At one point in time, the department of music at Western Colorado University housed a marching band of over 200 members. Over the years, the athletics band program faded, but Ben Justis, director of percussion, and Brett Keating, director of bands, hope to turn that around by starting with a 12-member drumline.
Elevating Music’s Presence on Campus
“Dr. Keating and I thought this would be so wonderful for the entire university. Having an athletic band would help draw people to the school and also elevate music’s presence and usefulness to campus,” said Justis
After making the pitch for an athletics band to the university administrators, the music department teamed up with the athletic department to fund the drumline.
“I would love to convey my thanks to academic affairs and athletics. Without them, this would not have been possible,” said Justis.
Building a Complete Drumline
Once approved and equipped with the proper drumline gear, the department held auditions for the line in late August and selected 12 members to join. Justis said that 12 drummers on the line is more than enough for a full sound.
As the athletic season begins, the drumline has collaborated with the Western Cheer Team as well. To enhance the atmosphere on game day, Justis composed pieces for the drumline that line up with the already written cheers of the cheer team.
“Coach fuller from the cheer is a brilliant writer of cheers,” said Justis. “I basically decided to use her cheer genius to design a lot of the grooves we’re playing that can function on their own without the cheer or can really go right along with the cheers.”
An Enthusiastic Response from Students
Andrea Brown, a Western Alumni who graduated with a degree in music education and emphasis in percussion, is the lead snare of the line.
“It’s one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done in my life,” said Brown. “I’m excited to get out there, though. Even the reaction’s we’re already getting from people watching us practice makes it awesome. I can’t wait for more people to hear us play.”
Brown said the thought of being able to support the Mountaineer’s athletics and the cheerleaders makes the hard work of the drumline worth it.
“I also love the camaraderie of the line,” said Brown.
While the line’s primary purpose is to perform at sporting events, the group of 12 drummers will perform at various events across campus and in the community, including Trick-or-treating on Main and the Night of Lights festival.
Building a Full Band
The drumline is set to perform at sporting events and in the community in the upcoming season, but Justis said the line could add horns to the mix as early as next semester. Their goal is to create a full-sized marching band stemming from the drumline within the next five years.
“We’ve been so pleased with the support from campus and the administration and we cannot wait to get to games this season,” said Justis.
Author Credit: Kinlee Whitney
Photo Credit: Courtesy, Kate Wasson