Students Help to Drum Up Comet Spirit in New Arts Course
If you’ve heard the steady rhythm of drums lately on the northwest side of campus, it’s not your imagination. Those percussive beats are coming from students enrolled this fall in The University of Texas at Dallas’ first drum line course.
It might seem ambitious for a University without a football team or marching band to launch a drum line, but a growing number of students were eager for a percussion section of their own, said Lori Gerard, a senior lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities who teaches the class.
“Drum line is such a big thing here in Texas. High schools will hire an assistant band director just for percussion. That’s what these students are used to,” said Gerard, a native of Long Island, New York.
Bill Pettit, director of athletics, said the marching drums will energize UT Dallas sports fans, much like drum lines have done for professional teams such as the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Mavericks.
“Drum line is such a big thing here in Texas. High schools will hire an assistant band director just for percussion. That’s what these students are used to.”
Lori Gerard, a senior lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities and instructor of the new drum line course at UT Dallas.
“The drum line adds another layer of the game-day experience for the campus community. They can lead fans to the venue and bring an excitement and energetic environment to the game. We are thrilled about having the drum line at our events,” Pettit said.
Gerard pursued the drum line when she became a teaching assistant for the Pep Band. Students kept contacting her about it and, knowing the athletics staff wanted to boost spirit at home games, Gerard took it on as a project that would benefit both students and the University.
She crafted a proposal to have student fees cover the cost of drums, and got approval to offer a drum line course in the music department. Students who auditioned were evaluated for timing, rhythmic accuracy, sound quality, technique, reading and attitude.
“We filled it within a four-day audition notice,” Gerard said.
The UT Dallas drum line includes five snare drums, three sets of tenor drums (with a five-drum configuration), five bass drums and two cymbals. Three of the percussionists are women.
Political science sophomore Jake Muñoz aced the auditions. Muñoz had played the tenors at Friendswood High School and is in his second season of performing with the Dallas Cowboys’ drum line. He contacted Gerard when he heard UT Dallas was starting a drum line.
“I’ve always liked the multi tones of the tenors over a single drum. I thought the UT Dallas drum line would be a cool way to get some elective credits, and wanted to be part of the first drum line here,” Muñoz said. “There’s a bond that happens among drummers. I’ve made so many friends. It makes it a lot of fun.”
Student practice sessions have definitely garnered attention. In fact, the drum line had to move its practice site several times to avoid disrupting classrooms, Gerard said. Rehearsals are now held in late afternoon twice a week behind the Visual Arts Building off Rutford Avenue.
People passing by the drummers now often tell Gerard “they love it.”
“It lets people know that there’s music on this campus. It’s a sort of loudspeaker announcement for our music department classes,” Gerard said.
Gerard is a natural to launch the drum line. She grew up in a home that always had a drum set, thanks to a father who was an amateur drummer.
“I was always drawn to it. I was always tapping on things as a small child,” she said.
Gerard went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music from Central Michigan University and a master of music in percussion performance from Southern Methodist University. She is currently pursuing her PhD in humanities at UT Dallas, and still performs as a percussionist in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
After they finish the course, students can continue pursuing their passion for percussion at UT Dallas. Some will compete in the Winter Guard International, a national organization that offers color guard, percussion and winds competitions. A percussion class is offered in spring.
Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities, praised Gerard’s dedication to establishing the drum line, and called it “an important addition to our arts program and to the learning environment of the University.”
“I like the way students who walk by as the group is rehearsing outside tend to have a smile on their face and a little more bounce in their step,” Kratz said. “Since our motto is ‘creating the future,’ we might as well do our creating with rhythm and smiles.”
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].