Del Val drumline terrifies New Jersey audiences


Mr. Smith

The 2019 Del Val Renegade Drumline after its National Finals performance

Sarah Nerwinski, The Delphi Staff

Did you know that Del Val has a Drumline? It combines marching band’s pit and battery with acting. This year, Mr. Smith and Mr. McPherson, the directors of the drumline, along with the students selected a Stephen King-themed show, calling it “Welcome To Your Nightmare.” The show features characters like Beverly, Georgie, and Pennywise the Clown from IT,  Carrie White from Carrie, Mr. Gaunt from Needful Things and the Grady Twins from The Shining. This year’s drumline is absolutely thriving with a count of 54 people, as big as a Group 3A marching band.

Mr. Smith and Mr. McPherson are the two directors of the Drumline season, and both of them work hard to get the music and storyline down. Mr. McPherson focuses more on the pit side of the drumline, while Mr. Smith puts together the story and battery. They make a great team. “The season’s going great,” says Smith. “The competitions have been going very well, and the judges are happy.” The show has been slowly coming together, with some students working on both the musical and drumline at the start of the season. “By the end of the season, the goal is always to win championships. But, as far as the stereotypical goal, it is to try to increase the production of what we produce for the show” Mr. McPherson says.  He also thinks the season is going well. “It always boggles my mind how quickly they learn the show. I think it’s going up and up from here.” Mr. McPherson views Drumline as a time to develop percussionists for marching band. “My goal that I’m hoping for during this indoor season is that there emerges more musicianship to prep for the upcoming marching band season.”

Each year, just like the marching band, there is a theme. As mentioned before, this year’s chosen theme is  The Works of Stephen King. Mr. Smith and Mr. McPherson give a list of possible themes for the show to the students, and the students choose the theme. The show features Hallie Koches as Pennywise, Angela Maglio as Beverly, Alan Dursee as Georgie, Olivia Johnson as Carrie White, John Patrick Tynan as Mr. Gaunt,  and Sarah and Grace and Nerwinski as the Grady Sisters. “We are building this giant Jack-In-The-Box [this year], and we haven’t really used props before, but a lot of other drumlines do so I’m glad we are getting to the point where we can be competitive with those groups” Smith says. “What I ended up thinking about was the concept of Stephen King’s book Needful Things: a haunted pawn shop. So we are going with an idea of Needful Things meets [the film] The Cabin in the Woods, which is not written by King. But this idea that there is haunted artifacts and creepy things that go bump in the night to terrorize the kids.”

Mr. Smith is often helping with the Color Guard and Actors, in order to make the storyline come to life. While he is doing this, Mr. McPherson is helping the other musicians learn their music. He has to listen to each musical part to see who is playing what, and if they were doing so correctly. “It was hard picking out each music part at first, when I first started being s director, but with experience comes the ability to isolate the unique sounds of the instrument” Mr. McPherson says. However, despite the 50 kids playing, he does not find directing a big drumline hard.   

The show is supposed to be terrifying, and Mr. Smith and Mr. McPherson have ideas to make it scary. “There’s no doubt that I find parts of the show frightening” Mr. McPherson says. “I think the visuals contribute a lot o the scary elements, but part of my job is to make the music support the mood to the show.” Mr. Smith thinks that the small things make a big difference. “There’s one moment where John Patrick Tynan, who plays Mr. Gaunt, actually walks right up to the front of the performance floor and picks out a random member in the crowd and waves at them. We take these moments, and we break the fourth wall, and we let the people in the audience become part of the show.”

The Drumline placed fourth at this year’s US Bands National Finals with a score of 83.5.