Drumming up Applause: Junior Luke Atwell puts his musical skills to work in drumline


Ana Gajewski

Preparing for the homecoming game, junior Luke Atwell practices the routine with the rest of the drumline.

Luke Crawford, Staff Writer

There’s a reason soldiers used to march into battle with drums. No other instrument can match them for sheer power. The effect produced from the rhythmic whack-a-mole is much closer to the stomps and claps of an audience than it is to any melodic instrument.

This is not lost by junior Luke Atwell. He has played drums since middle school and starting his freshman year, Atwell has put his musical talent to work in the school’s drumline. 

“My favorite thing about it is just getting to play the drums,” Atwell said. “Because at home, you know, you play too loud and you get yelled at.”

In drumline, Atwell found a way to exercise his passion at school.

The drumline consists of three types of drums: the snare drum, an array of smaller toms called tenor drums and the bass drum, as well as cymbals.

Atwell explained how his position in drumline changed as he progressed.

He started on the bass drum his freshman year before moving on to tenors and snare; Atwell says this is not uncommon.

Beginners are often assigned to bass drum, which usually has much simpler musical parts, before moving on to tenor or snare drum.

“Normally freshmen are on cymbals if they’re not musically inclined,” Atwell said. “If they’re better, they’ll make it to bass drum, but they’re normally not on the tenors or snare drum.”

Despite Atwell’s progress, he still contributes to every section of the drumline.

While explaining the music charts used by the school’s drummers, Atwell noted that the different parts were all on one page, allowing him to help other students with their parts when needed.

This contribution is especially helpful this year, as the number of student drummers has nearly doubled since Atwell’s freshman year.

“I think there’s 17 of us right now,” Atwell said. “Freshman year, it was maybe eight or 10, so it’s grown quite a bit. I’m pretty happy about it.”

With the increased size of the ensemble, the drumline has become all the more impactful.

At football games and pep rallies, percussionists make their presence known by accentuating and amplifying the roar of the crowd.

One occasion of drum-fueled school spirit occurred on Oct. 14 during a football game against Blue Valley West. 

“That last football game where we just blew the other team out, that was really fun for us,” Atwell recalled.

The game ended in a 48-13 win for the Stags as students in the bleachers cheered and yelled, underscored by a booming collection of mallets and sticks in musical applause.  

This rhythmic force does not come easily, however. The drumline spends hours practicing the dozen or so songs in its repertoire to prepare.

“We kind of relax at the beginning of practice,” Atwell said. “Then we’ll work on what we’re actually aiming for towards the end, and then perfect it for the end of the rehearsal.”  

Drumline is an opportunity for young drummers, or any interested musicians to work on their craft during school, while providing an amplifier for school spirit and audience engagement. 

For Atwell, it’s a chance to practice something he’s passionate about by working with other students to find the right sound.

“There’s always room to improve in music,” Atwell said. “You’re never perfect.”