BY SARAH PHILLIPS, Durant High
At the announcer’s cue, Bloomingdale High parents and assistants flood the wooden gymnasium floor, rushing to lay out a huge black mat punctuated with a red dot, backdrops with Chinese lettering spelling out “The Art of War” and front ensemble instruments.
A gong sounds, and a voice overhead describes the theme. The drum line comes out with a bang — literally — and some acrobatic prowess. One of the performers is on another’s shoulders, balancing a cymbal with a stick. Audience members drop their jaws and open their eyes wide, impressed with the dramatic opening. At this competition at Jefferson High earlier this month, it was Synergy’s time for redemption. During a previous competition, the group’s score would have put them in first place, but because of time deductions, they were awarded third.
Synergy is an indoor percussion ensemble, or in lay terms, an indoor drum line combined with multiple instruments. Think your high school band performing at halftime, but more involved, more artsy and with unlimited creative boundaries.
Synergy is one of two indoor drum line competition teams in Hillsborough County (the other is Bay Area Percussion out of Chamberlain High); both allow any Hillsborough County student to participate. Synergy, which performs under Bloomingdale’s name, includes members from Bloomingdale, Plant, Durant, Hillsborough and Brandon high schools.
Synergy comprises two main sections: battery (drum line) and front ensemble. Battery is made up of snare, tenor and bass drums and cymbals; front ensemble is the synthesizer chimes, bass guitar, xylophone, marimba, rack, vibraphone and auxiliary percussion.
Director Victor Pons teaches percussion at Plant and Bloomingdale High. He started Synergy because indoor percussion was well-established across Florida, yet there wasn’t a group in Hillsborough. He participated in Brahma, a collegiate percussion ensemble at the University of South Florida. Brahma competes annually at the WGI World Championships in Dayton, and Pons said Synergy has the potential to compete successfully at the global level.
Synergy is a lot of hard work, said co-ensemble captain and Plant High junior Alex Murphy, but it pays off when the group performs its show for large audiences. “Even though it does cut into homework and free time, it’s an experience a lot of kids don’t get to partake in,” he said.
Kyle Aebischer, a Bloomingdale sophomore, joined Synergy because he played in Bloomingdale’s drum line and has always wanted to participate in indoor percussion. Synergy is different from marching band, though, Aebischer said, because the ensemble performs in a gymnasium and can see the crowd’s reactions. “The accomplishment you feel after each competition when you hear what place you got, and then to see the faces on people who are watching” is satisfying, he said.
Pons said Synergy has exceeded what he expected out of a first-year group. “We have a huge membership — it’s pretty impressive,” he said. “The kids really work hard, and it shows on their scores and the compliments from the judges.”
Even with all of the preparation, Pons said, the day of the competition is difficult because of the restrictive time limits. “You only have a certain amount of time you can be on (the floor),” he said. “All of our cables and microphones have to be good. It’s just making sure everything will run smoothly. After that, it’s all them (the performers).”
At the Jefferson competition, it was all them. Synergy finished with no mistakes. They knew they had excelled, but that nagging time limit made them nervous. Performers and a crowd of supporters in black Synergy T-shirts looked somber.
Sixth place was named. Fifth, fourth, third, second.
As the announcer called out the first place winner, wild cheers erupted. Redemption definitely warranted celebration.