01/11/09 — Tryon Palace corps

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Tryon Palace corps

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 11, 2009 2:00 AM

When the Tryon Palace Fife and Drum Corps performed Saturday at Gov. Bev Perdue's inauguration, North Carolina's first female governor probably didn't know one of the drummers was a kindred pioneering spirit.

Even though most people typically think of percussionists as male, there has always been something special about drumlines for 16-year-old Miranda Hill, a sophomore at Spring Creek High School.

"I always loved them in parades. Everyone's watching the drumline," Ms. Hill said. "I always wanted to be the one they were watching."

She started learning to play the snare drum in sixth grade, and when a friend suggested she join the Tryon Palace corps, she jumped at the chance to play with the all-volunteer group.

The Fife and Drum Corps dons Civil War-era uniform and performs for many events at the historical Tryon Palace in New Bern. The group also travels to attend special events, such as Colonial Willi-amsburg's "Drummer's Call."

The corps performs about 30 different songs, a repertoire that Ms. Hill and the other musicians are expected to memorize completely.

Performing with the group is hard work, though a lot of fun, she said.

"There's a special breed that can do marching band," Ms. Hill said. "I like the dedication, and the friends, too."

The heavy rope drum took some getting used to -- it weighs a lot more than the snare she uses in her concert band and has to be carried rather than set on a stand.

"It was hard, because it's a sling," Ms. Hill said.

And the drum's outer workings can sometimes be downright hazardous for the percussionists: the ropes can snap back and hit the performer.

"I have many bruises on my upper leg," she said.

While the corps is always a popular attraction, having her photo taken by so many tourists and visitors can be a little unnerving.

"You kinda think, 'I'm in all these people's houses,'" Ms. Hill said.

But the drawbacks are never enough to dissuade her from her interests. Perform-ing with the corps is a double bonus for her.

"I'm a history fanatic, I get to play drums and learn about history," she said. "It seems too good to be true."

Besides playing snare and rope drum and other percussion instruments, she is also learning to play saxophone. It's helpful for band directors to be proficient on more than one instrument, and Ms. Hill is looking toward the future.

"That's what I want to be, I want to be a music education teacher," she said.

It's a little early for the sophomore to be sending out applications, but her Appalachian State sweatshirt suggests she's thinking about college already. Although she is considering that university, her highest aspiration is a little farther away, geographically and financially.

"My dream would be Ohio State," she said.

Ms. Hill's family is very supportive of her passion for percussion. Her grandmother always attends concerts, and her mother Deb Hill doesn't mind making the frequent trips to New Bern for rehearsals and shows.

"No matter what it is, I never miss a performance," she said. "I'm excited for her, and I love it as much as she does."

"She cries," Ms. Hill said.

"I do," her mother agreed.

Her favorite memory from the year-and-a-half she has been performing with the corps was playing at the Tryon Palace candlelight tours during the holiday season, but Saturday's performance at the inauguration might just top the list.

Even though Ms. Hill is still recovering from recent surgery, she didn't want to miss it.

"I didn't realize how big that was until people were like, 'this is the first female governor,'" she said.

Ms. Hill is breaking new ground in her own way, as Spring Creek High School's first female drumline co-captain.

"You always have those guys who tell you you're not supposed to play drums," she said. "I let my playing speak for me."