Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. While it is observed as a U.S Holiday, I am taking the opportunity to commemorate the life of the British soldier and drummer who was murdered in London last week by Islamic Extremists. Lee Rigby, a member of the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was victimized in a fanatical display of human brutality that will never be truly understood by most people. While CNN and The Huffington Post will explore the issue from a legal, moral, and ideological perspective, I want to memorialize Rigby by showcasing his musical gift.

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Military bands were historically the first marching bands. These days marching bands mainly perform at sporting events and parades as a form of entertainment. Marching drummers possess a proficiency that is frequently lost amidst the exploitation of celebrity musicians. However, anyone who appreciates music as an art form would view these players as top contenders on the musical hierarchy. They play with extraordinary precision and utmost articulation, while performing many of their parts on the move and in unison. The style encompasses rudimentary concepts that are applied to create complex rhythmic phrases usually consisting of strokes and rolls executed very quickly. Tricks and flare are also very common, especially in modern day marching bands to enhance entertainment value. Marching Band scholars develop technique and coordination over many years of  militant focus in order to master the stylistic attributes and demeanor associated with their role. The drummers use an underhand technique, referred to as “traditional grip” that allows for an easier reach while marching. These days, traditional grip is commonly used in jazz drumming, a style that incorporates many of the same rudimental applications.

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(Traditional grip used by marching drummer)

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is an infantry regiment of the British Army. While drumming is only a small part of their operation, it maintains an important role in the infantry’s legacy. The band will march on but a valued member sadly will not. Pictures, videos, and information about Lee Rigby as a drummer are difficult to find right now due to the high volume of internet content specifically related to the murder. I would love to hear Rigby play and hope at some point videos showcasing his talent will be available. Surely, we will hear a lot more about the fallen soldier in weeks to come. A Croatian Drum Camp has already announced they will dedicate this year’s program to Rigby, adding topics such as tolerance, harmony, and respect for human life to it’s curriculum.

 In the meantime, we will remember this event for its atrocity and celebrate the patriotic musician it took from the world.

I couldn’t find many videos on the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers but here’s one of a Swiss Drum Corp to exemplify the complexity, precision, and sheer brilliance that goes into this style of drumming.

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6 responses »

  1. barbara says:

    Fascinating. Your words regarding the drumming…complexity, precision, sheer brilliance…says it all. And how compassionate of you to remember and celebrate the talent of that unfortunate soldier.

  2. Ryan O'Dowd says:

    Love this blog! As a writer myself, I’m always drawn to creative spirits like Jon, and his ability to tell compelling stories in a dynamic, linguistically profound fashion. Well-written, insightful and inspiring. I think I speak for your entire following when I implore you, Jon, to keep these pieces coming.

  3. Ashley says:

    What a timely message to commemorate not only the life of this soldier, but to recognize his talents and efforts as well. You truly have a gift for the written word and couldn’t have chose a better subject to discuss. Rock on.

  4. Mitch Beer says:

    Good blog about an often overlooked musical entity,military marching bands. Certianly marching bands were incredibly critical in American battle history, as their rhythms and parts were used to signal different formations and attack patterns. The death of Lee Rigby is definitely a sad and disturbing event, but this is a great piece about a soldier who deserves our thoughts on Memorial Day. Thanks Jon!

  5. Sean Burke says:

    Great blog post! Agree that the precision and uniformity of military bands are second to none. While Rigby’s death was a terrible tragedy, it’s nice to read such a thoughtful piece about his passion from the perspective of a fellow drummer. Well done!

  6. Lauren says:

    I’m so tired of hearing about the perpetrators of hate crimes in mainstream media and knowing they derive satisfaction in their infamy. So glad to hear about the victims and see there are people who can utilize mediums like blogs to send positive vibes out about the many heroes like Lee Rigby! He, and others, like the brave responders in Boston, and the boyfriends who died shielding their girlfriends in a Colorado movie theater, are the people we should commemorate with the written and spoken word. I’m really glad to know this about Mr. Rigby. Thanks Jon!

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