Elizabeth City State University’s drumline won the Big Apple Classic Drumline Competition in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Dec. 15.
This was the first year the P.O.I.S.O.N. drumline participated in the competition, and they were one of three drumlines competing in Barclays Center.
“The arena where the Brooklyn Nets play,” said Tomisha Brock, director of university band.
Brock said she does not know how the university drumline got its name back in 1969, but “we’ve just supported it and embraced it.”
Eighteen members of the drumline participated in the competition. Brock said the line is relatively young, which she sees as having the advantage that the percussionists can “grow together.”
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and Lincoln University, also from Pennsylvania, were the competitors at the Big Apple Classic.
“Those two schools have participated in the event before, if I’m not mistaken,” Brock said.
She said high school and community groups were “there for the experience.”
The Big Apple Classic is New York City’s only HBCU basketball tournament, and the seventh annual event featured a doubleheader, according to its website.
Brock estimated an attendance of about 20,000 people.
The drumline had a five-minute window to perform “a lot of criteria,” and that time limit included the time it took to get on the floor and to exit the floor, Brock said.
“It was almost like ‘America’s Got Talent:’ You have 90 seconds to wow the judge,” she said.
Brock said the competition was a great way to recruit students, noting that not many band, choir or orchestra members hail from that area.
Brock is willing to do “anything to bring a positive light to department and university,” she said.
While “in holding,” waiting for the competition, she said she was able to talk to band directors of many high school and community groups and “gain more insight into what schools are in the area.”
On the trip back, the drumline performed at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C.
“We were able to secure 35 applications to ECSU” in D.C., she said, from students interested in majors ranging from education to criminal justice to pharmaceutical science.
“A lot of students were impressed with the fact we have a pharmacy program and the fact we have our own radio station on campus, so there is a lot to do academically and socially,” she said.
This was the first competition the students have entered; Brock said such college-only competitions are rare.
“Performances in the past, both locally and abroad, usually have been for exhibition and recruitment,” she said.
The drumline won a trophy and $1,000 cash prize, which will be used for upkeep and maintenance of percussion equipment, as well as for funding their travels to other competitions or exhibitions, Brock said.
The money will not be used for general band expanses, she noted.
P.O.I.S.O.N. averages 24 to 32 members; last year’s drumline had 33 members, Brock said.
She decided to cut down the percussionists “to balance out the sound of the band,” she said. “As we continue to grow the band, we can grow the percussion section.”
Of the 117 current members of the university band, about 25 are music majors, Brock said.
“Every degree is represented in the band, from education down to composition,” she added.