Drumline prepares for year’s most popular performance


Members of the drumline perform “Dowels” at the 2022 percussion showcase (photo by Matt Davis).

Marin Poleshek, Managing Editor

The Homewood Patriot Drumline will take the stage on May 11 for their biggest event of the year: the percussion concert. 

While all the drumline’s performances are special, the annual show is widely regarded as the most entertaining event at HHS. With an extraordinary lineup including pieces played with barstools and wooden dowels, it’s not difficult to understand why. 

This year will be no exception, as the program features music from Ed Sheeran to classical etudes. Even the show choir will make an appearance, bringing in soloist Alyssa Culverhouse to sing Frozen’s infamous anthem, “Let it Go.”

In charge of this undertaking is Darren Holbrooks, a former history teacher and current director of the drumline. Since 1983, he has been crafting the Homewood drumline into the powerhouse it is today.

According to Holbrooks, the tradition of percussion concerts began in the 1990s’. Though the drumline had been part of HHS since its establishment in 1973, there had never been enough equipment to support a full-scale showcase. Under the leadership of former band director Ron Pence, however, this began to change.

“I had always wanted to do a percussion show,” Holbrooks recalled. “[Pence] really made that happen for us.”

Thirty years later, the annual percussion concert has become one of the most anticipated school events. In addition to showcasing the talent of HHS drummers, the performance now includes students from the middle school as well. 

For Holbrooks, the inclusion of middle schoolers is among the most integral components of the show. Beyond serving as the “biggest recruiting event,” he believes that the concert also provides motivation for students to continue drumming upon entering high school.

“Kids see that, and they want to stay in,” he said. “They want to do the same things they saw.”

Though each year’s show is different, Holbrooks keeps a few mainstay pieces on the lineup. Among these is “Barstools,” a unique number involving wooden stools and features four of the high school’s top drummers. 

James Merchant, Henry Erickson, Mason Cooper, and Luke McLendon (right to left) perform in the 2022 edition of “Barstools” (photo by Matt Davis).

For Holbrooks and many others, this piece ranks among the favorites year after year. YouTube videos of past Barstools routines have garnered massive attention, expanding the drumline’s crowd to a national scale.

“I’ve started doing Barstools every year because the kids want to keep it going,” Holbrooks said. “I love watching it when it clicks.”

This year’s performance will star seniors Isaac Araoz, Brandon Collins, James Merchant and Luke McLendon. Having drummed together for their entire high school careers, there is no doubt that this group is special.

“It’s fun to be on it as a senior,” Araoz said. “It’s been cool to look forward to it for so long.”

Collins agreed, adding that the percussion concert provides a “good way to end off the year with something still related to drumming.”

For Collins and his fellow seniors, the percussion concert serves as a final goodbye to the Homewood drumline. As emotional as this moment is, however, the concert is also an exciting time for the seniors to pass their batons off to the next group of students.

Among these is Juan Acevedo, a current freshman with a story unlike any the drumline has seen before. Although this is only Acevedo’s first year playing drums, he will make HHS history by performing a piece that is difficult for even the most talented drummers: The Gauntlet.

Written by Mr. Holbrooks, The Gauntlet is a complex piece designed for experienced snare drummers. To become a member of the snare line at Homewood, students must demonstrate mastery of this arduous composition. 

For most people, this takes years of practice. For Acevedo, it has taken seven months.

While Acevedo recalls always having an affinity for drums and rhythms, he didn’t start drumming until he joined the band this past fall. When he first contacted Holbrooks, he was assigned to play cymbals due to his lack of music experience.

“I didn’t know any instruments,” he laughed. “[They] told me I could play cymbals, and I was like ‘Great, what is a cymbal?’ so I went to Google.”

Juan Acevedo practices The Gauntlet in preparation for the concert (photo by Marin Poleshek).

From there, Acevedo poured himself into drumming. On the first day of group practice, he recalls “falling in love with the snare drum,” an instrument known to be the most challenging in the band. It was then that he set the goal of becoming a member of the snare line.

Upon hearing of Acevedo’s ambition, Holbrooks remembers thinking that it was “impossible.” 

“In my 40 years at Homewood, no one has done that,” he laughed. “In the space of a few months, he wanted to cover what took many years.”

Acevedo, though, refused to be discouraged. Over the past seven months, he has been in the percussion room three times a day, refining his skills with the hope of being a snare drummer next year.

“I will be the happiest kid ever if I play snare,” he said. “Nothing is impossible in this world. I started from the literal bottom; you can always improve.”

And, while much of Acevedo’s progress can be attributed to his dutiful practice, he credits drum captain James Merchant as a key contributor to his development. A four-year member of the snare line, Merchant has served as a mentor to Acevedo by teaching him the ins and outs of drumming.

“He’s been really helpful,” Acevedo said. “Most of my success in this is because of him, I think. He taught me not to give up on snare.”

To Holbrooks, this is what being a percussionist is all about. While it is important to have talent, he believes that the most important trait for drummers is self-discipline. It is because of this that he names Acevedo as “the hardest-working drummer on the planet.” At the end of the day, experience means nothing without practice.

“The number one problem is that kids practice when the time is available,” he said. “It’s never available, so you have to literally carve it out; make time to practice.”

There is no better way to witness the culmination of this practice than to attend the Homewood Percussion Concert. The performance will take place on May 11 at 6 pm in the auditorium, and admission is free.