DRUM FOR COLLEGE is a section of this website that discusses the benefits of playing marching percussion in college. Many marching percussionists feel that they must move on from extracurricular activities when attending college in order to focus on classes that pertain specifically to their major. This is a shame, as once these students are out of high school they may never march a drum again. When attending college, maintaining good grades and getting through the classes should be the number one priority. College is very expensive and it is crucial that grades and attendance be taken seriously. If, however a student feels as though they may like to try playing in a college marching band there are plenty of opportunities; some of which can financially assist the cost of college. Being Involved in marching percussion on the college level is not only educational and fun, but it also serves as a method for students to help pay for their tuition through scholarships. These scholarships range in a large variety depending on which route the students take and by how much they wish to participate in the band programs offered at that college. Below we will discuss some of the scholarships and opportunities offered by community/jr. colleges and universities.
COMMUNITY/JR. COLLEGES can have band programs that may range anywhere from 20 to 200+ students. They may perform on the skill level of an average high school group, major university group, or a drum corps. It is important to do research on the specific community/jr. college you are considering attending before blindly diving into their band programs. Some of these colleges may have symphonic and concert bands but no marching programs. If marching percussion is your thing, then it is important that you make sure that you find the answer to that question. Contact the directors and percussion instructor(s) (if they have one on staff) and ask questions and schedule a time to meet with them to discuss your situation and plans. They are always needing to recruit new players, and the larger the selection from which to choose when holding tryouts, the better off they are. Keep in mind that community/jr. colleges are often referred to as 2 year colleges. For that reason, students usually don't stay at a community/jr. college for more than 2 years. Band programs are constantly faced with the challenge of replacing students who leave, for whatever reason. You are an invaluable commodity to these programs, and they will most likely do everything they can to answer any questions you may have. When it comes to scholarships, it is important to ask questions like, "How much is the typical marching band scholarship?", "If I participate in more programs than just marching band will I have a chance to receive an increased scholarship?", "If I am here next year and am ranked a captain or section leader, will my scholarship be better?". It is also important to ask more specific questions like "Does your program take a set number of players?". For example, if you are a snare drummer and the drumline of the college you are attending only takes 7 snare drums every year, it may be in your best interest to ask "How many players are you expecting to return this season? Will they have to try out again?". Find out all of the details you can, let them know that you're interested and see what they can do for you. Community/jr. college is a great route to take for many reasons. The band scholarships can sometimes be better than that of a university, the classes are usually easier and less strict, and if you aren't quite ready to try out for a university drumline, this is a perfect way to develop your skills instead of missing out on a year or two of playing your favorite instrument. Remember that in college, regardless of whether or not you go to a community/jr. college or university, and regardless of your major, about 75% of the time all students have to take the same core classes. This means that where a student may be paying a lot more money to go to a university to take their first classes out of high school, the same classes could be taken at a community/jr. college for a fraction of the cost. College is not cheap, this is something to be taken very seriously as there is no joking around when it comes to paying off school loans. Also, It is important to keep in mind that the difficulty level of marching percussion at a community/jr. college is generally not up to par with major universities. The playing level will usually be comparable to an advanced high school or comparable to FreeDrumlineMusic.com's Level 3 or 4 difficulty level. There are, however, a few community college marching bands that are considered to be some of the best college marching bands in the world. If marching percussion is your thing, and you aren't ready to go to a university for financial reasons, or need to further develop your skills, contact some community/jr. colleges and see what they have to offer. Many of them have some very fun and interesting programs.
UNIVERSITY COLLEGES can have band programs that may range anywhere from 100 to 300+ students. They can perform on the skill level of anywhere from an advanced high school level to an advanced drum corps level. University marching band programs are generally much more strict than a community/jr. college. They are required to put on a good show as they are a major source of entertainment for the institution during athletic events. With this being said, the better the athletic departments are, usually, the better the band programs are. University drumlines are usually the same size as a modern day division 1 drum corps and often play cadences and warmups that are played by drum corps groups as well. The university playing level is the highest difficulty level of playing aside from drum corps. We would rank most university drumlines on our Level 4 and 5 difficulty spectrums. University drumlines tend to take up a little more rehearsal time throughout the school year than community/jr. colleges. Rehearsals can be extremely time consuming and may cause major conflicts with afternoon and evening class schedules. It is important to find out what time the band and percussion sections rehearse during the week in order to select classes that can work around the hectic university band rehearsal schedules. Keep in mind that as a university marching percussionist, you will always be required to work and practice harder than the average band member. New music must be memorized weekly and the packet containing all of the cadences and warmups that are to be played that season must generally be self taught and memorized by the time the summer percussion camps begin before the school semester starts. There isn't as much leniency on a university drumline when it comes to learning music as there is on a high school or community/jr. college drumline. With this being said, if you are not able to perform to the expectations stated before you joined the drumline, you will simply be kicked off and no one will think twice about it. This unfortunate result of failure to maintain the required standards will most likely cause you to lose your scholarship. University drumlines offer you the ability to play with a line that will perform at a much higher difficulty level than most community/jr. colleges. If you are an advanced high school player, you may be competitive enough to make a university drumline your freshman year in college. If, however, you are hoping to take that center snare slot your very first year, that may not happen. Like some community/jr. colleges, university colleges often state that they will only be taking a certain number of members per section. It is important to get in touch with the directors or percussion instructor(s) of the band and ask them any questions you may have. They are always looking for highly skilled players to join their program. Scholarships are offered differently depending on the specific school, your playing ability, the amount of band programs in which you plan on participating (some schools will give you a larger marching band scholarship if you also agree to participate in symphonic bands and/or percussion ensembles or become a music major). You may also receive a better scholarship by coming from a high school, or by coming from a community/jr. college. This completely depends on the college's preferences. Some universities give higher scholarships to high school band members in hope that they will stay at that university for 4 years, while other universities give higher scholarships to community/jr. college students in order to receive players that already have experience in college marching band programs and will most likely be better performers than the average high school student. These are questions that can be posed to the directors of the university band programs that you are considering attending or trying out for. Tryout processes are often very strenuous and competitive. At some universities there may be 100 snare drummers of various ages competing for 6 available snare drum slots. For new students this can be very disconcerting. When the tryout turns out to be much more difficult than expected, they are left with the option to skip a year of marching band, go somewhere else, or tryout for an easier position. If the student decides to stay at the same school, we highly recommend that the student tryout on a different instrument. With this being said, have a game plan. If you do not make the snare line as planned, have an alternate plan. For example, learn the bass drum tryout music and the cymbal tryout music as well. If the snare line doesn't work for you, you still have a chance at making the line. This is the best alternative allowing you to begin meeting the other members and directors and will give you the opportunity gain experience on the line throughout that section. This will help you get your foot in the door for the next tryout. Talk to people, ask questions and work hard over the following year. By the time the next tryout rolls around, you will have a much better chance to make that specific section. Think carefully before putting all of your faith into making a specific slot on an advanced university drumline. Practice hard, do your best, and always have a backup plan. If you don't make it your first year on that specific instrument that you want, do whatever you can to at least still participate with the line, you will undoubtedly learn and grow from it.
There are many options when it comes to receiving scholarships for playing drums in school. Whether you decide to play in community/jr. college or at a university, you'll most likely have a lot of fun while receiving scholarships to do it. Once you are a part of a college band, you instantly have many friends. It's an easy way to meet new people with similar interests right off the bat. People who don't participate in some form of school organization in college are truly missing out a great deal. Community/jr. colleges will allow you to take many classes that are also offered at universities, but you will only pay a fraction of the price to take them. With the scholarships offered through the band programs, you may very well end up getting paid to go to school just by playing drums. When playing at a university you will get to see some of the best football games in the nation from the best seats all for free. You'll get to perform for tens of thousands of people doing something that you love to do with people who love to do it just as much as you. There aren't many opportunities in life that grant you that type of experience. Choose wisely when it comes to making a decision about playing drums in college. If it's something that you really want to do, it'd be a shame for high school marching band to be the end of the road for you. Keep in mind, however, if it's something that you're not positive that you want to do, it's very demanding and can be extremely stressful if not taken seriously. It will take a tremendous amount of time and responsibility. If you decide to go for it, do it right, take it all the way to the top and get everything you can out of it. We hope that you have found this section helpful. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments.
Keep drumming and stay in school!
QUESTIONS YOU MAY WANT TO ASK COLLEGE BAND DEPARTMENTS
- How are tryouts held?
- Do returning drumline members have to try out again?
- Will you take the same amount of players for each section every year?
- What types of other band programs do you offer aside from marching band? (i.e. indoor percussion, percussion ensemble, symphonic band, jazz band, etc.)
- Will I receive a larger scholarship if I participate in more than one band program?
- Do captains and section leaders receive better scholarships than other members?
- What are the rehearsal schedules like?
Q: How much money can I expect from a community/jr. college scholarship?
A: Ah yes, the big question. It depends on the type of school (community/jr. college or a university), the specific school, your playing ability, how many band programs you participate in, whether or not you're a music major, and simply how badly they need you. As the scholarships vary depending on the student and school, an accurate figure can't be given. Contact your school of choice for more information.
Q: How many members are on a college drumline?
A: The numbers depend on the size of the marching band. Typically, however community/jr. colleges usually march 5-8 snares, 3-5 tenors, 5 or 6 bass drums and 5-8 cymbals. Major universities usually march 7-12 snares, 4-6 tenors, 5-8 bass drums and 7-12 cymbals.
Q: If I come close to making the snare line will I automatically receive a bass drum slot?
A: Generally speaking, no. Tryouts are usually instrument specific; meaning that there is tryout music for every instrument. If you are concerned that you may not make the snare line, we suggest that you also learn the bass drum try out music.
Q: What will tryouts consist of?
A: College drumline tryouts usually consist of prepared pieces. Depending on the school and directors, these prepared pieces are performed either by yourself or with other applicants. The judges will compare your playing to the playing of other applicants around you. Be prepared to be singled out so they can only watch you play if you are playing with a group of people. College marching drumline tryouts usually do not test your sight reading abilities. They are mainly looking for accuracy and consistency in your playing ability and your posture.
Q: I didn't make the drumline. What do I do now?
A: If it isn't too late try to try out on a different instrument. Cymbals or auxiliary pit percussion may still be an option. Contact the directors and let them know that you're interested in doing anything you can. If this is the only school you want to attend and you are determined to eventually be on their drumline, try to find a way to participate, whatever that may be. If you aren't set on that school look around at some different schools if it isn't too late. Contact the directors and let them know your predicament. This situation usually occurs when high school students tryout for a university drumline right off the bat without being properly prepared. This might be a sign that a community/jr. college might be the more appropriate selection at this point in time.
Q: Do snare drummers receive better scholarships than tenor and bass drum players?
A: Usually this is not the case. Section leaders, however typically receive larger scholarships than the rest of the players in that specific section. With that being said, the drum captain is most often a snare drummer. So in some ways, yes. A drum captain snare drummer may receive a better scholarship than the other members in the drumline.