When Tyler Hess and Robbie Speelman started the Drumline Club at Weber State University six years ago, they never dreamed that by 2012 the group that began as the local “whipping boy” would be ranked No. 1 in the nation.
However, that’s exactly what happened at the WGI Regional Championship in Corona, Calif., last Saturday, where the indoor percussion group swept first place with a score of 88.8 out of 100, currently the highest score in the nation.
This is the first year that the WSU’s 31-member ensemble has qualified to compete in the Championship. The club joined 23 other groups competing before a panel of judges for the chance to go to the World Championships next year.
The group performed its six and a half minute show several times throughout the competition. At the end of the night, the ensemble was stunned to see that its final score was five points higher than the second-place score and four points higher than last year’s champion.
“When we first got here, I felt like maybe we’ll do okay,” Speelman said. “I was pretty nervous because I’d never been to a show like this. It was the biggest show I’d ever seen, and I’ve been doing this for a long time. We saw some of the other drum lines, and they seemed to be doing really well. After our final performance, I felt like it wasn’t as good as we could’ve made it, and then I heard the score, and I was really, really taken aback. I had no idea we were going to do that well especially for our first time ever being in a regional.”
The victory on Saturday has been a long time coming, Hess said, and is the result of dedicated staff and performers and a rigorous training regimen. All 31 members of the team are required to do at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise every day in addition to regular rehearsals for five hours every Friday and all day every Saturday.
“It takes a lot of endurance,” Hess said, “and getting 31 people to push themselves to the limits in order to win, that was a challenge. But it was absolutely worth it.”
The group’s show “Slow Me Down” portrayed how fast-paced life is and the need to slow down. It was a perfect fit for the ensemble, Hess said.
“We’ve been kinda pushing the ensemble for 3-4 years to get better every year and things were just getting so serious that when we saw this show about taking a minute to look around and breathe it seemed to fit our group perfectly. That was an attitude that we decided we wanted to embrace and give to our performers. So in our show you’ll see us perform and do visual and musical things that portray the ensemble slowing down. Giving the impression of stopping to look around at life and take things in.”
It was this somewhat unconventional show, focused on conveying that theme of slowing down with quality and precision, that gave the WSU Drumline the edge it needed on Saturday, according to Hess.
Hess also expressed gratitude for the support of the faculty and student body. He hopes to increase awareness of the club among students.
“The faculty support is completely off the charts,” Hess said. “I’ve never seen so much support for the arts as I have at Weber State University. From the students, we get support when students know about us, but the group is so new that I don’t think students know we’re there or what we’re doing, but we do get quite a lot of support when people know about it.”
Students will have the chance to see the drumline performing “Slow Me Down” on April 14 when WSU will host the Intermountain Percussion Championships. The club will compete in the World Championships in Dayton, Ohio, next year.
More information can be found on the club’s website at www.weberstatedrumline.org