MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. --
Keeping time at parades, making special effects sounds at concerts and tapping out cadences during feature performances are all in a day’s work for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing drum line.
The percussionists perform on different instruments to provide necessary background sounds for almost every ensemble, or individual section, of the band.
“Our hands are pretty much in everything the band has to offer,” said Lance Cpl. Nathan McCain, a percussionist in the 3rd MAW Band, I Marine Expeditionary Force. “We control dynamics and time. If we play quiet, the band plays quiet. If we play loud, the band plays loud.”
Before becoming Marine musicians, the percussionists have to pass an audition where they perform a prepared piece of music, a non-prepared piece of music (sight reading) and play several scales (a series of consecutive notes).
After completing basic training and Marine combat training, they attend the Navy School of Music at Naval Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story, Va.
While attending the 21-week Basic Music Course, they learn to sight read music, march with the instruments and become more proficient at performing.
“The most important thing is learning the basics and how to sight read,” said Cpl. Colin Hurowitz, another percussionist in the 3rd MAW Band. “The Marine Corps band is all about upholding tradition. It’s important to know where the music came from and what you are trying to recreate with it. It helps you understand the music better and to become a better musician.”
After reaching the fleet, the percussionists face one of the most challenging parts of becoming a band member – learning all of the 3rd MAW Band music in one month, explained Hurowitz.
They use instruments such as the timpanis, the base and snare drums, the xylophone, the triangle and the cymbals during concerts. During parades they use cymbals, snare and base drums, which are attached to harnesses that hang on their shoulders.
For every performance the percussionists try to be as animated as possible.
“I’ve been performing for years,” said Hurowitz. “It’s all about demonstrating energy because that’s what the audience is looking for.”
Along with performing at concerts, the percussionists must complete practice hours during the week. In addition to practicing and performing, they make a new feature piece, or drum section solo, every couple of months and compose new cadences, or beats, to which the band marches.
Like every 3rd MAW musician, the percussionists also have additional jobs such as keeping track of the band’s music.
“I’m somebody who likes a challenge,” said Hurowitz. “Part of being a Marine musician is working a lot. It prepares you for the future because you’ll probably never do this much stuff again.”
To Marine musicians, every instrument is essential to the band, but the 3rd MAW Band percussionists have the job of keeping the band in step, providing unique sounds for concerts and adding to the high energy level of every performance.