Performing throughout Southwest Florida for the last four years, Marcato Independent is the only drumline within 200-plus miles, and has taken quite a liking to Fort Myers Beach, calling it home.
Ty Hill, executive director of the non-profit drum corp, along with Jason Staas, director, says Marcato was started as a way to bridge the gap for high school drummers and percussionists, who often don't have any activities after marching band season ends.
"We were trying to do an indoor drumline sponsored by schools. But the schools didn't have enough, so a few of us decided to go and do it on our own. We had to figure out how to fund our own drumline, paying the way to regional, statewide and national competitions and the use of equipment," he said. "All of the staff is volunteer. Lots of us borrow equipment and we have a huge support of local band directors. We're non-profit, and every dime that is donated to us goes right into making this music activity happen for area music students."
One day, during an impromptu rehearsal, the corps decided to take rehearsal to the streets and sand practicing on Fort Myers Beach.
"We were really welcomed with open arms by the businesses of Fort Myers Beach," Hill said. "It all started last year on St. Patrick's Day, when we stopped by Bay Oaks on a whim and headed toward The Shamrock, who welcomed us, followed by The Cottage, Gulfshore Grill, the Beach Pub, The Mermaid and so many others. Now we have almost all of our rehearsals on the beach, walking up and down the sand."
Marcato is not just a drumline keeping high school percussionists busy they're racking up lots of miles and awards doing so, regularly performing (and winning) during regional, statewide and national drumline competitions.
"Our organization was initially set up for education. But we've now competed in WGI (Winter Guard International) for four years and have done well. We won a gold medal in the State Circuit but because none of the shows are local, it costs too much money to compete. So, now we do two WGI shows in Florida, then head to Dayton, Ohio, for the World Championship," Hill said. "We did pretty well this year. Last year, we made finals in the Top 12 of our class in the world."
In the seasonal months, Marcato has as many as 40 members, all 22 and under. In the off-seasonal months, like now, there are about 15 members of all ages. Rehearsal is held right around September, October and November, and the drumline's season kicks off in December.
"Since we've been so welcomed by Fort Myers Beach, we now have most of our rehearsals out there, walking up and down the sand, starting from Bay Oaks Rec Center and walking all the way up to the pier without putting our drums down," Hill said.
Hill says he has drummers coming from as far as Bradenton and beyond to try out for the group, as Marcato is the only drumline of that class in Florida, as well as the only independent drumline in Southwest Florida. The drumline was getting ready to hit the road for the Drumline Battle (DrumlineBattle.com) based out of Atlanta, driving up Saturday and performing Sunday, using the funds the musicians were able to raise during recent rehearsals on the sand.
Since Fort Myers Beach has taken the group under its wings, Marcato has performed and marched in the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival and Fort Myers Beach Fourth of July parades, winning Best Music during the most recent event, and Hill says he looks forward to the group continuing the tradition.
"Lots of the drummers are teachers, going back to school soon. But, we'll be back down there soon, though, on a whim. You never know when you'll see us out there."
For further information on the Marcato Independent drumline, find the group on Facebook by searching "Marcato Independent" or visit MarcatoIndependent.com. You can also view lots of the group's videos on YouTube by searching "Marcato Independent" and "Fort Myers Beach Drumline."