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Jersey Surf hits South High

Drum and Bugle Corps practice for area band camps

Drum and Bugle Corps practice for area band camps

July 29, 2009|By JANET HEIM

Slide show

HAGERSTOWN -- For two days, the parking lots, football field and school facility at South Hagerstown High School have provided a home base for the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps, which is rehearsing for a Drum Corps International event today in West Chester, Pa.

The final destination for the Berlin, N.J.-based group is the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis in early August.

The sounds of their high energy show -- showcasing the talent of its brass and percussion sections as well as the color guard -- could be heard well beyond the South High football field, where the group has been practicing.

To thank the community for hosting them, the corps performed its show, titled "The Mozart Effect," on Wednesday night. In addition to the host band at South High, marching bands from Boonsboro and Williamsport high schools took a break from their own band camp schedules to watch part of the corps' rehearsal and public performance.

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Williamsport drum major Jonathan Myers said it's "a really great experience" for his band members to watch a DCI corps rehearse and perform.

"They have a lot bigger sound," Myers said. "You're practically dealing with professionals."

For South High band director Heath Wilcox, hosting Jersey Surf has meant his band had the chance to "get an up close and personal look of the corps for two days." They were able to see rehearsals, warm-ups and meals, and see how the corps was one group on and off the field.

"It's good motivation for the students during band camp," Wilcox said. "It's one of those things that helps tremendously."

The logistics of moving the more than 147-member drum and bugle corps are mind-boggling. It takes four motor coaches, two tractor-trailers (one for equipment and one for food service), several support vehicles and a mobile souvenir store when the group hits the road.

At South High, the fencing around the tennis courts provided the perfect spot for airing out uniforms between performances.

In the past week, the corps has traveled 2,300 miles, performing five shows in five nights in five states, said Brian Prato, director of operations/corps manager for Jersey Surf. By the time their season ends in August, they will have traveled about 6,000 miles.

"The people here at South High have been fantastic," Prato said.

Membership in Jersey Surf is by audition and is open to musicians ages 15 to 22, with up to 400 musicians auditioning for a spot this season.

Craig Hammond, a 2009 South High graduate, is a corps member, playing tenor in the drum line for the second year in a row. He will attend Towson (Md.) University in the fall to study music education.

Hammond said he's had another great experience with Jersey Surf, and as the season winds down, emotions will run high as corps members face the reality of the final performance with this particular ensemble.

Jersey Surf was founded in 1990 by a group of band instructors who wanted to provide a year-round activity for band members who wanted to continue after the traditional marching band season had ended, according to the corps' Web site, www.jerseysurf.org.

Its exhibition debut was in 1991. This summer is the corps' first tour as a member of DCI's elite World Class.

The corps has earned the title of DCI Open Class Finalist nine times and is a two-time DCI Atlantic Open champion. Most recently, it was recognized as the 2007 DCI Open Class silver medalist and 2008 DCI Open Class bronze medalist.

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