by Carla Noah Stutsman
Although it hasn’t been scientifically proven, 17 could easily be the average age of the members of the Azle High School Indoor Drumline.
Regardless, 17 is an important number to members of the drumline.
For one thing, the drumline program began at AHS exactly 17 months ago.
Most importantly, the group is now ranked 17th in the world after competing in the Winter Guard International World Finals Thursday and Friday, April 18-19 in Dayton, Ohio.
AHS percussion director Richard Kearns said he couldn’t be more proud of his merry band of percussionists.
Performing a show entitled The Devil Came Back to Georgia, the drumline explored the story told in the original Charlie Daniels Band song of the same name in which Johnny and the devil compete to see who is the best fiddler.
In the hit song, Johnny prevails.
In the show, 10 years has lapsed and the devil decides he wants to take back the title. He confronts Johnny once again with help from his band of demons.
Dramatically, musically, and in true style, Johnny once again prevails.
Azle’s drumline, despite what was referred to as an equipment malfunction, performed brilliantly in the preliminary competition Thursday, placing 17th out of a total of 32 entries.
The top 20 advanced to the semi-finals, in which Azle competed on Friday.
They agains placed 17th – not making the top 10 cut to advance to the finals on Friday.
“Oh, we had that few minutes of devastation when we learned we didn’t make the finals,” Kearns said. “But, honestly, it gave us the opportunity to sit ‘front and center’ and watch the top ten drumlines in the world compete, and that was a real learning experience for us all.”
Kearns described one particular drumline that utilized huge props and stunts and even placed percussionists onto giant “wheels” that spun around as continued to beat their drums.
“The students are all now talking and planning new and creative ideas for what we can do next,” Kearns said. “The greatest thing is that I’m not even leading those discussions – they’ve caught the dream and they’re running with it.”
The drumline got an extra boost when AHS Principal Sam Robinson and his family showed up in Dayton Friday morning to support them as they competed in the semi-finals.
Kearns said that while 36 students performed in the actual show, it took “an army of parents” to get the group and its equipment to Ohio, chaperone them, feed them, keep up with them and all the equipment, and roll it all out onto the floor when it was time to perform.
“This never could have happened without this amazing group of parents,” he said.