Winter percussion travels to Ohio for its first WGI competition

May 1, 2015 — by Claire Chou and Gwynevere Hunger

Winter percussion elevates its performance this year, reaching nationals.

Thirty winter percussion members traveled to Dayton, Ohio, to attend the Winter Guard International (WGI) competition for the first time during Spring Break, placing 11th in the semifinal round of Scholastic Open Division and 22nd in the nation. 

The WGI competition is divided into three divisions based on skill level: A Class, Open Class and World Class. Each class also has scholastic and independent subdivisions. This system separates percussion groups to be with similar skilled level groups in their own division.  
Due to the lightning and rain storms in Dayton, students were  unable to warm-up properly before their performance in preliminaries.  As a result, they placed just 0.4 points better than the group below them to secure the last spot in the semifinals. 
“We had a good run, but it was not the best we could do,”  senior snare drummer Alice Huang said. “I thought we would not make [semifinals].”
After semifinals, the winter percussion group was able to watch the final round. This competition was held in a basketball arena that holds 13,000 people. 
“To see the seats completely filled in a basketball court with people who share the same passion for drumming and performance created an amazing atmosphere,” junior snare drummer Sandeep Suresh said. 
Throughout the entire fall competition season, winter percussion competed in A Class, one level lower than Open Class. However, midway through the season, the winter percussion instructors unexpectedly bumped the group up from A class to Open Class in order to help prepare the team for this WGI competition in Ohio. This toughened the competition that they went up against and made it harder to win. 
According to the percussion’s instructors who wrote the show, the theme, “To Wake a Sleeping Dragon,” was created specifically for this competition. The show symbolizes the waking a dragon since it is the music department’s first time attending this competition.  
Within the show, sound narrations in the music suggest that there is a “dragon” inside each percussionist and it is up to each performer to wake their inner “dragon.” The leather uniforms, dragon-scale patterned floor and incorporation of dancers all combine to give a medieval aesthetic. 
“We made the visuals pop up with more movement and colors, so that the audience can see the dragons that we are portraying,”  sophomore dancer Iris Lu said.
This year’s percussion includes a total of 14 battery members (three snares, two tenors, five basses, four cymbals) and 13 pit percussion members (four marimba, four vibraphone, two auxiliary, two electrons and one taiko). Electronic Vocals have also been added to this year’s show. 
In order to prepare for championships, instructors this season made all members take part in an activity that they called “find your fire.” Each member wrote down specific items that drive them to perform strongly in winter percussion. The items that the students wrote down are their “fire”  and instructors encourage each percussion member to use this in every competition performance.
“The experience at Ohio was amazing because of the competition itself,” Suresh said. “It's always comforting to be in a place surrounded by people who love the same thing you do.”
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