sounds reverberate through the walls.
University Band Center at NC A&T University buzzes as students warm up with
their instruments. Brass notes flow through the rooms, and hints of woodwind
exercises sneak in alongside them. The drums share no such subtlety.
after being out of town for the weekend, A&T’s Cold Steel Drumline
continues to work. With Homecoming weekend approaching, the decades-old group
refuses to let up.
decades, these drummers turned Cold Steel into its own percussive spectacle.
The drumline, which began as a portion of A&T’s marching band, formed into
its own entity under the last twenty years.
of the drumline Martyo Bethea sees Cold Steel as a legacy. Like many members of
the drumline, he remembers admiring the now-graduated members of Cold Steel as
a high-schooler. He mentions going so far as to learn and study some of the
drumline’s cadences during his junior year at his Atlanta high school in
preparation for his audition.
feels good to be one of these voices that people younger than me can look up to,”
Myles, a snare player in his third year of marching, shared the experience of
looking up to the band as a high-schooler. He recalls studying videos of the
drumline’s past performances during his junior and senior years in order to
craft his own audition tape.
went from being a fan,” he says, “to be a part of what I was a fan of.”
Director of Bands Lamon Lawhorn finds the process of narrowing down candidates
to continue the drumline difficult.
turn away a lot of talent,” he says.
Lawhorn and Director of Percussion Ron Rogers believe the rigorous process
shapes the best team. Rogers mentions a boot camp for the drummers, consisting
of daylong sessions where drummers practice running miles with their
instruments strapped to them.
you make it through band camp,” Rogers says, “you can probably make it through
and Lawhorn attribute Cold Steel’s success to their training. The devotion to
drumming has earned Cold Steel spots in multiple prestigious performance
lineups, including several years of the Honda Battle of the Bands, an
invitational showcase of marching bands from various HBCUs.
such event stands out in both Lawhorn and Bethea’s minds: The 2019 Tournament
of Roses Parade. For the occasion, 10 A&T students, including Bethea,
traveled to California during winter break, where they joined students from
seven other HBCUs from across the country to perform a collective set on the
opening float. With Lawhorn himself composing the music, the parade became
graduated from an HBCU,” Lawhorn says, “so to be able to do something to
celebrate these universities was a great, great honor.”
with the accolades, Rogers sees the main sign of Cold Steel’s legacy as their
cadences. Learning these routines that keep the beat while marching serve as
the final step for the initiation of new members to the drumline. Rogers
insists that no matter what, the cadences remain a requirement.
one thing that links every Cold Steel member all together,” he says, “are the
a graduate of A&T himself, played in Cold Steel during his time at the
university. Though the drumline has evolved during his time from drummer to
director of percussion, Rogers revels in the fact the rhythms never change. He
says Homecoming weekend brings back generations of Cold Steel members, who can
all unite under the same beats.
these guys come back for Homecoming, the first thing they want to do is grab a
drum and say, ‘Man, let’s run down the cadences.’” Rogers said. “And, boy, when
we run those cadences down, the smile, the happiness on everyone’s faces, the
feeling that you feel when you’re out there playing those cadences — that can’t
be beat by anything.”
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