Drum Corps International
The DCI.org interview: Tom Aungst

The DCI.org interview: Tom Aungst

by Drum Corps International


Tom Aungst
Tom Aungst has directed the Cadets' drum line to three straight high drum titles. His amazing arrangements continually showcase the talent he draws to his sections. Aungst lives in New Bedford, Mass., with his wife, Darcie, and their two sons, Alan (8) and Noah (8 months). Outside of the Cadets, Aungst is the percussion director for Dartmouth Public Schools in Dartmouth, Mass. He teaches grades 4 through 12, and is the high school band's assistant director. He also directs and
writes for the Dartmouth High School Indoor Percussion Theatre. Outside of drum corps, Aungst loves "hanging out with my sons," and he concedes that "I don't have a lot of time for hobbies because I am usually writing music for something year-round." Aungst recently answered a series of questions for DCI.org. DCI.org: Do you still play drums at all? Aungst: I play with my students at concerts and demos. DCI.org: How did you get your start arranging percussion? Aungst: I started writing for bands while I was attending West Chester University. In 1989, George (Hopkins) approached me and asked me if I wanted to write for the Cadets. DCI.org: Did you have any other career aspirations at any point? Aungst: I always knew this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to work in the marching percussion arena. DCI.org: Did you study music in school? Aungst: Yes, I have my bachelor's of science in music education from West Chester University and a masters degree in jazz performance from Rutgers. DCI.org: How do you start the process of arranging? Aungst: I get a copy of the original score and listen to the music over and over again until I feel comfortable with the style. I sketch out a few ideas out during this process. DCI.org: Walk us through the entire process. Aungst: I try to talk with the brass arranger and George Hopkins to coordinate how the piece will be orchestrated and where the percussion fits into the big picture. After I get the computer tape from the brass arranger, I play along with the recording and sketch out ideas on the brass score. Then, I go to the computer and use Sibelius to orchestrate my ideas. The process is slow and sometimes tedious, my wife has said that the temperature of my office goes up 20 degrees when I'm in there writing
for the corps. DCI.org: What instruments and software (if any) do you use? Aungst: Sibelius has made the process so much more efficient and clear. This software is made for musicians. You don't have to be a computer expert to use it. DCI.org: How do you keep yourself musically current? Aungst: I attend workshops, concerts and other performances, and conventions like Percussive Arts Society. DCI.org: How closely do you work with the brass arranger? Aungst: As much as they let me. DCI.org: How closely do you work with the other members of the Cadets' leadership team? Aungst: As much as George lets me. Just kidding, I am know as the meeting freak at the corps. If it were up to me, we would meet every day, but it's tough because we all live so far apart. DCI.org: What other percussion arrangers do you admire? Aungst: Thom Hannum was my biggest influence, I also liked the stuff Tom Float, Ralph Hardimon, Charlie Poole, Dennis Delucia and Fred Sanford wrote. When I was marching in the '80s, I used to listen to their arrangements and wanted to do what they were doing. DCI.org: What other drummers do you admire? Aungst: Buddy Rich recordings have been an inspiration for me as far as writing music. I also admire Vic Firth, Steve Gadd and Willian Kennedy just to name a few. DCI.org: What advice would you give to young people who aspire to be percussion arrangers? Aungst: Go to school and really study music. Listen to a ton of music and always try to advance your playing. DCI.org: You still go on the road with the Cadets, right? Aungst: I have gone on the road with the Cadets since 1981. Now I usually go on the road for 10 days and come home for five. DCI.org: Do you have any favorite road anecdotes? Aungst: There are too many to name here. DCI.org: What has been your favorite corps performance ever? Aungst: I've been with the corps too long and there have been too many great performances for me to pick just one. This year's championship performances for the percussion rank right up there. DCI.org: Do you have any rough ideas for which direction the Cadets' drum line will head musically in 2004? Aungst: It depends entirely on what we decide to play with the corps. The style for the drum line has to be cohesive with the style for the brass. DCI.org: Describe what you think a Cadets' percussion line will sound like in 2015. Aungst: Technology has really changed things over the past 30 years so I can't imagine where we will be that far in the future. If I'm still around I will try to incorporate the newest technology and techniques while maintaining the integrity of the music. The playing ability of the kids will probably be unbelievable because they raise the bar every year and blow me away. 2015's line will play at an extremely high level of excellence. Playing clean will still be the bottom line.

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