University City

Charlotte 49ers Drum-line quietly prepares for Aug. 31 football debut

In an upstairs room at UNC Charlotte’s Robinson Hall for the Performing Arts, dozens of bare drum shells – their heads, rims and snares removed – sat randomly about on the floor like scattered buckets catching drips from a leaky roof.

There, in mid-July, each drum awaited a makeover, to be freshened with a new head that boasted a flashy gold-and-green 49ers logo and an updated wardrobe of professional-grade sticky contact wrap flecked with light and deep green hues to replace the old khaki.

Preparing 25 sets of drums for the new 49ers is just one of the hundreds of details Director Jay Grymes needs to take care of in preparing the percussion ensemble to whip spectators into a frenzy Aug. 31 – when the brand-new Charlotte 49ers football team plays its inaugural game at the team’s new stadium.

The buildup to that moment has lasted seven years, beginning in 2006 when a grass-roots organization called the Charlotte Football Initiative led a charge to begin a varsity football program.

Since then, the program has been planned and executed in advance, its stages to completion doled out in careful measures along the way.

The Charlotte 49ers’ first home game, at noon Aug 31, has been scheduled for nearly three years.

The team’s first head football coach was hired two years earlier; its first 27 players were signed more than a year ago.

Now, with just a few weeks left before the big game, the tasks Grymes needs to complete are as plentiful and as fast-approaching as the beats of a military march.

“We’ve had meetings after meetings,” said Grymes, standing in the center of the room and watching the drums – formerly owned by another ensemble – transform from a yawn-inspiring beige to a lively green. “Where are the drummers going to practice? Where we are going to store the drums when they are not in use?”

Noise concerns have sent rehearsals to a university-owned recreation field near CMC-University, off North Tryon Street, far from the academic and residential buildings on campus.

The 10 snare drums, five six-piece sets of tenor drums, bass drums and cymbals, valued at $25,000, will be stored this year in the new EPIC building on campus.

Other concerns still need to be worked out.

The five staff members who will run the drumline need to be hired, and the 25 percussionists who will rap their drumsticks on the rims and twirl them in the air in a performance that’s part flashy showmanship and part rhythmic cadence still need to be auditioned.

Tryouts will be 2-6 p.m. July 28.

Grymes, who put himself through college by coaching drumlines but whose specialty is the bassoon, anticipates most who show up will not be music majors.

“That is true at most universities,” said Grymes. “Music majors have different focuses and are more into symphonic pursuits.”

If all goes as planned, the inaugural Charlotte 49ers football team and the inaugural 49ers drumline – both years in the making – will come together like the clash of cymbals at 9:49 a.m. Aug. 31 outside the Student Union, beginning a new tradition of marching together toward the stadium.

By 2015, when the football team joins Conference USA, a marching band also will join the festivities.

But that’s too far ahead to plan now, said Grymes.

“We are still talking about that,” he said. “For 2013, we have hammered out enough.”