It’s the high point of football season and Sturgeon Composite High School is introducing a drumline to a couple of games playing in St. Albert.
The Sturgeon High School Drumline will be adding an extra layer of energy to the Sturgeon Spirits’ games against the Scona Lords on Friday, Oct. 6, and at a Spirits' game versus the Bellerose Bulldogs on Sunday, Oct. 22.
The nimble drumline features 28 musicians playing across four sections: tenor drums, bass drums, snare drums and cymbals. They play various styles all based on core drum music boasting a precise, peppy beat.
“I think drums are cool. They’re loud. You can groove to drums. It’s a fun time. You get to hit things and it’s good anger management,” said Mya Leeman, a tenor drum player. The highly skilled Grade 12 student is also a working member of Elks Football Team Drumline.
“The coach (Chad Hill) loves us because we bring people to the game. Some people come just to listen to us. Sometimes we see football players dancing to our music,” she said.
“We give the game hype,” adds Grade 12 student Davina Scheepers. In addition to playing tenor drums, she is also a saxophonist with MacEwan High School Jazz Band.
Scheepers, who aspires to become a professional saxophonist, joined the drumline three years ago to supplement her skills.
“I’ve started to do growls on the sax and the drumline helps. I’m so much better at counting and understanding rhythmic notation,” said Scheepers. (The growl gives a saxophonist’s sound a dark, guttural, gritty timbre.)
Kyle Swenson, the school’s music instructor, launched the drumline in 2018.
“At the time I saw a set of red drumline equipment that had been purchased when Darwin Krips was a music teacher. But it hadn’t gotten into action. I contacted Chad Hill, the coach and he liked the idea of a drumline,” said Swenson.
The drumline started in 2018 with eight interested students. It grew exponentially and now rests at just under 30.
He acknowledges drumlines are less popular in Canada than the massive high school and college marching bands in the United States.
“The United States has a deeper historical tradition. But we see them every year as the Calgary Stampede Show Band and it’s increased awareness here,” Swenson said.
When Swenson kick-started the drumline, he hoped to offer students more options.
“I was looking for another musical ensemble to deepen the program we offer. I saw an interest and I gave it a voice, and it’s developed a mind of its own.”
At first, the curriculum operated on trial and error. But soon teachers from across the region were asking Swenson how he developed the program. He answered by hosting a drumline bootcamp with professional clinicians and invited high school teachers and students to attend.
In addition to Sturgeon, Spruce Grove Composite, Jasper Place High, Lillian Osbourne High, Holy Trinity High and Ross Sheppard High are registered. More than 120 students attended the bootcamp held at the school on Wednesday, Sept. 20.
“I feel proud and privileged to create this network of drumline teachers and share in the program. When you share in a program you don’t have to do everything on your own. It’s much easier...There is a drumline community that has the potential in growth and enrichment for the future."
The Spirits’ Oct. 6 and Oct. 20 games take place from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Larry Olexiuk Field.