Drum Corps International
Oregon Crusaders pilot inner city percussion program

Oregon Crusaders pilot inner city percussion program

by Michael Boo


Dr. Philip Marshall
Dr. Philip Marshall is the president of the board of directors for Oregon Crusaders. He recently spoke with DCI.org about a new project his organization is starting that will benefit the corps' hometown Portland community.

1. What is your drum corps background?

I never marched, but I fell in love with drum corps in 1987 when I saw Santa Clara Vanguard, and the show inspired me to become passionate about the activity. I still have a cassette tape of the corps' show that year, recorded by a snare drummer who had a tape recorder in his jacket during their Finals performance. I later served on the SCV Board of Directors in 2005 and 2006.

2. Oregon Crusaders is sponsoring a new drum line in an inner city high school. How did this come to be?

Actually, we're co-sponsoring it with the Portland Public Schools. It's going to be a drum line for students at Jefferson High School.

3. How did you pick Jefferson for the pilot project?

Jefferson HS, one of our inner city schools, is a magnet school for performing arts. Over the last several years it has lost enrollment and has gone through a lot of changes due to the poor economy. Many schools have closed, but Jefferson has remained open. However, the band room has remained empty for three years.

4. What kind of political and financial support have you gotten for this project?

Portland Mayor Sam Adams saw an opportunity for our program to introduce a drum line to the school and encouraged us to do so. We then got a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, which is a tax-funded council providing grants to enrich the cultural experience in the greater Portland area. School-based projects are a specialty of theirs, projects that might not otherwise see the light of day.

5. Do the Oregon Crusaders already have a drum line program outside of the corps?

We have our drum line that's part of the summer corps, and we're also the reigning bronze medalists at the WGI World Championships in the Independent Open class, following up our gold medal in Class A in 2009

6. Are you using the corps' current percussion staff for this project?

Mike Stevens is our percussion supervisor. He identified a talented percussionist by the name of James Travers, Portland's leading Afro-Cuban drumming expert. James has traveled to Cuba to study his craft. Not only that; he performed in the 1987 Santa Clara Vanguard drum line, though he wasn't the person who made the tape I have. I didn't know of that connection until after he was hired. Still, it's coincidence enough for me to feel it was meant to be.

7. What is the new ensemble named and who can be a part of it?

It's named the Jefferson High School Drumline and we'll be recruiting just students from the high school for it.

8. Has the group started up yet?

We started the recruiting earlier in January and held tryouts on Jan. 24.

9. What impact will this have with the corps and the community?

This will allow us to create deeper connections with the Portland community. We hope it provides a great educational and entertainment experience for kids. And, it will introduce a new program to Jefferson HS.

10. Are there plans for the line to perform in public?

The group will perform in exhibition at Northwest regional drum line shows.

11. What do you perceive as the future of the drum line?

First, we're excited to see the turnout for the auditions and the results from the first season. After that, we'll look at ways of expanding the program to other schools in Portland.

12. How does all of this fit into the corps' strategic planning?

The strategic plan for Oregon Crusaders has three pillars, which includes our fiscal plan and growth, our connection to the Portland community and our competitive stature. The drum line is another element of our growth and our service to our community. Hopefully, some day some of the members of the line can move up into the corps, fulfilling the goal of the final pillar.