American Revolution: Everything Was Bad if the Drummers Were

VIDEOS: Upper Dublin teacher ‘drums up’ Revolutionary War history
Published: Saturday, March 14, 2015
By Linda Finarelli


Photo Credit: Montgomery Media

Upper Dublin — In the…1770s…listening to the beat of the drum was…a way of life.

That message was brought home to the eighth-graders at Sandy Run Middle School…when music teacher Sean Kennedy demonstrated the role of drummers during the Revolutionary War.

“Snare drums were strictly tools of war” back then, said Kennedy, a professional drummer who “was brought up learning all of the battle signals the drummers used to play in the 1700s and 1800s,” and teaches them to his current students. “Without the battlefield drummers, modern drumming might not exist,” he said.

…Kennedy said…the “single largest employer of musicians today is the U.S. military.”

[T]hat history can be traced back to sunrise April 19, 1775, when John Parker, commander of a 77-member militia company in Lexington, Mass., seeing 700 British troops approach, told company drummer boy William Diamond, 17, to sound “To Arms,” signaling the enemy’s approach and the start of the armed conflict leading to the War of Independence, he said.

Gen. George Washington complained the “music of the army” was “very bad,” and threatened that if the drum and fife majors didn’t improve, their ranks and pay would be reduced.

“Everything was bad if the drummers were,” Kennedy said.

The Rogue’s March”…was played when a soldier was “drummed out” of the army for misbehavior or for a funeral processional.

“The drummers and signals were life and death,” Kennedy said. “Usually they were teenage boys and usually didn’t get shot at, but it was very dangerous.”

…Kennedy noted, “Everything…played on the drum set today has roots in the Revolutionary War.”

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