WB, WL drum lines compete for world championship

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 26, 2014

 West Bloomfield High School junior Lilly Richards,17, rehearses for the world championships with the front ensemble March 18.

West Bloomfield High School junior Lilly Richards,17, rehearses for the world championships with the front ensemble March 18.

Photo by Donna Agusti


WEST BLOOMFIELD — Following months of preparation and hours of critiquing, the West Bloomfield High School winter drum line and the two Walled Lake drum lines are heading to Dayton, Ohio, to compete among the top drum lines in the world.

The three-day competition runs April 10-12, and because of the popularity of the event, Winter Guard International Sport of the Arts is, for the first time, holding the competition in three separate arenas in Dayton — the University of Dayton Arena, Wright State University’s Nutter Center and Miami University’s Millett Hall — according to Ron Nankervis, Winter Guard International executive director.

Nankervis said that 226 percussion groups have signed up for the competition, including groups from the U.S., Belgium and Thailand. Preliminary performances begin April 10, with the semifinals and finals taking place April 11-12.

“Last year, at world championships, we had a bit of a glitch in the preliminary run, so we didn’t advance. … The group made finals three years prior to that, so we’re looking to get back in the finals this year,” said Pat McLaughlin, director of the West Bloomfield High School percussion and winter drum line.

West Bloomfield’s 21-member percussion line includes middle school and high school students and has been rehearsing three days a week since December, with occasional Saturday rehearsals that last 8-12 hours.

The West Bloomfield group is split into two sections — front ensemble, which comprises mallet instruments, synthesizers and guitars, and the battery, which includes snare, tenor and bass drums. To evoke different emotions in the “Fade In and Fade Out” show, the ensemble also incorporates LED lighting effects.

“I’m really proud of them, and I think they’re going to be exceptionally prepared for world championships,” said Matthew Smith, front ensemble instructor. “Go Lakers.”

This is the ninth year the Walled Lake Consolidated School District percussion groups have attended the world championships. Combining the three high school percussion teams together, the schools take two groups, one with 22 members and another with 36 members, to the world championships.

The groups are broken up based on percussion agility, and for the larger, more experienced group, this is the seventh year the group has been placed in the “World Class” competition group, which is the highest level of competition.

The Walled Lake percussion lines have been holding intense practices since the last week in November, preparing for the world championship performance.

“Michigan is great, don’t get me wrong, but there’s no other groups in our class in Michigan,” said Nick Pourcho, Walled Lake Schools percussion director.

The smaller group is ranked in the lower class of the competition.

The requirement to attend the world championships is that groups must compete in a regional performance. West Bloomfield participated in two regional performances — one in Troy and one in Dayton. The winter percussion line placed 11th out of 18 at the March 8 competition in Dayton.

During the world championships, percussion groups are judged by six judges based on three “captions” — general effect, music and visual. General effect is based on how effective the percussion group is; music is based on how well students play their instruments; and visual is based on the composition of the visual presentation. Though Winter Guard International does not permit explosive gases or pyrotechnics during performances, Nankervis said many groups use LED lighting and electronics.

“It’s quite a big ensemble of equipment because they have large instruments. … So each group travels here in a semi truck,” Nankervis said.

While Walled Lake’s larger group does incorporate some lighting, Pourcho said the most unique effect the group has is having the front ensemble move on the floor.

“Most of the front ensembles are parked in the front,” Pourcho added.

West Bloomfield will perform a five- to six-minute set, competing against at least 66 groups in its class. Walled Lake’s larger group will perform a 6 1/2-minute set, competing against 15 groups, while the smaller group will perform a five-minute set.