Brian Snell is the Associate Musical Director for DRUMLine Live which will be making a stop on it’s current tour this Saturday evening at the Joseph Meyerhoff Hall in Baltimore. DRUMLine Live is an international tour based on the Historically Black College and University marching band tradition. With it’s riveting rhythms, bold beats and ear-grabbing energy, the staged show is a synchronized musical showcase of the HBCU experience. Incorporating original compositions and soul-infused interpretations of top 40 hits, group performances range from colorful, choreographed routines to heavy doses of drum riffs and cadences. Brian Snell’s job is to keep the show in good shape and uphold the tradition of HBCU. Touring any show is a rough job but this kind of show is particularly rough. Imagine having to keep all the musicians in good shape and at the same time make sure the show looks as good at the end of the tour as it did at the beginning. This is no small feat and Brian Snell is totally up to the challenge.
How did you become involved with DRUMLine?
I became involved with DRUMLine Live back in 2004 when I met Don Roberts, the creator and Director of the show as well as the Executive Musical consultant for the 20th Century Fox Movie DRUMLINE. He contacted me when I was working with my college band, Florida A&M University in a creative capacity. Apparently Mr. Roberts had heard about some of the things I was doing at FAMU and was impressed. He called me to work on his project, which at the time was called Halftime Live and began production in 2005. DRUMLine Live began development in 2007 and premiered in 2009.
Were you in marching band in high school and college?
Yes I was in Marching band in High School in my hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Dillard High School) and I was also a member of Florida A&M University’s “Marching 100″ as was my Father who was a member of both bands as well. I was a Sousaphone player and Drum Major in both bands.
Can you please tell us what the training process is for the musicians that are part of DRUMLine?
The musical training for the musicians in our show comes from many years of honing their craft, most from elementary school age to college. Because our production is a celebration of the music and pageantry of the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Marching bands, and the majority of our performers are products of these institutions, they already arrive with the skill set in place to contribute to our show. All we do is seek the best and brightest from these institutions and recruit them for our production. After the cast members have been selected, music is sent out for them to become familiar with. Then for about two weeks in Atlanta, we rehearse with the group, teaching the movements, choreography and refining the musical aspects of the show. Its a monumental task to absorb so much in so little time, but with the talent of our performers coupled with a pseudo-military/athletic discipline instilled in them from the HBCU marching band experience, it all becomes possible!
What other performance groups have you played with?
Well besides High School and College as I mentioned before, I’ve performed with the UniversSoul Circus, The Walt Disney World College Band, The Miami Heat Street Band, The Atlanta Hawks Drumline to name a few. I was also a public school band director and taught elementary, middle, and high school.
DRUMLine keeps a pretty grueling tour schedule. What do you do for relaxation when not touring?
When I’m not touring with DRUMLine Live I’m talking about and planning for DRUMLine Live! Mr. Roberts, the creative team and myself are extremely passionate about this project, band and music is our life and we are constantly working, developing new ideas and trying expand our exposure worldwide. But really, on my downtime, in great contrast to my onstage persona, I’m quite the introvert! I just enjoy spending time with my family, reading, and I’m sort of a gym rat!