Category Archives: drumline: the review

Drumline: The review. Time to weigh in.

I’ve been asked countless times whether my experiences paralleled the movie, Drumline.

Film poster for Drumline - Copyright 2002, 20th Century Fox
Film poster for Drumline – Copyright 2002, 20th Century Fox

In some ways, yes—the spirit, the excitement at competitions and exhibitions, traveling to games, the high-energy adrenaline rush, the electric roar of the crowd, hosting DCI events … KKPsi … even the band romance. It’s all there.

However: This steaming pile of cinematic horse-puckey is awesomely bad only in its shameless irrelevance to bona fide college drumlines.

The snares in the movie couldn’t play a clean triplet roll. Their rudiments, drags, one-hands and attacks were sloppy.

A line gets tight with sectional practice, not by challenging for a spot in a show just days away, somehow maintaining drill and musical integrity despite a last-minute member switch. The P1 – P4 ranking system was laughable.

It’s ‘drill’, not formations. What about stick height? Why march a multiple-bass ensemble but play unison, and not tune tonally? Sounded like dirt. Snare music does not contain sharps and flats, with no percussion markup.

Placement auditions are heard not by peers in a public setting, but by Directors and staff. The ability to sightread a chart is a given, not learned by rote à la Devon Miles. Dave Satterfield would have checked that chump day 1.

No decent section leader rules by intimidation; there was far too much competition and animosity within this group.

The field visuals were slick but would have been rendered much more effective with practice and attention to detail, particularly for a major motion picture.

What “big time college marching band” performs in half a stadium? The on field rumble bears no need for elaboration.

Lastly—the “BET Big Southern Classic” allows Petey Pablo to crash the Morris Brown show—thus not judging strictly by merit of their performance alone.

Somehow they’re a lock in a tie for first? The Drumlines “put it down” on the 50? Hollywood at its finest … CUT!

As a former snare drummer with the nearly 400-strong West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band (1997 recipient of the Sudler Trophy), these non-conformities are in stark contrast to reality.

The flick gets props—but NOT for which it purports to be: A factual representation of a serious and polished college marching band drumline.