Hinds student lands spot in drum and bugle corps

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kevin and Brian West give new meaning to the term “drum line.”

Kevin, 18, was recently chosen as a member of the Casper Troopers drum and bugle corps that his father, Brian, a Vicksburg banker, was chosen for some 30 years ago.

The Hinds Community College music education major was among about 30 drummers who auditioned for the elite Wyoming drum corps, successfully nabbing one of just eight spots on the snare drum line.

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Beginning in June in Washington, Kevin will spend the summer touring and performing around the country with about 150 other 16- to 21-year-olds who make up the Troopers.

“I’m most excited about the knowledge I’ll gain, and the experience with my instrument,” Kevin said. “I’m also excited about playing in front of thousands of enthusiastic fans.”

Kevin said “drum corps nuts” are probably even more loyal and excited than Mississippi football fans.

The Troopers are one of 22 of Drum Corps International’s world-class drum and bugle corps, and were one of the organization’s founding members. At last year’s DCI world championships, the Troopers placed 12th. Kevin said they’re aiming for first this year.

“The music we’re doing this year has never been performed by a drum corps before,” he said. Specifics are top-secret.

Brian West said his son began picking up drumming tips at the age of 8, sitting on the stairs at his home eavesdropping as his father gave drum lessons to other boys. At 10, Kevin began formal lessons with Brian, who had successfully auditioned for the Troopers in the 1970s but for health reasons was not able to go on tour.

“It’s a big thrill for me to see him make a drum corps,” Brian West said. “At least I can live vicariously through him.”

Drum and bugle corps generally put on about 40 performances each summer, and Kevin will travel to Denver once a month for practice in the next several months and then begin traveling, performing and competing.

As they tour, the kids roll out sleeping bags on gym floors, shower in locker rooms and eat meals prepared by parent volunteers.

Kevin’s interest in being part of a drum and bugle corps was sparked when his father took him to a competition in Colorado in 2005 called Drums Along the Rockies. “After that, he was hooked,” Brian West said.

Besides following his father’s connection to the Troopers, Kevin set his sights on them because one of his fellow drum line members at Hinds marched with the Troopers last year, and Clinton music teacher Kevin Welborn is the corps’ Percussion Caption Head.

Kevin lives with his mother, Lisa Houghtelling, in Byram and graduated from Terry High School in 2009, but visits his father and other relatives in Vicksburg almost every weekend. A member of a number of bands, he is also a regular altar server at St. George Anitochian Orthodox Christian Church and hopes one day to teach high school.

The Troopers formed in 1957. Most of its members come from the western part of the United States but, like Kevin, some come from different parts of the country and even as far away as Japan.

The Troopers’ Web site lists World Open, VFW National and American Legion among the corps’ championship awards. The Troopers have performed for the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Phillies and the U.S. Air Force Academy, and were the first competitive drum corps to participate in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.

More than 1,000 competitive drum corps exist in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan involving 250,000 youths and 100,000 adult staff and boosters.

Contact Pamela Hitchins at phitchins@vicksburgpost.com