Everyone knows the best part of a football game is the halftime marching band. Drums Across Kansas, which arrives at Cessna Stadium on Tuesday, offers marching band fans all the halftime fun with none of that unneeded football filler. The event features eight elite drum and bugle corps from around the country, each made up of the nation’s best college- and high-school aged marching band talent.
The corps, which have been feverishly rehearsing since school let out, each will put on super-choreographed performances lasting about 10 minutes each and featuring drummers, brass players and flag corps dancers performing fast-moving, highly synchronized routines.
At least three of the performers on the field Tuesday will be from the Wichita area, which is no small feat considering how hard it is to make it onto one of the nation’s 23 “world class” drum corps.
One of them is Chelsea Stemet, a 2009 East High School graduate who is a member of the flag corps for a Jacksonville, Fla., group called Teal Sound. Stemet’s mother, Denita Stemet, is the organizer of the Drums Across Kansas show.
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Chelsea, now a student at Michigan State University, is in her third summer with Teal Sound, and membership is as grueling as it is rewarding.
Tryouts start in November, and most of those wishing to audition must travel. (The nearest world class corps to Wichita are based in Denver and Dubuque, Iowa.) Most corps draw hundreds of hopefuls trying out for about 150 spots. Those who make it have to travel to rehearsal camps once a month from January to April then several a month in May.
Once school is out, members move to the town where their corps is based for intense training before hitting the road for 10 weeks of touring, organized by an umbrella group called Drum Corps International, which schedules various teams to perform shows across the country.
“It’s incredibly hard work,” Denita Stemet said. “These kids practice anywhere from eight to 10 hours every day all summer outside. It’s really hard, but the fun of performing their show at night for a crowd is what brings these kids back.”
All along the travel route, the corps are being judged, and one will be named the championship band at the end of the summer.
Seven of the eight corps performing Tuesday are world-class level, meaning they’re the best of the best. The Bluecoats, a world-class band out of Canton, Ohio, features 2008 Douglass High School graduate and horn player Lexi Corbett. And the Crossmen out of San Antonio have Goddard High School senior Tanner Jaeckel in the color guard.
One of the corps is open-class level, meaning it’s made up of younger, less experienced members.
Drums Across Kansas has been staged in either Wichita, Hutchinson or both cities every summer for the past 14 years. Shows attract between 4,000 and 8,000 people.
Each corps specializes in a different type of music, from classical to jazz to rock. “Anybody that likes any kind of music or any kind of theater will enjoy it,” Denita Stemet said.
If you go
DRUMS ACROSS KANSAS
What: A performance featuring eight elite drum and bugle corps from around the country Where: Cessna Stadium, Wichita State University
When: 7:45 p.m. Tuesday (Moved back from 7 p.m. in anticipation of high temperatures.) How much: Tickets are $10 to $30 in advance at drumsacrosskansas.com. They’re $15 to $35 at the door the day of the show.
For more information: Visit drumsacrosskansas.com