Like the drum and bugle corps used by the military to summon troops,
the city’s Black Knights Drum Corps rallies audiences at parades,
community events and competitions.
“The crowds just love it, which is one of the most rewarding
things,” said Burbank resident Richard Keith, 19, a former member.
But since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the 60-member group --
who range in age from 11 to 22 -- has not been able to reach as wide
an audience as it once did. It had been rehearsing at no cost at
Burbank’s National Guard facilities for four years. Because the base
went into heightened security, barring civilian entry, the group
moved to city recreation centers, where it is charged a fee, said the
group co-founder Pete Ellison.
Last year, the group covered rental costs using $6,000 awarded by
the city’s PerformArts Grant. The corps was given the same amount
from the city earlier this month. Other fund-raising activities
include car washes and selling concessions at UCLA and Rose Bowl
events. Members also pay tuition to help cover transportation and
costume costs; scholarships are available, Ellison said.
The move from the National Guard facilities also meant the drum
program that performs at parades had to be put on hold because a
large outdoor area is needed for rehearsals. Ellison is optimistic
about the prospects for securing space to resume that program this
Ellison, 41, is also the group’s executive director and a
Burroughs High School graduate. He and Russell Kingman started the
company in 1989 because “there were a lot more of these groups when I
was growing up,” and school music programs were not as strong in
1989, Ellison said.
In percussion and color-guard performances, members learn
dedication, teamwork and sacrifice, Ellison said.
“For a six-minute competitive show, the students put in 250 hours
of [group] rehearsal time, plus home assignments that are about an
hour or more a day,” Ellison said.
Color-guard member and Burbank resident Deanna Perez, 21, has
learned more than the complex physical moves she uses while tossing
flags into the air.
“The responsibility is to your team,” Perez said. “It’s helped me
with responsibility to my job, my family.”
The percussionists have won competitions against some of the best
teams in the country, Ellison said. Many former members find their
experience gives them an edge in pursuing college degrees, and about
a dozen have gone on to become teachers, Ellison said.
When George Battey was mayor in the early 1990s, he named the
group Burbank’s official musical ambassadors, Ellison said.
“It’s an honor to go out and do community events and know that the
city is getting credit for it,” Ellison said.
People interested in attending a rehearsal are invited to group’s
open rehearsals, which are from 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays at Olive
Recreation Center, 1111 W. Olive Ave.
The corps will perform with 35 other teams as part of the
Southern California Percussion Alliance Drumline Competition starting
at 4 p.m. March 1 in the South Gym at Los Angeles Pierce College,
6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. Admission is $7. For more
information, call (866) 225-7216.