For North Lincoln High School junior Ian Yount, this summer consisted of lengthy rehearsals, long bus rides and the chance to compete against talented drum corps from across the country.
Yount, 17, was first introduced to music during his elementary school years.
“I homeschooled Ian and his brother for the first five years,” said Michelle Johnson, Yount’s mother and NLHS Business Education teacher. “And they had piano lessons…both my children hated piano lessons. They hated the structure of it. They didn’t want to play what was on a piece of paper; they wanted to make their own music.”
Once Yount entered sixth grade at North Lincoln Middle School, he assisted the middle and high school joint band program as a runner. His older brother, Daniel Yount, was the band’s drum major. According to North Lincoln High School Band Director Neil Underwood, students officially join the “band proper” in seventh grade.
“In sixth grade, Ian was what we called (one of the) runners,” Underwood said. “In other words, a little brother or sister of a band member that helps us get the band on and off the field.”
It was not long before Underwood recognized Yount’s potential.
“One night at rehearsal, we needed someone to help with the sound board and run some things, and I remember this so vividly — here’s this little kid standing here who has been to everything, and our percussionist director said, ‘Let Ian do it; he can do it. He’s smart,’” Underwood said. “The next thing I know, we’ve got him not only doing that, but hitting cymbals and doing lots of other little things.”
“The way I remember it…because I’m a teacher here, I like to listen to the band, and so I keep my door propped open,” Johnson said. “And Ian knew how to get to my classroom outside of the school. So he runs in and is all sweaty, a little bit dirty, and he was like, ‘Mom, I got fired from being a runner,’ and I went, ‘Okay…’but then he said, ‘I’ve been promoted as the sound dude!’ And he turned around and runs right back out.”
In seventh grade, Yount officially joined the band, playing the piano and synthesizer. By the end of eighth grade, he had added the marimba and bass drum to his musical repertoire. Having a background already in bass drum, Yount was soon promoted to snare drum his freshman year.
“I just thought (the snare drum) was cool,” Yount said. “I was drawn to it.”
As a snare drum player, Yount worked closely with Percussion Instructor Christyl Barber and Assistant Percussion Instructor Eric Gleeson.
“Barber is our percussion instructor, and she’s done an outstanding job building a wonderful percussion group at North Lincoln, at both the middle school and the high school,” Underwood said. “And Ian has taken some lessons from her privately and the ensembles with her.”
It was Gleeson, however, who persuaded Yount last fall to look into 7th Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps, located in New London, Connecticut.
According to the 7th Regiment Drum and Bugle Corp’s official website, most drum corps consist of drummers, a full line of brass instruments, an ensemble in the front of the field playing percussion instruments that cannot march (like marimbas and xylophones), and color guard dancers. From there, the art form is divided into two divisions: Open Class and World Class.
According to Johnson, World Class members start their seasons in May and have a larger time commitment, traveling across the country. Because of this, World Class programs are more expensive, and are mainly comprised of college students.
“It’s the top of the marching arts in the entire world,” Underwood said. “There’s nothing in any other country that comes close to what the World Class drum corps do.”
Open Class programs, while still highly competitive, are slightly less prestigious than World Class programs. Rather than traveling across the country, these drum corps tend to stick to a particular region of the country. Because their seasons start later in the summer, more high school students audition and participate.
Not wanting to interfere with his final exams, Yount opted to audition for the 7th Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps, an Open Class drum corps.
“I saw a snare slot open on the 7th Regiment website, so I sent a video audition in to them,” Yount explained.
After receiving his video audition, Yount was asked to attend the drum corps’ April weekend camp. While the corps offers four weekend camps prior to the season’s official start, to teach the material, Yount attended two sessions in New London and practiced remotely via video chats such as Skype and other social media platforms with his instructors.
Unlike some summer programs, drum corps encourages parental involvement.
“It’s really cool that all the drum corps do this — they really encourage parental involvement,” Johnson said. “They want you to come up and volunteer…when I went up for the Memorial weekend camp, I helped cut food up, prepared food, cleaned kitchens and bathrooms, stuff like that. And all the corps are like that; they want you to be involved as much as you want to be.”
While on tour, Yount and his fellow drum corps peers balanced long rehearsal hours with competitions, traveling all over the New England area and parts of the Midwest.
“There were two different types of days,” Yount said. “We had rehearsal days, which consisted of usually around 12-13 hours of rehearsal a day, depending on where the housing site was. And then we had show days, which consisted of waking up at the housing site around 4 or 5 a.m. We’d get on a bus and it would be 20 minutes to two hours of a drive to the show location. It was very demanding, both physically and mentally.”
Because of the frequent traveling, 7th Regiment often sets up camp at nearby high schools, sleeping in sleeping bags on the gym floor. In Indianapolis, however, the drum corps had the opportunity to spend the night at an ice rink.
“There’s a lot of tradition in drum corps and inside jokes,” Johnson said. “That was his family for the summer. I think Ian grew attached to the people, and I certainly did too.”
At the end of their 2014 season, the 7th Regiment not only earned a Top 5 position in the DCI Open Class Championships, but set a new benchmark by making the semi-finals in the World Class competition.
While Yount is only a few weeks into his junior year, he is already looking at World Class drum corps in Fort Mill, South Carolina and Boston.
“He has been told by his instructors there that he’s ready for World Class next year,” Underwood said.
“I’m extremely proud of him. If you know Ian like his family and friends do, he’s extremely quiet and introverted,” Johnson said. “And for him to go someplace where he didn’t know anybody or what was expected…he went outside of his universe this summer. And, at 17, he’s really young to do that.”
“Not only is Ian a good marching drummer, Ian’s also what I refer to as a ‘real percussionist,’” Underwood said. “He plays everything assigned to him in the percussion field and does it well. Not all drummers are that way. And I think that’s what makes him a better musician as well.
“He’s matured a lot (this summer), and he’s a far better leader in the section than he was when he left,” Underwood said. “And, he’s got the same enthusiasm for what he’s doing here that I think he had when he was up there (with 7th Regiment).”
For those interested in learning more about the 7th Regiment, visit www.7thregiment.org.