College, pro team drumlines are key part of gameday entertainment

Written by corres2

Going pro

Richau, the owner and founder of BOOM! Percussion Entertainment, loves his job. He is responsible for putting a small group of percussionists together to perform for professional sports teams in Arizona, including the Suns and Coyotes.

After spending 13 years as a music teacher at local schools, Richau started a trash can percussion group, much like Stomp, to perform at corporate events in convention centers, country clubs and more. Over time, Richau’s efforts and success allowed him to switch to BOOM! full time, and the company began to attract interest from sports teams.

“We got involved in the sports side of things later than other groups you may find,” Richau said. “We kind of worked backwards in the sense that we went after regular corporate businesses first, then got into the sports world later.”

While drumlines can be spotted throughout Arizona, their participation in sporting events is truly a national phenomenon.

The Pittsburgh Steeline is an example of one that start in the sports world and later added conventions, weddings and parties to their repertoire. Vince Wallace created the group in 2012, and thanks to persistently emailing and calling representatives of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ entertainment staff, they were able to go from playing in the parking lot before and after games to performing at halftime during an NFL preseason game at Heinz Field.

“To prepare for this, we borrowed drums from some already established local music organizations, recruited drummers, held auditions, printed some T-shirts and prepared music to play for this opening performance,” Wallace said. “It was well-received, and the fans seemed to really enjoy what we were doing. After this first game, we decided to continue performing the music we had learned outside of Heinz Field to entertain tailgating Steelers fans for other home games.”

Steelers fans appreciated the young music group’s performances, resulting in the Steelers making the Steeline a part of every home game and training camp since 2013. That includes performances pregame and postgame, enhancing the gameday experience of the fans inside and out of the stadium.

Wallace’s journey has come full circle since his time at a graduate school in Missouri. It was there where he had the idea of starting the Steeline. He met members of the drumlines for the Kansas City Chiefs and, at the time, the St. Louis Rams.

Keith Rousu, the director of the Seattle Seahawks’ Blue Thunder drumline and Seattle Sounders FC’s Sound Wave band, had a different experience.

“I was fortunate to hear of the desire to start a drumline in support of the Seattle Seahawks,” he said. “Originally I just wanted to play in the group when I was afforded the opportunity to interview for the director position, which I was offered and accepted. Five years after starting the Seahawks drumline, the opportunity to start a band for the Sounders FC was presented to me, which I jumped at.”

Philadelphia Eagles Drumline’s Andy Moffat has had an even different journey to his position of over 13 years.

“I am a lifelong Eagles fan living in Philly and come from a family of drummers,” Moffat said. “I was in the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Drumline in college which helped propel me into The Crossmen Drum & Bugle Corps. Thirteen years ago, I found out the Eagles were starting a Drumline so I auditioned and was lucky enough to grab a spot in the snareline with the team. A few short years later, I took over guiding the drumline mission.”

The Crossmen are part of Drum Corps International (DCI), which is considered to be the professional league for marching units. Moffat has used his experience at the highest level of music ensemble competition to help lead the Eagles Drumline today. He is responsible for booking gigs, auditioning, writing music and coordinating logistics on gamedays.

For Rousu, because the NFL and MLS are played very differently, with the NFL having more breaks in the action, he and his music groups, though playing in the same stadium, have learned to adapt to each game accordingly.

Brandon Estes, lead snare drummer and director of the Chicago Bears Drumline for over a decade and a former member of the Chicago Bulls “Stampede” Drumline, says choreography is a big part of enhancing the experience of Bears and Bulls fans.

“Much of our music includes choreography and dancing,” Estes said. “Choreography is integrated to keep each tune electric.”

“We believe the more visual we are, the more popular we will be,” Richau added.

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