Drumline beats through WOU

Rosalyn Whitby, Ashley Eddings and Kyle Chapman, from left, play tonal drums on WOU’s drumline.

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer

MONMOUTH — Equipment for a drumline sat at Western Oregon University unused for years until Ben Prothero, percussion major, decided to dust it off last year.

“That’s my specialty, drumline,” he said.

He and fellow student Ryan Chapman recruited about half a dozen others to get started. Now the group has nearly doubled in size.

But it’s more about quality than quantity when it comes to drumline, Prothero said.

“You can carry a really small battery if you have players that work well together,” he said. With a bigger group, they could carry more sounds and do more things.

The WOU drumline marched in the Albany Veterans Parade on Nov. 11 and were received well, Prothero said.

“I was satisfied with how our group played,” he said. “We try and do one local community event every term.”

Western Oregon University’s drumline is in its second year and participates in at least one community event per term. Interest in the group is increasing.

The group also has performed at WOU football games.

David Takano, an education major, has been drumming since he was in fourth grade.

“Football games are fun,” he said. “The crowd likes it, I feel like.”

Takano has been drumming with a group since seventh grade. He was inspired by his church drummer.

Western Oregon University’s drumline is in its second year and participates in at least one community event per term. Interest in the group is increasing.

“I thought it was the coolest,” he said.

Members of the drumline were scattered throughout Edgar H. Smith Music Hall on Thursday evening.

Prothero took time to help others learn a new piece of music, “Pet the Kitty.”

The tonal bass drummers made quick progress of the new music as “Capt. Ben,” as they call him, counted out the time, “Two, three, four.”

The Western drumline accepts students from all walks of life, not just those majoring in music or who have held a drumstick before.

For Aaron Smith, playing a percussion instrument was a first. The music and conducting major usually plays the bass trombone.

“It’s different to go from reading music with a pitch to reading without a pitch,” he said. “I watched the bass drums do it a little before I picked up symbols.”

He practiced with Nan Liao, psychology student and first-time drummer.

“I was interested in music and saw the poster,” she said before getting back to learning the new piece.

With football season over, the group may perform at some basketball games. But future plans are dictated by how many people will be available, Prothero said.

Members of the drum line learn specific parts, making it difficult to perform piecemeal, he said.

“We have five bass drums and each one has a different pitch,” he said. “If we’ve learned all the cadences for five bass drums and two of them can’t be there, it makes it difficult to play your part right.”

Prothero compared it to trying to play a piano with a third of the keys missing.

The group doesn’t have official club status yet, but that hasn’t stopped them from doing what they do: drumming.

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