Not your average percussion group

Photo Courtesy of Red Wave Indoor Percussion Ensemble

Fresno State’s Red Wave indoor percussion ensemble traveled to Ohio this past weekend to compete in the Winter Guard International World Championships.

The newly formed percussion group was established last year. Steve McKeithen, the Fresno State associate director of bands, said that it’s uncommon for an indoor percussion ensemble to compete on an international level as early as in its second year of existence.

For the championships, Red Wave chose to go against the norm. McKeithen said often indoor percussion ensembles often engage in performances that are somber and have deeper messages to them.

“A lot of the shows that you might go see are very serious or very dark or very brooding,” McKeithen said. “We choose to be more entertaining and a little lighter.”

McKeithen said Red Wave strives to be dynamic when performing. The ensemble donned vibrantly colored clothing and executed a more upbeat performance than other competitors.

The performance was inspired by “Love Connection,” a dating television show. While performing, the Red Wave presented three different bachelors. McKeithen said their version was meant to be “tongue in cheek” for the audience.

“If it’s all intense all the time – if it’s all slow and soft – at a certain point, people won’t pay attention to it,” McKeithen said. “It’s got to have highs and lows.”

Blaine Haskin, a Red Wave member, said the uniqueness of the performance caused him to harbor some doubts about whether or not others would enjoy it.

“It’s not the same as other groups, but I think that’s part of the reason why it works,” he said.

Chris McKie, also a member of Red Wave, said the lighthearted nature of their performance allowed the audience to be more at ease while watching.

“With ours, you can just turn your brain off and enjoy the humor and the quirkiness to it,” McKie said. “It was just an entertaining show that anyone could enjoy.”

At this year’s championships, Red Wave received the fan favorite award. The competition was broadcasted online, and viewers were allowed to vote for their favorite performance.

McKeithen said it felt like a form of validation for the ensemble.

Although much of the focus at the championship is placed on competing with other indoor percussion ensembles, McKeithen said he doesn’t necessarily feel hostile toward competitors.

“We have other groups that are different than us,” McKeithen said. “But we appreciate what they do, even though we’re in direct competition with them.”

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