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Spirit of Atlanta Corps prepare for season at Science Hill

June 15th, 2013 9:53 pm by Madison Mathews

Spirit of Atlanta Corps prepare for season at Science Hill

Part of the Spirit Drum Corps prepare at Kermit Tipton Stadium recently. (Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)

For two weeks, some of the best young musicians in the country have been spending nearly every waking minute practicing and perfecting their music and marching at Science Hill High School.

The Spirit of Atlanta Drum & Bugle Corps has made Science Hill its base of operation for the second year in a row in preparation for the 2013 performance season. The season will see the group perform more than 30 times throughout the summer and take them more than 10,000 miles across the country.

Spirit will be performing a preview of this year’s show Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Science Hill’s Kermit Tipton Stadium.

This year’s show is called “Speakeasy,” which tells the story of the Roaring Twenties and all of the energy and excitement that came with it, according to Spirit Executive Director Todd Snead.

“It’s all about the vitality of city life that was happening around that time and we spend a little bit of time exploring the concept of Prohibition and the raids that would happen at that time, as well as the fashion, the art deco and the music of the time,” he said.

Some of the music featured in this year’s show will include a song by George Gershwin, a tune from the musical “Chicago” and the jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

“Our identity as an organization is very much tied to jazz and blues and sounds of the South, so the show is really perfect for us, because that was really the rise of jazz in America,” Snead said.

Among the 150 members of Spirit are three Science Hill alumni: Jackson Hill, Russell England and Brandon Blankenstein.

Hill, who graduated in 2011, has been a member of Spirit for four years, while England, who graduated in June, is in his second year with Spirit.

Blankenstein, another recent graduate of Science Hill, is in the middle of his first season with the corps.

“It’s been really fun. There’s been hard times. It’s just the level of detail that we’re reaching is far surpassing where we were in high school,” he said.

After the seeing Spirit perform during their visit to the area last year, Blankenstein knew how he wanted to spend the summer before his first semester of college.

“I’ve wanted this for a while now and I definitely want to do it again. I think it’s making a good transition into college,” he said.

The typical day for members of Spirit lasts from about 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. They spend the day training, practicing and blocking their show.

That schedule continues for three months over the summer until they end the season at the Drum Corps International World Championship on Aug. 10.

The schedule might be tough, but it’s worth it, according to Blankenstein.

“We’ve almost fielded the entire show and this is our third week and it takes a month-plus with high school, and just the level of difficulty that drum corps is it’s just phenomenal that we’re this far with the talent we have,” he said.

That high level of talent and dedication is why members like Hill and England have come back for another season with Spirit.

“I wanted a higher level of perfection that you could achieve at the high school level. It’s not something you see every day. I do it every year. It gets me in shape, I meet a lot of people, and it gives me something to do over the summer. It’s just a great experience,” Hill said.

England agreed, saying there’s a sense of camaraderie between everyone in the corps.

“There’s a sense of connection between everybody, because you know what they’ve been through,” he said.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children. Proceeds will benefit the SHHS Band Boosters and Spirit of Atlanta.

For more information on Spirit, visit

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