By Ethan Duran
Riverside University High School walked away with the traveling drumline trophy at this year’s MPS Battle of the Drumlines, held on Dec. 4 at Rufus King High School. Riverside had beaten the previous champions of Rufus King Varsity Team with 78.6 points while Rufus King had 77.1. Seven high schools and three middle schools from the Milwaukee area all competed against each other for trophies. Radio personality Promise of V-100.7 FM, who is also an MPS alum, was the master of ceremony for the Festival.
Battle of the Drumlines had been held at different schools for over 15 years with the main prize being a travelling trophy that was introduced in 2015. Each school took turns playing for the first round and then the top four high school teams squared off for the second. The floor of the Rufus King gym was covered in formations of blue, white, red and black as different teams marched, danced and played. Each team did their best to show off to both the judges and the crowd.
Competition was fierce during the second round of the festival. Milwaukee High School of the Arts (MHSA), Reagan HS, Rufus King and Riverside were the top four finalists and each team had pulled out all the stops for their performance. MHSA pulled on intimidating red masks and Riverside had traded their black feathered caps for black bandanas. Each team was judged by their music, their musical effect, visuals and visual effect. Timing was also measured by the judges, all of whom were MPS administrators.
After Riverside was announced the winner, Riverside drumline coach Mike Van Pelt said, “We’ve ended up second a bunch of times. I’m real happy. The kids really broke their butts and we couldn’t have done it without some alumni helping on the way too.”
On the other end of the gym was Rufus King’s drumline coach Benjamin Zabor, who said he thought his team would win just before the competition started. “Riverside put in some serious work,” Zabor said.
“We’re just going to keep workin’ hard and see if we can find some new tricks to put in our bag and see what we can do for next year.”
Music Curriculum Specialist and event coordinator Anthony Soyak said, “Music is essential to a complete education for a student.” He said that drumline was a wonderful opportunity for students to connect over the weekend and that music in general supports an academic career.
After the competition was over and families started heading home, the Riverside drumline team, or the ‘Tigers’ were left to pick up chairs and their band equipment. Students took turns standing with the travelling trophy and had their picture taken with it. Two weeks ago, the Riverside team had scored only third place in an earlier competition. Winning first for this city-wide competition gave them a morale boost.
Iyana Nelson, one of the cymbalists for the Tigers, described her plans for post-competition celebration. “I’m probably going to go home and sleep. We’ve been working rehearsals so much and we’ve put so much effort into it.” As the drumline team left the gymnasium, still dressed in their black and red uniforms, they discussed whether they would get pizza or wings for the celebration.