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World champions! Clover High School indoor drumline wins international arts event

The Clover High School indoor drumline took home hardware and history when it competed in the Percussion World Championships last week in Dayton, Ohio.
The Clover High School Blue Eagles are world champions. The York County school's indoor...
The Clover High School Blue Eagles are world champions. The York County school's indoor drumline won first place in an international percussion competition in Dayton, Ohio, in April 2022.(Source: Clover School District)
Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 8:58 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2022 at 9:02 AM EDT
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CLOVER, S.C. (Rock Hill Herald) - Members of the Clover High School band rubbed their eyes awake and peeked out their windows.

The eight-hour overnight bus ride back home was mostly quiet. But on the last few miles of the trip Sunday morning, students looked out their windows to see flashing blue lights.

They were getting a police escort — as if they were being treated like world champions.

After all, that’s what they were.

The Clover High School indoor drumline took home hardware and history when it competed in the Percussion World Championships last week in Dayton, Ohio. Specifically, the group earned Gold in the “Percussion Scholastic A” division, triumphing over 46 other percussion ensembles in their classification.

It’s the first WGI World Championship Clover High School has ever won — and it marks the first time any high school indoor drumline from South Carolina has won a WGI championship.

“We were just going up there, and I wanted to expose these kids to the world championships to see how good these groups around the country were,” Clover’s director of percussion Ryan Hall told The Herald in a phone interview on Monday. “We had a lot of eighth graders in the group and a lot of freshmen.”

He then added with a laugh: “We just went up there to have fun. And to be exposed. And then when we started winning, I was like, ‘What’s happening?’”

The event was put on by the Winter Guard International (WGI) Sport of the Arts — an internationally known nonprofit that has organized indoor color guard, percussion and winds competitions for 45 years. Last week’s event attracted 400 percussion performances of varying skill levels and brought together schools from New Jersey, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other states.

The Blue Eagles, with their final performance on Friday night, hold the all-time second-highest score in WGI finals competition history — a 97.800.

On Monday, when sophomore quad percussionist Logan Smith was asked about his experience in Dayton, he let out a chuckle of disbelief: “Where do I even begin?”

“I went there expecting to have fun,” Smith told The Herald. “But this trip I will remember for the rest of my life.”

The Clover High School band traveled to Ohio to compete in the Percussion World Championships...
The Clover High School band traveled to Ohio to compete in the Percussion World Championships last week. And they brought home hardware and history. Here’s Ethan Fenske, left, and Jiyah Holmes, right, performing Clover’s award-winning production “Medussa.”(Source: WGI Sport of the Arts)

CLOVER PRODUCING ‘MEDUSA’

The indoor drumline Clover sent to Dayton had been rehearsing together since the start of the 2022 calendar year and had been competing in different events since February, Hall said.

The group performed “Medusa” — a show based on the Greek mythological character who was a beautiful maiden with a fatal gaze: She turned anyone who locked eyes with her into stone.

As the WGI judges put it on Clover’s scorecard: “Performers shielded their eyes to avoid being turned to stone, including a section of completely blind drumming from the battery. The music became much more intense and dramatic to further showcase the drastic contrast, building to the climax where Medusa’s head was cut off, ending Clover’s Greek myth with a bang.”

Jakob Sawyer of the Clover High School indoor drumline competes in the WGI’s World Percussion...
Jakob Sawyer of the Clover High School indoor drumline competes in the WGI’s World Percussion Championships.(Source: WGI Sport of the Arts)

Hall said he and his staff just wanted to design a show that his kids could buy into, one that perfectly meshed dance and drums and decor that was challenging and fun. Hall was helped by “the best design team in the country,” he said. Among those on his team: Andrew Markworth wrote the music, Noah Bellamy was the team’s drill designer and Kaitlyn Hall handled the choreography.

After a few regional competitions earlier in 2022, Hall said Clover entered the World Championships in Dayton ranked seventh in its classification (Percussion Scholastic A).

The band’s goal was just to make it to the finals, which were set to take place Friday night. But Hall remembers his team feeling discouraged Friday afternoon after an out-of-sync performance in the semi-finals.

“We were in the hotel at about 2 p.m. Friday, just in our beds resting because we were so tired, and then the scores were released on our phones,” Hall said. “And I just heard this roar come from the other side of the hotel. It was all the kids finding out the scores that we finished in first in the semi-finals.”

Smith remembers that moment well too.

“I ran out of my room and into another,” Smith said, “and everybody just gathered into this one room and started jumping and screaming.”

And once the finals came, with the team rejuvenated and refocused, Clover prevailed.

“When they announced we won first, it was like a breath of fresh air because we had put in all this hard work,” said Mackenzie Pearson, Clover’s front ensemble section leader. “We lined up in front of everybody, and all of our directors and staff medaled us, and we all hugged and cried and took pictures.

“I’ve been doing indoor drumline since 2017. So it was just like, ‘Wow, this is my last high school experience here.’ It was so satisfying, and it just brings me so much happiness. I don’t think I’ve had a better week in my entire life.”

Candy Lan competes in the percussion production of “Medussa” for Clover High School’s indoor...
Candy Lan competes in the percussion production of “Medussa” for Clover High School’s indoor drumline.(Source: WGI Sport of the Arts)

OTHER SOUTH CAROLINA WGI MEDALISTS

In addition to Clover, four other groups from South Carolina took home medals this weekend. Two of those groups, like Clover, are also from York County.

  • Catawba Ridge High School (of Fort Mill) took home the bronze in the “Concert World” competition
  • Civitas Independent in Rock Hill took home the silver in the “Percussion Independent Open” competition
  • Dorman took home the bronze in the “Percussion Scholastic Open” competition
  • And Ninety-Six earned bronze in the same classification as Clover did (Percussion Scholastic A)

ONE LAST COMMUNITY PERFORMANCE

Clover will put on one last performance Monday at 7 p.m. in the CHS main gym. All are welcome to attend, Hall said.

CLOVER BAND STAFF

Director of Bands: Joe Gulledge

Assistant Director of Bands: Courtney Wyatt

Director of Percussion: Ryan Hall

Front Ensemble Director: Anne Turner

Choreographer: Kaitlyn Hall

Staff: Bradley Wilson, Hunter Alexander, Adam Cowart, Ryan Anderson.

For more information on the WGI event last week, visit wgi.org and/or www.cloverbands.com.

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