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tenor playing is a lost art

There's a percussion camp going on at the UofO this week, and it was a bit discouraging to see. There were five or six bass drummers learning how to play eight on a hand in one room, which is fine. But in the other room where Micah was, there were six snare players and no tenor players.

It wasn't just the fact that there were no tenor players at all. It was the way the room was set up. The six snare players were in a line playing eight on a hand, facing Micah who was teaching them and operating the dr. beat, and the tenor drums were randomly strewn in one part of the room. Some were on stands, some were just on the ground. Some mallets were out, some weren't. The drums were facing random directions, just a clusterfuck of neglect.

Maybe it would have meant less if I didn't already feel frustrated that marching percussion in Oregon is pretty snare oriented. I mean, maybe no tenor players signed up for the camp. Maybe not enough people signed up for the camp overall so Micah and Sean had to make an executive decision. But either way it speaks volumes to me that there isn't even a pretense of tenors being important. It's not just that the drums weren't set up for people to try. It was also the fact that once it was determined that they weren't going to be used, they were tossed in the corner, not even lined up or put away.

Then again, that last part may not mean anything. As a general rule the UofO drum line doesn't concern themselves with lining the drums up neatly. It wasn't until I marched with Andy and Seamus in winter that it had even occured to them to make the drums look neat or to always move together as a group.

I've watched a lot of drum lines out here in the Pacific Northwest, and I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I bring something to this marching circuit that no one else does. Not because i'm "better" than other instructors here. That's hardly true. I'm just coming from a different background and perspective, one that doesn't put the best players on snare, the next best on tenors, and the rookies on bass drum. All of the so-called "tenor" players in these drum lines aren't really tenor players. They're snare players pretending to play tenors until they get promoted to snare. My student Ken, on the other hand, is a True Tenor Player. As far as i'm concerned, he's the best tenor player in this state, partially because he's just so damned talented, but also partially because of my guidance. His potential as a tenor player would never have been tapped if he was still a student of Alan.

It makes me want to get more involved with the circuit out here to stir things up even more. I'm potentially working with three marching bands in the fall, and I really don't have the time to get involved with them all since I'm supposed to be worrying about my thesis and my masters degree and all that, but I'm doing it anyway. I want to show this circuit that there can be more to a marching band show than a Todd horn book, a Mike drill book, and a snare-oriented drum book. Not for personal gain - it's a nice side effect, i suppose, but that's secondary. I just look at someone like Ken and i wonder how many other high school students have untapped potential. Not just tenor players, but musicians, leaders, educators. I want my students to strive for a goal, take some risks to get there, reach it, and become stronger because of it.

Oh well. I guess i'll get off my soap box now.


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March 2017