FREE Players and Community Living Hamilton

Community Living Hamilton (Ontario) Drum Corps
Though all-inclusive drum corps have some unique goals and challenges, they also have very similar outcomes.

Here are more questions and answers from Halftime Magazine’s interviews with FREE Players Drum and Bugle Corps in Old Bethpage, New York, directed by Brian Calhoun, and Community Living Hamilton (Ontario) Drum Corps, directed by Robyn Garnier. To see the first portion of the interview published in Halftime Magazine’s July/August 2018 issue, visit xxxxxx.

Halftime: What are the group’s goals?

Calhoun: All the members—they don’t want to be defined by their disability. They want to be defined by their talent and their abilities, their passions. They don’t want to be known as the person who has autism, the person who has Down syndrome. They want to be known as a drummer, a member of the color guard … We feel a responsibility to the entire special needs community, to everyone with a disability, to show what the possibilities are if you’re willing to put in the work.

Garnier: The drum corps’ philosophy is inclusion, life experience, and fun. So, inclusion, we do that because we’re all-inclusive. Every year, I try to make sure there is a new life experience. When we first started, I had people who had never been out of the city, never been on a school bus, who [had] never been part of anything, never been in a parade, never gone to a parade. … And it’s always fun because if it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.

Halftime: Do you use special teaching techniques or accommodations?

Calhoun: Whether you’re teaching someone with special needs or teaching someone that doesn’t have any disabilities at all, it’s all about knowing the individual. … Some people learn visually, some people learn through listening, some people learn through reading music, … so we try to personalize everything to maximize everyone’s abilities.”

Garnier: In the 32-member drumline, I have 32 distinct individuals who have 32 ways of learning, so as I’m teaching the music, I teach to that person how best they learn. … Once I’ve taught the music, [the community-based volunteers] are there to support and play with our individuals.

Halftime: What are your proudest moments with the group?

Calhoun: Seeing the reaction of the crowd and seeing the members’ faces at the performances and looking around the arena or stadium or gymnasium. We put in so much hard work and sacrifice and dedication and just being able to share that amazing moment and see everyone’s smiles, it makes every last bit of hard work worth it.

Garnier: The invitation to DCI to perform at the DrumLine Battle—that for the corps members was huge. … We’re not just going—we were invited. Somebody knows who we are, and they want us.

Halftime: What are the biggest challenges of the group?

Calhoun: Physically, it’s hard, especially on the drumline, carrying instruments for a long period of time, and the independence with setting up equipment. A lot more goes on with our staff and volunteers because some of our members are independent and can do everything themselves, but a lot of the members need more assistance, so it’s very time-consuming.

Garnier: Having no staff, while we’re out there in the heat and the sun, which brings on the seizures, while my guys are falling down because their muscular dystrophy doesn’t allow their limbs to work anymore, while the people who are deaf are trying to keep in time the best way that they can, there’s nobody on the sidelines saying, “Count on four, march forward.” … So, we have to do that, perform and be who we are, as good as we are, with the internal challenges that nobody ever sees.

Photos courtesy of Community Living Hamilton (Ontario) Drum Corps and FREE Players Drum and Bugle Corps in Old Bethpage, New York.

About author

Nicole Roberts

Nicole Roberts is the city hall reporter for the News Tribune in Jefferson City, Missouri. She graduated from Missouri State University with a degree in print/internet journalism and a minor in psychology. She played clarinet in the Missouri State Pride Band and in her high school’s marching band.