Friday, June 12, 2015

How Long to Make a Drummer?

And now, the promised Drummer entry.

Between the first Friday in December (Festival of Trees) and the first Wednesday after New Year's Day, the band has its Winter Break.

After January 7's practice session, Pipey dropped a bombshell.  Our Lead Tap (that's 'Chief Drummer Dude' to you non-piping-or-drumming people) had decided he had enough writing and re-writing all our music, dealing with delinquent or AWOL drummers, and teaching.  He decided he would go to a band where he could just be a drummer, and bring down his blood pressure.  So he left the band.  Many of the drummers left with him. And our Treasurer, Pete, retired from piping.

The thing about pipe band competition is that you have to have a minimum of 6 pipers, 1 bass drummer, 2 tenors and 2 snares (I'm guessing on the snare and tenor numbers, but it's 1 or 2 each) to compete.  I'm sure about the bass number, because one year I played bass drum all summer because we lost our bass drummer and needed one to compete.  I played bass drum in college marching band, so I knew the basics.

For our 2015 New Year's Band Resolution, we had 1 bass-in-training, 1 tenor, and no snares.

And 18 pipers.

In fact, we had one new piper: Chris, from another band.  I don't remember exactly why he came over to the Salt Lake Scots, but he volunteered to help tune right away, so we accepted him immediately.

But what to do about drummers. . . or lack thereof?  If it takes seven years to make a piper, how many years does it take to make a drummer?

We decided to call 2015 Rebuild Year, and find out.

We dropped back to Grade IV. We cancelled all competitions and parades. We cancelled our St. Paddy's Day concert.  We stayed with our Memorial Day commitment--solo piping at two different cemeteries--because it doesn't require a lot of drummers.  And we decided to see how the year went before we made a decision about the Sheep Dog Trials over Labor Day weekend, and Moab Games in November.

Over the next few weeks, Band Manager Ian got his wife to learn tenor drumming. Somebody else contacted Jessie and told her she could be Lead Tap (Chief Drummer Dudette?) if she would come back to practices, etc.  Chris J from the other band got HIS wife, CarrieAnn, to learn tenor.  And Jessie convinced her snare drumming friend, Chris H, to come back, as well.

By March, our in-training drummers were making good progress.  We played slow for them, so they would get the feel of playing with the rest of the band, and we showed them LOTS of appreciation!  None of this "us/them" stuff.  We treated everybody--piper or drummer--as a band member of equal importance to any other band member.  We needed them all!

We voted Chris J into the band as a piper, as well as Small Son Teancum, now 16.  We also welcomed Tom K, piper and Drum Major (that's the guy with the big stick who walks out in front of the band when it is marching someplace) into our ranks.  And Nick returned from his mission, rarin' to get back to piping.

And we worked on our competition sets.

In May, we took inventory.  How did the drummers feel with the competition sets?  How was the piping on those sets?  Should we try to compete in the Salt Lake Highland Games?  We let the in-training drummers make the decision, with no pressure or consequences.  They decided to give it a try.

So we did.

With only three weeks left before the Games, we really practiced!  We practiced piping and drumming and ensemble.  We practiced strike-ins and cut-offs. We practiced marching in and marching out and counter-marching.  We practiced wheels and stops and marching in place.  We practiced playing while nervous.

On the Day, there was a lot of scrambling for bits of uniform. Nerves were high. We warmed up some, but not too much, and hit the field.

We took 3rd  on the March Medley (At Long Last, Dawning of the Day, J. K. Cairns) after Wasatch & District and Utah Pipe Band Gr. IV.  We took 3rd also on the Timed Medley, after Utah Pipe Band Gr. IV and Wasatch & District Gr IV.  Our timed medley included Chatill Macruimmien, Braes of Mar, Tail Toddle, The Water is Wide, and Minnie Hynd.

Not too bad for a rebuild year.

To answer the question:  how long does it take to make a drummer?  Our answer:  6 months.

And our old Lead Tap?  He still has high blood pressure.