Gabe Dudley ’23 has found a home in the world of drum corps—specialized marching bands featuring only brass and percussion instruments.
“I enjoy the tight-knit community aspect of it, and getting to see fans’ reactions to our show,” he said. “I also enjoy the adrenaline and excitement of executing the show, which is driven by the shared goal of perfection and excellence.”
The groups, known for their elaborate shows, participate in summer touring circuits all over the country. Positions are highly sought after among young musicians, who usually spend between 10 and 15 weeks practicing and performing full-time.
Dudley spent last summer touring with the Jersey Surf World Class Drum Corps, a seven-time Open Class World Championship finalist—and used a Randolph Innovative Student Experience (RISE) grant to cover part of his tuition.
It was his first time on tour, and Dudley said the experience helped him focus on all aspects of a performance, beyond just technique to the mental side of performing.
“We toured up and down the east coast and into the midwest. Traveling was definitely one of my favorite parts, as well as getting to constantly be playing music,” said Dudley, who is majoring in comparative philosophy at Randolph. “I also met many people who will be longtime friends.”
He’ll be on the road again this summer with Drum Corps International (DCI), a governing body for junior drum and bugle corps and producer of elite and exclusive marching ensembles for student musicians and performers.
Dudley’s contract will be with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps in Madison, Wisconsin. He went through an intensive audition process, lasting several months, to land the gig.
For his specialty—snare line positions—there are typically only eight spots available for anywhere from 40 to 60 auditionees.
Ensemble members begin their summers learning the show—usually rehearsing around nine hours a day—before hitting the road. Dudley’s contract runs through the Official DCI World Championship Finals on Aug. 12.
The achievement will be a culmination of years of work and dedication to his craft.
Dudley began playing drums at 9 years old and soon developed a love for the marching arts and marching percussion. He played bass drum, quads, and snare with his high school marching band, and served as percussion captain during his junior and senior years.
At Randolph, he continued his studies with music instructor Chris Fosnaugh.
“He’s given me such great information in regards to rhythmic interpretation and audition tips,” Dudley said. “It’s great to have a resource on campus that can help me with my passion.”
His favorite part about the instrument?
“The ability to take something so seemingly simple,” Dudley said, “and complicate it past what anyone could imagine.”