Name: Erin Arnold/Girls on the Drum
Category: Marching Percussion
Category: Huntley, Illinois, United States
Hi! We are Girls on the Drum!
I am Erin Arnold, the director of Girls on the Drum (or GOTDrums). I started playing drums in the fifth grade through the school band program because I wanted to play like Animal on the Muppet Show. During instrument selections, I was told by the band director that I couldn’t play the drums because, “I was a girl.” Thankfully, my parents supported me and the director allowed me to take up percussion, rather than the flute he was encouraging me to play. I can’t imagine a life without drums! As an adult, I play the marching bass drum for the Crystal Lake Strikers Drumline, a performing arts organization in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. Due to my experiences as a grade school percussionist, a high school band percussionist, a college drumline member, and an adult drumline member, I understand the challenges that young girls and women encounter when playing percussion.
The Strikers organization has noticed that unfortunately many girls who begin percussion in elementary and middle school end up abandoning it by the time they reach high school. We recognized this as an opportunity to create a group to encourage these girls to stay in percussion and grow as performers. In addition, as a general education elementary school teacher, I wanted to share my gifts- a love of drumming and my ability to teach- with others. Subsequently, Girls on the Drum was created.
My involvement as a board member and performer in the Crystal Lake Strikers organization provided me the perfect venue to create this program, given our common mission. Part of Strikers’ mission is to provide instructional opportunities and performance outlets to advance percussion amongst local youth and to support local school music programs. The central focus of the organization is performing and teaching marching percussion.
Girls on the Drum just finished our third year and has grown by more than 100% in that time. The group ranges in age from nine to thirteen years, with an average age of eleven. By design, it serves all experience levels. This year’s performers brought 0-6 years of playing experience with an average of 1½. Many of our performers had not played any instrument prior to joining our program in December. Therefore, we level instruction to meet the needs of each of our members and focus on instrument fundamentals, team building, dynamics, tempo, counting, music reading, and performance concepts while utilizing a variety of fun percussion instruments and lively tunes. Along with myself, the girls are taught by female members of the Strikers High School All-Star line. This year, a Girls on the Drum graduate joined the All-Stars for the first time and became a mentor instructor for GOTDrums, helping to fulfill the group’s mission.
At our last performance in February, we performed a marching drumline cadence with snare drums, tenors, bass drums and cymbals along with a ‘cups’ piece created just for GOTDrums. We chose to share our on-stage performance of these pieces with you.
From the beginning GOTDrums’ mission has been to encourage and equip young, female percussionists to stay in musical programs into high school and beyond. But it is more than that. The group inspires and empowers these young women while building their self-esteem and team-building skills. We not only want to help create quality performers but quality young women.