Weapons of Mass Percussion

The Buena Drumline performs its championship-winning piece ‘The Web We Weave.’ Photo by Damien Masterson.

by Amy Brown

Summer Elliott joined Buena High School’s Winter Drumline in 2017 as a freshman, and today he is one of its four Captains, playing the marimba, and serving as Front Ensemble Captain. “Even at the beginning of my first season, I knew that one day I wanted to be a captain, and this year that dream came true,” says Elliott.

Other dreams were recently realized for the entire group, fresh back from their championship first place win in the San Bernardino Southern California Percussion Alliance (SCPA) Championship finals competition. The 34-member Drumline competed against 49 Southern California schools at what is the largest percussion competition in the western United States. And they had the chance to perform their exciting, award-winning piece “The Web We Weave” one last time on their home turf at the Buena High School gym on April 30th to a large and enthusiastic crowd.

The Drumline’s Percussion Director Paul Curci, a Buena alum from 2003, shares that the last time the group won first place in the SCPA competition, he was a sophomore back in 2001. According to Curci, this year the Drumline has the fewest seniors of any year, so this season was expected to be a ‘rebuilding’ period, and the whole team, and especially the underclassmen, really stepped up. “This is an incredibly talented group of young people, with real drive,” says Curci. “It says really good things about Buena’s future.” Buena’s Drumline has been competing in championships every year. “The SCPA is one of the most competitive areas for this in the world. That is not hyperbole—it’s an actual statement. To advance to finals, which is the upper echelon of the groups, is an honor in and of itself,” he says.

Creating a championship, precision Drumline takes a profound level of talent, combined with commitment and hard work. Their season begins in early January and continues through April. Each week there were eight hours of scheduled rehearsals, and in addition to these mandatory hours, members were expected to put in their own practice time, outside of rehearsal. “The students’ work ethic is one of clearest factors that stands out, the entire team shows up to put in the work to see their vision, they know what that process is,” says Curci. “They take advantage of every moment to see that vision through. They come with their game face on, so to speak.” Curci shares that while it is a somewhat clichéd phrase, that it truly does ‘take a village’ for a group like this to succeed at this level. The Buena Music Association support, parents’ participation in the grueling work and performance schedules, and the drive and commitment of the musicians themselves all blended together for the winning formula.

“While it may be a huge commitment and exhausting at times, the hours that we put in build musical skills, friendships, and memories that will last a lifetime,” says Elliott.

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