Hot-dog, hot-dog, curly fries, coke.
This is not a fast-food order, but a string of words that is turning some School District #83 students into accomplished drummers, who will perform at this year’s Roots & Blues Festival.
Under the direction of Michelle Reed, the A.L. Fortune Drumline that began four years ago with 14 students has grown to 50 enthusiastic members from Grades 8 through 12.
Music teacher and School District #83 vice-principal of music, Reed says students do not have to learn to read music in order to play the snare, tenor or bass drums used in the program.
Reed teaches by ear, saying a number of words to teach a certain rhythm. Very soon, the students are able to play the rhythm back to her on the drums.
“That’s a lot of the reason I can get kids so young playing so quickly,” says Reed, who believes the current generation needs motivation and quick success. “It gets them going right away and they’re hooked.”
Students know they have to do well in school if they want to be part of the performances, and recognition from their peers that they are part of a provincial award-winning team provides motivation too.
The first year, and after only a few months of practice, the drumline performed in provincial competition where students came in third in their category, earned a second-place finish in the following two years and took first place this year.
Reed says drumlines are becoming increasingly popular in schools across Canada and A.L. Fortune’s is the only one outside of the Lower Mainland.
“The kids are so attracted, in my opinion, because of their success,” Reed says. “And they’re hungry for being part of a team.”
As well, Reed says there is a huge potential for mentorship through the program. Older students are happy to go into the music room to help and will often take younger students into another room to practise their parts.
Because of the high number of participants, Reed has broken the performance lines into three groups, with many of the students clamouring to perform in more than one.
Reed and some 20 members of the drumline are excited to be performing at the Roots and Blues Festival.
They will kick off the opening of the main gates at 3 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16, and make an appearance before the mainstage launches at 6. On Saturday, they will make an appearance at the barn stage and will be an integral part of the Acuity Glow Parade that evening.
“They are super excited,” laughs Reed, noting about 20 of the more senior members of the drumline will perform. “A lot of these kids have never been to the festival, so for them to see it and be part of the entry is pretty big.”
The A.L. Fortune Drumline will also participate in a drumline battle with two other youth groups at this year’s Okanagan Military Tattoo, one from Alberta and the other from the U.K. The drumline has also been a feature of some Salmon Arm Silverbacks games.
Enthusiastic students have been rehearsing with Reed on their own time over the summer and, thanks to a $4,000 donation from the Enderby Lions Club, Reed can buy more drums so more kids can play in the future.
The school is hosting the Yamaha Sounds of Summer Drumline Camp, which is open to any School District #83 student 13 years and older.
The camp will run from Aug. 6 to 8. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.