By Rhea-Frances Tetley – Staff Writer
The Mountain Fifes & Drums Corps invited boys and girls ages 10 to 12 and up interested in joining the Fifes & Drums and their families to a new recruit presentation last week at the Church of the Woods in Lake Arrowhead, where they hold their practice sessions.
This elite historical fifes and drums corps performs all over Southern California and every other year travels to Colonial Williamsburg to attend the Drummer Call, competing against other fifes and drums corps from around the country, usually earning high honors.
Attending the Fifes & Drums recruiting meeting were the leaders and current members of the corps, who performed for the attendees. No previous musical experience is needed to join, as the program teaches the young people how to read music, how to play their chosen instrument and many other life skills that will benefit them in their education and in life. The members said they have fun together while learning to be professional performers. They love the attention they attract while performing and having fun with the other members.
The Mountain Fifes & Drums is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization so there are no fees to join. As the students move up the ranks and learn the songs to perform, there are some minor costume expenses because the major costume pieces are provided by the corps.
Those who choose to play fife will need to purchase the instrument eventually, whereas the rope-tensioned snare and bass drums are provided. They invite youngsters to join them to have fun, while being a part of a historical re-enactment group with high aspirations and goals.
The program has five pillars of life to strive to learn and perfect. The first two are music and history, as the music and history programs teach them the purpose of the fifes and drums in colonial times, before modern communication methods, and how to read music and play their chosen instrument of a fife, snare or bass drum. They are taught their importance in history, as they learn about the Colonial period, the clothing, the foods, the Revolutionary War and the personalities of the men who fought in the war and the women of the era. As the recruits learn more songs, they move up in rank and the member who earns the most points each month gets a gift card.
Leadership is a major element of Fifes & Drums and the older students, under the leadership of adults, help the younger children become leaders, learning leadership skills as they move through the program toward graduation when they exit the program at age 18. Many alumni come back to assist the younger members, mentoring them. Last year, the Alumni Corps performed in the Jamboree Days parade.
Discipline is a significant pillar of the program as the kids are taught to march in coordination in a paramilitary style. Standing at attention is one of the more difficult elements to achieve, but this leads to self-discipline for students and spreads to other parts of their lives, creating a more mature person in control of their life, prepared to achieve.
Responsibility is a major ingredient of the program, as each member has responsibilities to the others in the program to be there on time.
Kevin Garland, who was in Colonial Williamsburg before moving to Southern California, began the music program for youth on the mountain in 2001 with Cindy Olsen, who had a background in bugle and fife groups.
Historically, communications during the American Revolutionary War were often done through the use of fifes and drums, and they were instrumental in the successful coordination of American forces during the Revolution, helping to win the war.
As one of the few colonial-style fifes and drums corps in California, the Mountain Fifes & Drums is a local treasure for youth, ages 10 to 18 years of age, to learn about music, history, leadership and responsibility, while learning to perform in public.
There is still time to join the Mountain Fifes and Drums for this season, as rehearsals and lessons will begin next week. Call Joy Hatch at (909) 915-7619.