Longmont Drumline Unites St. Vrain Percussionists


Photo Courtesy of Jason Nouhan

Silver Creek student Carter Martin shows off his skills. Martin played the tenor drums during Longmont’s 2022 drumline show, “Back to Abnormal”.

Dozens of percussionists from SVVSD schools gathered in Longmont High School’s band room, awaiting information about their favorite extracurricular activity. Every year, Longmont High hosts the Longmont Combined Schools Winter Drumline, a competitive indoor drumline program. At the kickoff meeting on September 28, director Dave Marvin welcomed potential new members.
Indoor drumline is a combination of visual and musical performance, involving a stationary “pit” of percussion instruments and mallet instruments, and a “battery” of marching drums. Members learn to play difficult music while moving in formation around a mat the size of a basketball court.
The drumline program started at Longmont decades ago. Many schools in the area had their own competitive drumline programs every winter. However, as drumline is a very expensive activity that requires a specific set of skills, schools began to shut down their programs as students lost interest or proved unable to pay the high fees.
At Silver Creek High School, the performing arts organization was forced to shut down Silver Creek Percussion because it distracted percussionists from their other music classes.
When students were unable to find the same experience at their own schools,
Longmont began to welcome them into their drumline. Now, students from all over the St. Vrain Valley School District come together to celebrate the art. The only rules are that members must be enrolled in one of the local schools, and they cannot be failing more than two of their classes. This way, the drumline can be sure they aren’t interfering in students’ academic lives.
“It’s competitive, so it makes it like a sport, just like people care about football.” said Carter Martin, a junior who has been with the drumline for the past year. “It’s combined schools, so it’s integrating the communities…instead of everyone having separate drumlines, those schools can come together to make their talents into one group.”
Martin currently attends Silver Creek, and played the quad drums in Longmont’s 2022 show. In 2022, 8 of the 31 members of the drumline were Silver Creek students. This year, Creek students intend to bring even more of their peers into the group.
The drumline has the credentials to back themselves up. Last year, the group took 3rd place in the Rocky Mountain Percussion Association regionals with their show, “Back to Abnormal,” a space/50s themed performance. The show was meant to satirize the return to in-person drumline events after the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, the name was a play on the phrase “Back to normal”. The drumline performed at competitions sporting cartoonish wigs, greaser-style jackets, bowling shirts, and full-face masks.
In 2021, their BBC-style nature documentary-themed show, “Creatures of Habitat II,” placed them among the top 15 in the nation. They were also invited to perform at the reopening of the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Jefferson County, themed around honoring musicians who continued their craft during the pandemic.
The show theme for 2023 has yet to be revealed, though Marvin teased at the kickoff meeting that it would be “more mature” and “darker” than past themes had been. This has had members theorizing about what their next performance could look like.
One thing is for certain: the students are prepared to hone their skills and put on the best performance they can. This year, the drumline plans to attend the Winter Guard International World Championships in Dayton, Ohio. The event takes place in late April and will require the drumline to transport their equipment across the country. For this reason, fees for each member will end up costing several thousand dollars. However, for some dedicated members, this price is well worth it. “It’s just like you’d pay for any sport. There’s a creative aspect.” Martin continues, “Creating is enough for me to pay the price.”