Tom Aungst is the director of percussion at Dartmouth (Mass.) High School—the 2008 and 2009 WGI Percussion Scholastic World Champions—and was the percussion arranger/caption head for The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps from 1989 to 2008.
He has been inducted into the Drum Corps International and The Cadets’ Halls of Fame. He received his bachelor’s in music education from West Chester (Pa.) University and his master’s in jazz performance from Rutgers University in New Jersey.
DeLucia: What attracted you to marching percussion?
Aungst: The excellence! It was very cool to see that everyone was playing the same way. As a youngster, it sounded almost perfect! I was amazed by the technical flash and intensity of each group. As I grew, I became musically influenced by Thom Hannum, George Hopkins and John Rozum.
DeLucia: What do you love about teaching music?
Aungst: The idea of hearing something I wrote being played at such a high level of excellence and musicianship keeps me coming back for more. And seeing the growth of each individual in the ensemble makes it very rewarding for me as it would for any teacher.
DeLucia: What are the benefits of corps, band or drum line?
Aungst: As an educator, the obvious benefit comes from teaching the kids how to play. But to me, teaching them about life’s skills is even more important. As a student, learning the values of working hard as individuals and as a team in order to achieve a common goal, plus the lessons learned along the way, are the ultimate rewards.
DeLucia: How much “marching” percussion is too much?
Aungst: I’m not sure. At Dartmouth we try to have a well-rounded program. It’s not just about marching although I do believe that the work ethic learned from being in drum line transfers very well to other facets of our program and helps the other ensembles perform much better. Marching percussion helps each and every student develop not only his/her approach to playing but also his/her understanding of what it takes to succeed in any of life’s challenges.
Note from the Editor: Next issue, look for our Q&A with Paul Rennick from Phantom Regiment.