Louisiana stars preps for upcoming performances
“Here we go — last set of eight counts!” yelled Tim Darbonne, head of visual design for the Louisiana Stars Drum and Bugle Corps, from the parking tower overlooking the Pride of Acadiana’s practice fields.
The Louisiana Stars is the first drum corps from Lafayette to take part in the Drum Corps International competition. The corps, who will be competing in four of the DCI’s spectacles, prepare for the competition as well as the exhibition performance at Comeaux High School on June 10 at 7 p.m. by learning how to seamlessly move through intricate patterns that Darbonne himself designed. The performance is free and open to the public.
The group of 80 consists of not only students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, who has co-sponsored the group, but also Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, McNeese University and Northwestern University. More than 50 percent of the group is also made up of high school students as young as 14 years old.
“You have all these independent corps from around the country that tour throughout the summer, compete in shows every night, until world championships in August,” stated Troy Breaux, assistant director of the corps and percussion teacher at UL Lafayette. “We won’t be going to world championships yet because this is our inaugural year as part of DCI, so we have a fairly limited tour.”
Unlike a marching band, a drumming bugle corps lacks the wood wind instruments, like clarinets and flutes, but according to Breaux, this makes the performance louder, more powerful and more exciting.
“We started practicing in January, and we had once a month rehearsals until the end of May when kids were out of school,” explained Breaux. “Starting last Friday, we moved in for every-day, all-day rehearsals. So from 8:30 in the morning until about 10:30 at night, they are practicing for two weeks until we go on tour.”
The Louisiana Stars’ tour consists of five locations: Muscatine, Iowa; Lebanon, Ill.; Bentonville, Ark.; and the corps’ final performance will be hosted at Cajun Field.
Breaux described the music as “light, comic opera,” as the band is set to perform pieces like “The Barber of Seville” and “Carmen.”
“I saw a show back in 2011, and I didn’t really understand it back then, but as I got into it and started drumming more and more, I saw how incredible and unique it is,” stated Michael Benoit, an incoming freshman majoring in music education and snare player for the Louisiana Stars. “The benefit of it far outweighed all the work.
“I thought I had a good work ethic with all this stuff,” he continued, “but coming into this having to be on your toes and on a strict schedule, working hours and hours a day, really focuses your mind and really hones it in on the present moment at all times. There is no worrying about what happens next or what happened before. There is just now, and it really changes your perception on focusing on one target, one goal, with a hundred other kids.”
Breaux stated the Louisiana Stars’s staff is a collection of high school directors, UL Lafayette alumni and professional musicians.
Tim Leblanc, a UL Lafayette alumnus and former drum major for the Pride of Acadiana marching band, is staffed as the colorguard supervisor.
Robert Nunez, the principal tubist in the Louisiana Philharmonic in New Orleans, has previously taught for the drum corps and is now staffed with the Louisiana Stars.
“We are really going to be able to teach and inspire some young people during this time,” Breaux stated. “This is a great outreach program to really try to help better music education in the state of Louisiana.”
“I knew it was something I had to do before I went out in the real world,” Benoit added. “It’s not just me that evolves for the better—it’s the standard for the entire drum line.”