By Val Wallace, Contributing WriterWhile its name implies it’s based far from here, Shenandoah Sound Drum and Bugle Corps has made Prince William its home for years, serving not only this area, but Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
“We are the only drum and bugle corps in Virginia and the only one within four to ﬁve hours of D.C.,” said Anthony Fiumara, Shenandoah Sound’s media relations director.
“The drum corps world doesn’t always know that we’re here, which is kind of weird,” he said. “We are a group … on the rise. We had our best season competitively last year. … We earned a lot of respect from the drum corps community, and we are hoping to build on that this year.”
The corps started in 1993 in Winchester, in the Shenandoah Valley—thus the group’s name, said Sean Peck, Shenandoah Sound’s executive director and a Manassas resident.
The corps eventually relocated to Loudoun County when its previous director moved to Sterling, Peck said. It moved operations to Prince William in 2007 when Peck became director. “Our primary home for about four years was Manassas Park High School because I had a [friendship]with the band director there,” he said.
Needing more space as it grew, the corps moved to Brentsville District High School in Nokesville about a year ago, and this year is based at Fitzgerald Elementary School in Dale City, Peck said. “One of our percussion staff members is actually the music teacher at Fitzgerald, and he offered,” he said.
Although growing, with 35 to 40 members Shenandoah Sound is still one of the smaller corps in its division, Drum Corps Associates (DCA), according to Peck. “You have to have 35 to be on the ﬁeld, but any group with 35 to 65 members can be Class A, which is what we are,” he said. A corps can be as large as 128 members, he added.
The competitive all-age corps welcomes members of all ability levels, and, as a nonproﬁt music education and performance organization, also provides instruction. Shenandoah Sound’s 10 to 11 paid instructors teach its members, who range in age from 15 to 67, Peck said.
Members “are taught by people who are professionals in their ﬁeld,” he said. “Almost everybody who teaches with our group is a degreed, credentialed person. … For those folks who are interested in being better at the marching arts, improving their skills, performing in a group that is much more dedicated and focused than most high school bands, that’s the opportunity that we provide.”
The group gets members and staff from as far as two hours away. Fiumara, also a drum major in Shenandoah Sound, travels from Sykesville, Md., an hour and a half from the group’s rehearsals, to participate. He’s been doing that since joining in 2008, he said.
“It’s an activity … that’s deﬁnitely a big part of me. I just wanted to continue it,” Fiumara said. “Shenandoah Sound is by far the closest group to me.”
Also, the corps provides a creative outlet that doesn’t encroach on work or other activities, members interviewed said.
“Because it’s on the weekends only, it doesn’t take up too much of my time,” Fiumara explained. “It allows me to perform, entertain, have fun, but still have a life.”
“It’s strictly a weekend commitment, which makes it perfect for the high school-aged members that we have and for [me]and Rob, the 20- and 30-something crowd,” said Erica Poff, Shenandoah Sound’s other drum major.
She and Robert Leonard both began performing with the corps in 2010. The couple, who married last year, used to come from Falls Church to participate. They moved to Alexandria in May. The two, who are degreed professionals, work in downtown D.C.
“It’s a lot of fun, we get to travel, and it doesn’t completely eat up your schedule,” said Leonard about the corps. A Shenandoah Sound tenor drummer, he’s been teaching tenor drum technique part-time for the group since last year.
While many members have prior experience, including him and Poff, no experience is necessary, Leonard said. “If you never marched before, that’s perfectly ﬁne. We’ll bring you up to speed. If you marched before, that’s perfectly ﬁne, too. The more, the merrier,” he said.
Shenandoah Sound travels more than 8,000 miles annually to perform and compete, according to Fiumara. Part of the DCA-South Region, the corps performs in shows in the South and also on the East Coast as far north as New York.
“This year there’s one in Atlanta, and there’s one in Florida,” Peck said. The shows, which are competitions, include corps from throughout DCA-South and usually number about six per year, he said. The competitions culminate with the DCA “World Championships,” which will be held in Annapolis, Md., this year during Labor Day weekend, when DCA’s more than 20 corps will square off.
Shenandoah Sound is a three-time DCA-South Class A champion (2005, 2011 and 2012), and members have won and placed in the top three several times in the DCA Individual and Ensemble competition at the DCA World Championships, Fiumara noted.
Shenandoah Sound also hosts a show annually, which will be July 5 this year at Brentsville District High School’s stadium. Corps from Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and New Jersey will come to compete.
Additionally, a Prince William Arts Council member, the corps performed this April and also last year in “Arts Alive!,” a festival the council presents annually at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas to celebrate local arts. The group also performs in parades locally and throughout Virginia and the Baltimore area, Peck said.
Performing, competing and learning are all important to 19-year-old Aaron Cooper of Bealeton. The quads drummer has been a Shenandoah Sound member about three years and is a ﬁrst-year college student majoring in musical composition.
“I love the group. The people are great and motivated and as we get more members … we can really take this group far,” he said. “We have great instructors and people … highly dedicated and willing to step out and try new things.”
Manassas Park resident Val Wallace is a frequent contributor to Prince William Living and is also on the magazine’s editorial staff. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.