“Drumline Live” Touches Down in Madison’s Overture Center for Three Days, November 27, 28, 29

If this isn’t holiday entertainment, I don’t know what is.

This will definitely make high school and college band members and enthusiasts in the Madison area and beyond sit up and take notes. These young men and women are certified band and drum gods.

Yall remember the movie, don’t you? If you don’t, here’s a refresher, “The Last Battle.”

From Wikipedia, which more or less outlines the film:

At the [BET Big Southern] Classic, the bands are shown performing a mixture of popular songs. Morris Brown’s band even gets rapper Petey Pablo to perform during their routine. A&T is not fazed by this and performs their mix of retro and current sounds. A tie results and the Morris Brown and A&T drumlines face off. Dr. Lee tells Devon he can play for this face-off, showing his faith in Devon’s improved character and in thanks for all the hard work he has done in getting the band ready for the Classic. Morris Brown goes first and A&T responds. Morris Brown’s second cadence includes their snares moving forward and playing on the A&T drums (the same move that incited the fight at A&T’s homecoming game), then throwing down their sticks. The A&T line manages to hold their composure in the face of the insult. They play their cadence and in the middle throw down their sticks, mimicking the Morris Brown actions, but then the entire line pulls out another set of sticks and continues playing. They end their routine in the faces of the Morris Brown drumline, but instead of playing on their drums, the line all drop their sticks onto the other drumline’s drums. The judges award the win to A&T.

In real life, Morris Brown College, through financial mismanagement, has deep-sixed its college accreditation and Federal education funds since 2002. Even the United Negro College Fund has withdrawn support from this historically black college. Morris Brown is affiliated with the Black Church; in particular, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Again from Wiki:

Morris Brown was more than $23 million in debt and was on probation in 2001 with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for shoddy bookkeeping and a shortage of professors with advanced degrees. On December 10, 2002, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked Morris Brown’s accreditation.

College officials have said the school plans to re-apply for accreditation, a lengthy process that would require the college to be debt-free. While its students may receive state financial aid (as of 2007), until the school is “in candidacy for accreditation”, its students cannot receive federal aid.

Drumline was filmed on the Morris Brown College campus as was Stomp the Yard, a film about black Greeks, that is, frats. As of this date, Morris Brown is not yet out of debt, and is struggling along with about 240 students matriculating. But of course, I digress.

This is from the Drumline Live website:

DRUMLine Live is an international tour based on the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) marching band tradition. With riveting rhythms, bold beats and ear-grabbing energy, the staged show will be a synchronized musical showcase of the HBCU experience. Incorporating original compositions and soul-infused interpretations of top 40 hits, group performances will range from colorful, choreographed routines to heavy doses of drum riffs and cadences.

This live, staged show is co-produced by Halftime Live, LLC and CAMI Ventures, LLC and is currently auditioning for a world wide tour that will kick off in the summer of 2010 through the spring of 2011.

Let’s see what this new bunch has to offer. This is the second tour put together by CAMI and by Don Roberts, the chief band consultant on the film, Drumline, who was interviewed by the New Jersey Star-Ledger in February of last year.

“DrumLine” represents the second incarnation of the original concept. Roberts and his team first developed a program called “Halftime Live” in 2005, a show that was big on talent and energy, but limited in the language of theater. After a limited tour, he brought in the theater experts, “advisers who could help to comment on such dramatic issues as lighting, staging, cues and structure” and “DrumLine” was born. As the new and improved marching band celebration has tested the waters, it has already attracted the adulation of some unexpected audiences.

“Just a couple weeks ago, we were in Kerrville, Texas, where the median age is 50-plus and the audience we were playing to was at least 95 percent white,” said Pete Date, tour manager. “But the response was just overwhelming. Two consecutive performances were sold out, and by the time we have this big exit in the show, the crowd was just erupting with applause and emotion. Here you had performers and an audience that couldn’t be more different, yet this show was something fresh they could all identify with. That’s when I knew we had something big.”

Brian Snell, the show’s animated music director and drum major, was once a marching band member himself, a tuba player with the Florida A&M University band. He says he knew “DrumLine” had major potential when he sat in on the early casting sessions and saw the jubilation of the musicians, who had all but assumed their performing days were over.

“For people like me, who went to school and did band for a few years and then hung it up, ‘DrumLine’ offers a way to tap into that fountain of talent, to show people like me that there’s actually a future in this if you want to keep doing it.”

Just like with black Greeks who stomp each other in competition, this is also about channeling that youthful aggression, competitiveness and warrior ethic into something positive.   I remember, when in New Orleans,  the high school and college bands that would accompany the Mardi Gras floats with great affection, because they could play! and run any neophyte or braggart out of town.  There are whites and Latinos right now who hold diplomas from HBCUs and are proud to have found or enhanced their chops playing in music departments.  I hope the Madison audience is filled with interested and creative youth from all over, not just the well-heeled.

~ by blksista on November 25, 2010.

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