Was it difficult taking over the percussion section after there was no staff in previous years?
It was definitely a challenge. Prior to BHHS I had only been a bass tech for a year at Pacifica HS in Garden Grove, CA. It was a little bit of
an experience, but it wasn't much regarding actually building a program
with a competitive goal. The first two years were spent just increasing the
size of the line and enhancing the skill level with hopes that some year
they would be ready to compete. The parents and director rallied behind the
group after seeing the potential, and we raised enough funding to get our
foot in the door.
Getting the kids themselves to develop proper work habits and rehearsal etiquette was also an issue that took a lot of work. Going from no
instruction to corps-styled regimentation is quite a transition for
How did things run prior to your arrival?
I am a little fuzzy on the details, but basically the director would give them some general instruction and the kids would self-govern the line
when it came to technique and learning stand cadences and pep-tunes. They
had no real incentive to work hard on their drumming to make it a more
significant part of their lives.
What were some of the changes you made or some of the ideas you implemented?
I brought the ideas of structure, technique, and discipline to the
line. With the aid of other instructors especially, I was able to convey
concepts such as "uniform look", "good sound quality", "proper heights", etc.
The drumline became a more time consuming activity when I arrived because I
would put together performances for the kids to do at instrumental music
concerts that required much more practice and preparation than the kids
had ever done in drumline before.
In general, as cheesy as it sounds, I try to equate drumline as a
metaphor for life. I believe that if the kids dedicate themselves to something
like this activity, and really strive to reach new levels of drumming skill,
they will also gain a lot of insight into positive life skills such as
determination, punctuality, preparation, and time management. College
and the real world are tough places, and I like to use drumline as a tool
to help my kids more easily transition into them.
Was everyone receptive to you and your new ways of drumming?
With regards to technique and the details of actually drumming,
everyone was receptive to learning my suggested approaches. After all, they really had no defined style before hand and seeing videos of WGI and DCI groups
served as good motivation for what can be accomplished with some hard work.
The receptiveness with regard to rehearsal time quantity and structure was more limited. You can imagine spending basically a class period of
band a day for a couple years, and then one day a guy shows up and says "we're
going to start practicing after school 4-6 hours a week and you have to
show up with the music learned in advance and you can't talk or peck during
rehearsals any more." It's a drastic shift, and it is still something
we struggle with to some degree. In general, the kids are pretty mature,
but at the same point they are still kids and they can be difficult to get
control of at times. The trick is just showing them that if they work
really hard now, it will pay off with their successes further down the
How have things changed from your first year to present?
A lot! You can see footage of the group from 2003 and compare it to the show from last year. It's pretty significant how much they have grown. The quality of the ensemble has risen, the size has increased, and the kids are more driven than they used to be. Also, the nature of the ensemble has changed significantly. Since the drumline is the only competitive unit
in the band program, it has brought together parents, the director, the
staff, and the kids into a family-type organization that is typical to most
competitive groups. That close knit feeling is a really positive thing
for assisting further growth.
Peanut Butter Jelly Time?
Haha! I created an on the spot tap accent exercise 2 years ago based
on 3 simple patterns that repeat over and over. The exercise was called
"Let's Get Warm" because the purpose was to just get the hands going if time
was limited. In around January of last year, the battery was getting a
little down from the amount of hours they were putting in (last year we were
putting in 13 hours a week with Saturday rehearsals starting in January
to try to catch up to the more experienced lines) so I was inspired by
seeing Brian Griffin doing the PB&J Time dance on Family Guy. I looked up the
song and its history and then created a whole arrangement of Let's Get Warm
to fit the track. I gave it to the kids one practice and they got very
excited once they heard it to music and at every show we would play that warm
up to the song. It was a good excitement builder. We have something lined
up for this year too...
Have you ever had a problem motivating kids in the line or being motivated yourself? If a student enjoys drumming but (for example) isn't really putting forth any effort outside of rehearsal, what can you do (assuming you can't boot him out of the ensemble or the entire section are like minded)?
I don't know if motivation has really ever been an issue. Iíd say the drive of the students was the primary cause for the rapid growth and the
ability to enter competition within three years. However, sometimes the kids
get lost in the view of the present and canít look into the future to see
the big picture like the staff can. That can be a hindrance because then
they will lose some of the enthusiasm toward working on the task at hand and
the staff has to sort of help build the excitement back up.
I think as a rule of thumb, the nature of the kids is directly
reflected by the nature of the staff. The staff knows that we have to believe in
the line and the show and we have to sell it to the kids to have the kids sell
it to the world. With that in mind, we cater our instruction to each individual in the best way we can to get the best results possible, and we try to always maintain a positive attitude in front of the kids to keep the vibe up and motivation levels going. For specific individuals that seem to be struggling with the load, we try to give extra attention and encouragement to compensate.
What caused your interest in drum corps? What made you want to march (seeing that there are so many people in high school drumlines that
don't do much beyond their high school)?
Without sounding bad, I am the kind of guy who is driven to improve when at a detriment. My HS drumline experience was fun, but our line was not really that good and the instruction wasnít that significant. When I got to
UCLA and made the snare line there, I was clearly the weak link. That bothered
me, so I auditioned for Pacific Crest and Impulse and made Impulse on bass. I was told by drum corps vet friends at the time that making any spot in any
corps is a route for fast growth. Touring at Impulse, and then Pacific
Crest, allowed me to get a lot of experience and exposure really quickly and
I came back to UCLA the next fall as one of the better players in the line.
So in a sense, I wanted to march for the experience in itself as well as the
opportunity to grow and reach to levels of skill relatively quickly!
The 2006 Beverly Hills High School Drumline "A Tour of Technology: The Inner Workings of a Computer"
0:19 - The narrator describes how electrons flow through a wire and
power on the CPU. The battery moves up the wire toward the backdrop labeled
"CPU" and the Intel Pentium theme is played by the pit.
0:36-0:38 - The Windows Startup theme is played by the pit as the
battery gathers into the screen on the floor representing the loading of the
Operating System (OS). The battery's layers of circular motion at the
halt is like the Windows Logo waving like a flag.
The second movement starts with metallic "working" sounds. The
arrangement for the movement is Divo's "Working in a Coal Mine," representing how the OS issues commands for the CPU to read instructions from memory and
execute them.. The battery features are instructions being executed by the
There used to be a banner that would scroll across between the "Memory" backdrop and the "CPU" backdrop with a bunch of binary 1's and 0's,
further adding to the concept. The support structures we built for the banner
never worked though, so we ended up cutting that out of the show after the
first few competitions.
2:20 - We are using "Office Space" type narration lines to express
overtime working of the nerds in the pit and them driving the computers faster
and with greater urgency.
The third movement is serene sounding to depict the normal smooth
running of a computer. The battery forms a long line representing the "steady
3:22 - The pit melody starts to break down and become more dissonant
representing the computer error that is about to occur. he battery
splits in half as this happens showing a tear in the stream. When the
breakdown hits in full force at 3:27, the battery goes crazy visually and there is an alarm sound being emanated from the pit on the slow 2 and 4 of the
groove. Bit by bit the battery reforms into the stream and by 3:39 it is fully restored.
The fourth movement depicts networking and the internet. The battery
is split into 3 groups and over the course of the movement a couple of
common members are exchanged between the different groups representing
information that is being passed from one computer to another of the internet. The pit is jamming out and the bass guitarist is improv soloing.
4:38 - At this point the whole battery has formed a solid block
reflecting the connection of all machines into a single entity that is the
4:47 - The 5th movement starts with a little solo snare action
underneath the opener melody reprise. The purpose of this movement is to
summarize everything and bring back melodies from previous movements. Visually
and musically this music has a lot of drive and helps build excitement
toward a big climax at the end.
5:27 - The narrator says "Goodbye" in the AOL email voice. Thus
concluding "A Tour of Technology."
Percussion Director - Beverly Hills High School
Jason marched in the drumline while attending UCLA and was the section leader during the last two seasons. He marched Impulse Drum and Bugle Corps in 2001 and Pacific Crest Drum and Bugle Corps in 2002. Jason also marched one season with Esperanza Drum and Bugle Corps Winter Drumline in 2004.
Three seasons ago the drumline had no instructor, Jason took over and they now have a competative indoor drumline!
Jason talks about building a percussion program and his drum corps experience. Scroll down past the interview to watch the Beverly Hills High School Indoor Drumline from 2005-2006 with commentary by Jason (or click here).
Be sure to check out the lesson on Legato Strokes from Jason here. This is required knowledge for both the new and experienced drummer.