was the first attempt at a theatrical work.
“Our first year competing we played, just kind of grooves and cadences, the following two years we played rock,” he explained. “This year we’re getting into more a theatrical side of things – a little bit more artistic.”
Sophia Cauduro, a Grade 11 drumline member from Waterdown, said competing in competitions in the United States inspired the group to embrace theatrics.
“Seeing the drumlines in the States, they’re intense,” she said, noting St. Mary competed and won March’s New York State Percussion Circuit Championship in Syracuse. “That was amazing to even watch.
“This is our first year trying to get into marching, so this is fairly new to us.”
Pearce noted there’s a culture of drumlines and marching bands in the U.S., adding a competition in Indianapolis last year exposed the band to what they were up against south of the border.
“To be competitive, they have to know what they’re going against,” he said. “You can’t just come out to practice and not have rehearsed at home – if you want to get something out of it, you’ve got to put the work in.
“The kids are always willing to put in whatever it takes to get the job done.”
To that end, the students start their season with a one-week August drum camp that runs seven hours per day. Then, throughout the school year, the group practises for three-and-a-half hours every Wednesday.
Twice a month the drumline meets to practise for six hours on Friday evening, followed by a 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. session.
The practice has apparently paid off, with the Crusaders drumline also placing first at the New York State Championship Qualifier, Hamilton’s Drumline Ontario Contest, and the Oakville Drumline Ontario Contest in April.
Cauduro noted she was attracted to the drumline due to her love of music, although she’d never drummed before.
Cole Chalupka, a Grade 10 student from Carlisle, said he joined as soon as he started high school. Chalupka, 15, had played drums previously, but felt it was lacking a social aspect.
“With this, there’s a whole group of kids and you get to go places together,” he explained.
Despite their success this year, Cauduro said the drumline has grander goals for next season.
“We have huge plans for next year,” the 16-year-old said. “We have some new things coming into play – it’s going to be insane.
“We’re really trying to get up to the (teams in the States) level,” she continued. “They’re just amazing.”
Pearce said the drumline, which has 18 members, features students from Grade 9-12, as well as a Grade 8 student from St. Augustine.
To perform, the group is given 11 minutes to set up, and perform a four- to seven-minute piece, then get off the stage.
“Anything over or under 11 minutes and you’re penalized,” he said, noting the drummers are judged individually and as an ensemble.
He added the music, which was written specially for the group, was composed by arrangers in the United States.
“Each year our show will be designed specifically for our kids’ talent ability, our strengths and weaknesses.”
He noted the group is already in talks for next year’s piece.
Looking back on this season, Pearce said there were moments throughout the year when he wasn’t sure the drummers would “get” the piece.
“The difficulty level of the show was a bit more than the kids were expecting,” he explained. “Then they would come back and work and work and you would see things happen.
“I still get goosebumps.”