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Champions in Training
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Sandra Opie instructs student Bill Beahm on proper brass technique during a private lesson in the fall of 1964

By the late 1950s, many veterans of the Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps were “aging out,” and a paradox ensued. While an all-time number of pre-teems were applying for membership, an all-time low were correctly trained musicians. To address the dilemma while reducing the strain placed on a volunteer staff, the Rebel-Heirs feeder corps was organized.
Applicants were tested for musical aptitude, and every member of the corps was required to participate in their school band program. The corps’ music directors began tutoring each member prospect privately on their band instrument. Training began in fifth grade. To augment the drum line, the nations’ finest percussion instructors were retained. All corps members were taught to play their band instrument using the correct technique. This individual music instruction continued through the early 1970s and proved highly beneficial to local band programs – and the corps.
By the late 60s and early 70s, the result of this demanding but fundamental strategy, was a string of state and national championship titles – and recognition from critics and music educators that a well taught drum and bugle corps was a legitimate form of musical expression. A group of “homegrown kids” with an average age of 16.5 years grew up together, and they were performing music pulled directly from professional charts. Years of exacting and intensive training made possible by the team work of a dedicated and talented staff and a generous and supportive community, produced a local youth program which set the standard for musical excellence in the drum and bugle corps activity.
Learn more about the history and heritage of the corps, and its rise to national prominence. Explore the current exhibition: The Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps / The Hometown Team / How Our Community Championed Its Youth. Through September 5, 2015. Great Bend Public Library. The exhibit is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street Program, sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council.