Crash Course

(Originally posted in the Halftime Magazine community, 7/18/2007)

As much as I love the marching arts, I must say there are few things that excite me more than a talented cymbal line. I suppose it has something to do with my marching roots.
Back when I first started marching, like many percussionists who were either "green" or lacked seniority in their lines, I played cymbals. Often thought to be easy enough to be an entry level position, the cymbal lines I was often a part of were largely populated by first year marchers, who were later glad to "graduate" onto other positions on the line. In fact, my high school cymbal line even included musicians who played instruments with which they could not march (mostly oboists), so it was a position easy to take for granted.
And yet, despite having passed on to other positions in our drum section, I still--and will always--consider myself a cymbalist. As strange as it may sound, I'll always have cymbal bronze in my blood. Maybe it was remembering where I began, maybe it's the year I spent as a cymbal squad leader, transforming a line from the bottom of the drum totem pole to quality showmen and women, or maybe I just like shiny things and love their appeal both as an instrument and a part of the visual ensemble. Whatever it is, I'm hooked.
At this past weekend's NightBEAT, a DCI show sponsored by Carolina Crown in Charlotte, NC, I was fortunate enough to be treated to several talented cymbal lines. As you may know, cymbal lines in DCI are currently few and far between, as many corps opt to march that number on another instrument and play cymbal parts with in the front ensemble, but that night I was treated to Division II's Teal Sound, The Colts, Southwind, and my personal favorite, Santa Clara Vanguard.
The DCI Field Pass podcast for July 17, 2007 chronicles the "vanishing plates"and speaks to folks in various corps, including some cymbal-playing musicians, and it's easy to see that cymbalists take pride in our craft.
One thing that a few had postulated is that with the raising of corps limits from 135 to 150 members in the 2008 season, we may see a resurgence of plates squads. It's a change I'd love to see made--there's nothing like a solid cymbal squad. Still, there's something said for DCI lines who are currently the few, the proud, the cymbals.