Drummer making history at Ohio University



Groveport’s Chelsea McDonnell has become only the third female ever to play in the snare drumline in the 40 year history of the Ohio University Marching Band.

McDonnell, a 2007 graduate and co-valedictorian of Groveport Madison High School, is pursuing a double major at Ohio University in music performance and music education.

I interviewed McDonnell via e-mail regarding her selection to the snare drumline and about her interest in music.

Rick Palsgrove: What is the significance of your being selected, as a freshman, as only the third female snare drummer ever for the band?

Chelsea McDonnell: "There have been more women than that on the drum line as a whole. The significance of my making the line is the particular drum that I play. I am the third girl to ever make the 110 snare line. The snare is traditionally the hardest instrument to play in a drumline, even if it is not still necessarily the hardest instrument today."

RP: Who and when was the first female drummer selected?

CM: "One of the other females to march snare was Gina Ferrera. She marched on the snare line for a year in 1997. There was one female on the snare line before her, but unfortunately, I don’t know her name."

RP: How did your fellow drummers react when you were selected for the drumline?

CM: "The drumline seemed to be very accepting and welcoming to me. Many, many people were very excited for me and the reaction I got was generally very positive."

RP: Did you encounter any negative reactions from anyone regarding your selection as a snare drummer for the traditionally male snare drumline?

CM: "I did not have any negative reactions happen directly to me. I heard some band alumni were not pleased about my placement on the line, but all of the alumni I met seemed to think it was cool that I was on the line. Some others said they were a little angry about it at first but were okay with it once they saw me play."

RP: What did you have to do to qualify to make it into the drumline? What was the selection process like?

CM: "There is an intense audition camp for incoming members of the marching band. It is one week in length. During that week you are assessed on your playing abilities and taught to marched and assessed on marching skills as well. You are expected to prepare some of the music that the band plays before coming to the camp and demonstrate your ability to play it during the camp and an individual music audition. There is also a group marching audition. Attitude and discipline are also assessed during the camp."

RP: Can you describe what it is like to perform with the Ohio University Marching Band? How is it different from your other musical experiences?

CM: "Playing with this band is like nothing else I have ever done in my life. This band is a very different style from the high school marching band that I was in and it is a totally different world. It is extremely unique and extremely fun. It has taught me to let loose and have fun when I am playing."

RP: When did you start playing drums and why did you choose to be a drummer?

CM: "I started playing percussion in sixth grade. I had always been interested in it and I thought it would be a fun instrument to play."

RP: Do you play any other musical instruments?

CM: "There are a large number of percussion instruments that all percussionists are expected to know how to play correctly. Percussion alone keeps me quite occupied, but I am also required to learn piano as part of my major so I am learning how to play that as well."

RP: What is the importance of music in your life?

CM: "Before I wanted to be a music major my number one dream was to study astronomy and go into outer space. That, in my opinion would still be one of the most amazing things I could every experience. I gave up a career in science where I might achieve that goal in order to pursue music. I cannot imagine my life without music and it means that much to me that I gave up one of my most important dreams to follow music instead."

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