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South Hagerstown grad put it all on the line this summer

Hammond tours with Drum Corps International corps

Hammond tours with Drum Corps International corps

September 09, 2008|By JANET HEIM

For South Hagerstown High School senior Craig Hammond, it was something he'd been dreaming of since freshman year - the chance to be on the drum line of a Drum Corps International drum corps.

Earning a spot on Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps' drum line this past year made that dream come true.

"When I was told I made the line, I was speechless. My goal was to march DCI," said Craig, who lives in the St. James area.

Jersey Surf was one of several DCI drum corps for which Craig, 17, considered auditioning. When he, along with 20 other drummers, auditioned last fall for the tenor part, Craig said he did it for the experience, never expecting to make it.

Once he made the corps, Craig said there were practices in Camden County, N.J., one weekend a month from November 2007 to April. The schedule intensified in May with practices every weekend.

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The almost 150 members of Jersey Surf hit the road for two tours, which took the elite musicians - ranging in age from 14 to 21 - to shows mainly on the East Coast. The corps consisted of the drum line, percussion pit, brass and guard.

The first tour began mid-June and lasted more than two weeks. Craig was home for a few days before a three-week tour that started in late July.

Craig said his parents, Brent and Cheryl Hammond, and 12-year-old sister, Jenna, supported him every step of the way. They were at most of the shows and helped serve meals for the large ensemble.

"They followed us everywhere. I'm really glad they did," Craig said.

The corps traveled in four charter buses - three for members and one for staff - along with a tractor-trailer for equipment, a 16-passenger souvenir van and a 37-foot RV. The fourth 18-wheeler featured a full commercial kitchen with walk-in refrigerator, Brent Hammond said.

Craig added that the corps members were fed three meals a day and a snack while they were on the road.

As the season progressed, Jersey Surf made it to the quarterfinals and semifinals before emerging as one of 12 corps nationally to make it to the DCI Finals in Bloomington, Ind.

"We played all day, every day. It helped build the muscles needed to play drums," Craig said.

Craig is co-captain of South High's drum line and said his experience this summer made him a "way better player," with many skills to share with his fellow drummers at South. He said he's encouraging fellow band members to audition for next year's season, as will he.

Craig, who began playing drums as a sixth-grader at E. Russell Hicks Middle School, said he hopes to study music at Towson University so he can become a high school band director.

He has been in marching band all four years of high school, jazz band, wind ensemble, indoor percussion and was selected for All County in the last school year. This year, in addition to marching band, Craig will be in concert band and wind ensemble.

He manages this schedule while maintaining a 3.6 grade-point average and taking Advanced Placement literature and music theory. He plans to help with the band at E. Russell Hicks Middle School during the spring semester.

The cost of being a Jersey Surf corps member runs about $1,500 per year. Brent Hammond said had Craig not made the drum corps, they would have paid for private music lessons or an enrichment camp. He said it was money well spent because Craig received "world-class instruction," got to travel and returned home a different person.

"It was probably one of the hardest, most challenging things I've ever done. Now I have this experience to bring back and share with everyone," Craig said. "The entire summer was amazing. I made a ton of new friends."

More information about Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps can be obtained at www.jerseysurf.org/pages/Membership.

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