Insightful Interview with Drumline Teacher and Arranger David Reeves

Dc header david reeves interview

Drumline Chops had the chance to catch up with our friend and percussion savant, David Reeves.

David has a wealth of experience in the marching percussion activity as a performer, teacher, and arranger. He's performed with outstanding groups in the Center Grove High School Drumline as well as the Star of Indiana Drumline.  He has taught at top tier drum and bugle corps including the Santa Clara Vanguard, Cavaliers, and Seattle Cascades.  He's also an active and popular arranger amongst the marching percussion community having arranged for several high schools, indoor drumlines, and drum corps around the nation.

Here's what David had to say:

Drumline Chops: How did you first get introduced and involved with marching percussion?

David Reeves: Freshman year at Center Grove High School in 1987. Jay Webb was my drumline instructor and played a huge role in exposing me to the marching percussion world.

Drumline Chops: Where all have you marched, studied, and taught?

David Reeves: Marched I was in Center Grove's high school drumline for 4 years beginning in 1987 and graduated in 1991 and I marched in the Star of Indiana for three seasons, 1991-1993. Studied I studied at Indiana University from 1991-1995 focusing primarily on music composition though I did not finish my degree there. I received my undergrad degree in percussion performance at the University of Washington in Seattle in 2003. I was there for about 2 years. At both places I played in the concert bands, orchestras, percussion ensembles and new music ensembles. Taught This goes quite a ways back so I'm probably forgetting something. During my college days in Indiana I taught and/or arranged for the following places: 1991 Franklin Community High School 1992 Avon High School Drumline 1993-96 Bedford High School 1994-95 Bloomington North High School 1995 Center Grove High School Drumline I lived in Portland, OR for one year and taught and arranged for the following places: 1996 Salem Argonauts youth band 1996 North Salem High School 1996 Sunset High School 1996-97 Mountain View High School Drum Corps Santa Clara Vanguard 1997, 1999-2002 The Cavaliers 2006, 2007 Seattle Cascades 2004 and 2005 (Instructor and arranger) Troopers 2009-2012 (arranger) University of Washington Drumline 2001-2009 For the last several years I've mostly been just an arranger for the following places: 2002-present Center Grove High School (IN) 2008-present Victor J Andrew High School (IL) 2008-present Kamiak High School (WA) 2008-present Pearl High School (MS) 2010-present Clinton High School (MS) 2010-present Boise State Marching Band 2012-present Avon High School (IN) 2008-2012 Franklin Central High School (IN) 2010-2012 Greenfield Central High School (IN) 2009, 2011 Thomas Worthington High School (OH) 2008-2010 Austin Independent (TX) 2011 Evolution (IL) 2012 Texas State Indoor 2008 Mt. Juliet High School (TN) 2006, 2008 Tunstall High School (VA) 2006-2008 Century High School (OR)

Drumline Chops: 1993 Star of Indiana is recognized as one of the best and most revolutionary corps of all time. What was it like to be a part of that? How was that drumline different than others you've been a part of?

David Reeves: 1993 was probably the toughest summer I've ever experienced. The staff was relentless in their pursuit of musical and technical excellence and we all saw each other at our best and worst. It is something I'll never forget and will always cherish. I'm not sure what made that year "different." Looking back, part of the allure of 1993 was that there was no 1994 or 95 etc. So it's all a big unknown. All we have to go on was how successful 1993 was. That said, I think one thing that made that year very unique was how much control was needed to play Hannum's book and how well the drumline demonstrated that control. The staff was so focused all season long. There was literally never a day where the staff was not within inches of our drums critiquing us. Very rewarding and nerve-racking!

1993 Star of Indiana Drumline

Drumline Chops: What composers and teachers have had the biggest impact on your writing and teaching style?

David Reeves: In the drum corps arena it has been all about three guys for me. Thom Hannum, Ralph Hardimon and Jim Casella. Thom's writing was all about the details and subtleties. Nothing was ever out of place. There were no superfluous drum parts. And his teaching is second to none. The way he can deliver information and motivate is something I've never forgotten and never seen duplicated. The first drum corps I had ever heard was the 1987 Santa Clara Vanguard and Garfield Cadets. And it was Ralph's and Thom's books that really got me excited about the drum corps activity and the emotions it can bring about. Ralph has a true gift of effortlessly marrying orchestral and rudimental writing styles and the way his lines played also mirrored that style. An incredible touch. I was lucky enough to teach Jim Casella's writing during my time with SCV and The Cavaliers so I got to really dissect every part of the percussion books. His writing is pure excitement. I found it extremely difficult to clean sometimes, but even when things were a little bit grey you still just loved to sit there and listen to his arrangements. Many layers and colors and great grooves, but all very genuine sounding. Never forced or contrived. Something I don't hear much these days. As much as I enjoy drum corps, marching band and indoor drumline I don't really ever listen to this music outside of rehearsals or live performances. At home I enjoy a wide variety of pop, jazz and orchestral artists and composers. Stravinsky, Copland, Adams, Bartok, Nik Bartsch's Ronin, Pat Metheny, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Norah Jones and Sigur Ros are a few of my favorites.

Drumline Chops: You've been part of many successful groups. In your opinion, what qualities and characterists make a group successful in this activity?

David Reeves: The staff has to have a clear message from day one and not waver from that message. If it's delivered in the right way the members will most likely buy into it and then the fun begins. That's on the surface. Underneath there are a host of things that make all of the difference. A supportive admin, band parent organization, volunteers, bus drivers etc. When those people are all in place the teaching staff and students can just concentrate on their gig and the success rate is even greater.

Drumline Chops: What are your general goals any time you write, arrange, or perform a piece?

David Reeves: As a composer I'm thinking primarily of the performers and the audience. I want the performers to enjoy and to be challenged with what they are given so that they can send that excitement and energy to the audience. As an arranger I think primarily about what is the music saying in its original form. How can I keep that message but deliver it using the instruments before me. I want to explore and find new sounds each time, but I don't ever want to compromise the quality of the original music. As a performer, which I've not been in about 10 years, I think I mostly thought about not screwing up!

Drumline Chops: What are two life lessons that you've taken away from the marching percussion activity?

David Reeves: Learn to adapt. There is no "one way" to do the job. Listen to the people around you regardless of how experienced or inexperienced you think they are. There is always something you can take away from it.

Drumline Chops: What's one thing that Drumline Chops members can do this week to help improve their rudimental drumming?

David Reeves: Learn to manipulate the sticks. Let the sticks do as much work for you as possible. That doesn't mean play lazily. It just means to work with the sticks, head and natural rebound.

Many thanks for sharing your insights with the Drumline Chops community, David!

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Pat McLaughlin

23 September 2012 in Interview
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Pat McLaughlin

Pat McLaughlin is the founder of Drumline Chops.  He graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in music education and is currently the percussion director at West Bloomfield High School.