Enquirer Herald

The beat of their own drums

It didn’t take long for 16-year-old Tyler Copeland to become sold on the idea of competing in Clover High School’s indoor drum line.

“So far, it’s been a life-changing experience all around,” said Copeland, a sophomore who is finishing his first year of competition in the group. “I came down here and I just kind of found myself.”

Copeland and the 36 other students who make up the indoor drum line have good reason to feel proud. The group recently competed in the WGI World Championships in Dayton, Ohio, finishing in 11th place overall.

“It’s a really big deal,” said percussion instructor and assistant band director Dan Lenard, who leads the drum line ensemble. Competition was stiff, Lenard said, but the judges liked the Clover show.

The Clover group has been competing since January in the Carolina Indoor Performance Association circuit locally, and has placed in the top three groups at every competition.

Because of the group’s success, he said, it was recently been reclassified into the “open” class, which is the highest classification for high school ensembles. Lenard directs the group with another assistant director, Ann Lewis.

This year’s show is entitled “No Regrets” and is based on the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

Lenard said the Clover group set a goal of coming in within the top 12. One reason for that, he said, is that the top 12 group performances are featured on a DVD of the world championships.

Zach Owenby, 18, a senior who has participated in drum line since ninth grade, believes the group had a better show this year than in the past. “We had a lot of people work hard to be good,” he said.

Compared to traditional high school marching band, indoor percussion is a relatively recent school activity, first launched in 1976 at a Minnesota high school. It has grown and spread since then.

Unlike marching band, the performing group is composed only of percussion instruments, from drums to cymbals and marimbas. And, unlike the typical regimented, corps-style marching that’s performed by a full band, the indoor percussion line adds fluid body movements and other visual, theatrical elements to embellish the show.

Most of the indoor drum line students also participate in the Blue Eagle marching band. But the drum line program was started, Lenard said, because some students were interested in a focus on percussion.

“We can do it more of a showy thing,” said Owenby. And in drum line, he said, “different sections get to show off.”

Copeland agreed, saying the indoor drum line puts a focus on percussion.

“It’s more just us, and there’s expression,” he said. Unlike marching band, “it’s very close up and they can see everything. You get to be a person. You don’t just get to be one of many on a field.”

Ross Lenard, the 16-year-old son of Dan Lenard, said the performance was very fast-paced, and gives players an adrenaline rush. “It was like you’re performing to a different level,” he said.

Lenard said the group’s accomplishment is notable because competition in the “open” class is a lot tougher. He said the group was in the “A” level, but the top six groups from that level were moved to “open.”

He said the Clover school district has been very supportive of the program by enabling the group to use practice spaces and helping out with basic needs and transportation.

Cameron Ware, 14, a freshman, said the group has good practices. “There was a lot of talking,” he said of some early rehearsals. “We stopped all the talking and focused on our goal.”

Ware said he loves being in drum line because it’s so much fun. The competition, he said, “is awesome. It’s like all this attention’s on you, and that just makes you want to be better.”