Scott Johnson, Percussion Director for the Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps
Scott Johnson’s musical training began at the age of four when he began taking drum lessons from a local percussion instructor. At the encouragement of this instructor he became involved in Drum and Bugle Corps activity. Before his fifth birthday, Scott joined the Red Knights Drum and Bell Corps and later graduated to the Royal-Airs Drum and Bugle Corps. Scott remained with the unit until he joined the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps at age 18. He was a marching member in the Blue Devils snare line from 1976 through 1979. Having become a member of the Blue Devils staff as a Percussion instructor from 1978 through 1989, Scott later rejoined the organisation in 1994 as Director of Percussion and Percussion Arranger. Scott is also the former Percussion Arranger for Riverside Community College, as well as the arranger for Beatrix Drum Corps from Holland, San Francisco Renegades Drum and Bugle Corps and arranger for many drum corps and marching bands in the United States, as well as in Japan.
During his time away from the Blue Devils, Scott was hired as Director of Percussion and Percussion Arranger for the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps from 1991 through 1993 after one year as percussion consultant in 1990.
Personal awards include 17 DCI Gold medal championships, 14 DCI High Percussion titles, two WGI (Winter Guard International) Gold medal championships, three DCA Gold medal championships, two DCA High Percussion titles, 10 DCE championships, nine DCE High Percussion titles, 10 High Percussion titles in Japan, and 1977 DCI and PAS (Percussive Arts Society) Individual Snare champion.
Scott was inducted into the 2012 class of the DCI Hall Of Fame, the 2012 WGI Hall Of Fame, and the 2015 World Drum Corps Hall Of Fame. Scott has also taught privately and arranged percussion scores at elementary, junior, senior high, and university levels and
his judging assignments have included numerous marching band and percussion competitions throughout the world. He is one of the most sought-after Marching Percussion clinicians in the world today, having held numerous percussion clinics around the world.
At what age did you start drumming?
“I started taking lessons when I was four years old.”
Biggest drumming influence?
“I grew up in the 60s’ and ’70s so it would have to be Buddy Rich. I used to play kit and I actually did a rock tour in 1985 with the remake of the Jimmy Hendrix band and that was my one year of doing drumset on tour. I don’t really play any more – I just tend to focus on my teaching now. The rock tour was a pretty intense year but a whole lot of fun.”
What made you want to join the Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps?
“All my friends did. I was in a small drum corps in a town called San Leandro in California and it was literally 35 miles from Conker and 35 miles from Santa Clara and we were stuck in the middle. We had a small drum corps called the Royal-Airs Drum and Bugle Corps in the early ’70s and they ended up folding for financial reasons so it was always a big decision with my friends I grew up with, whether we would go to Santa Clara Vanguard or Blue Devils. My friends went to Blue Devils so I ended up going with them. It turned out to be a good choice!”
What type of sticks do you currently use?
“Pro Mark TXDC17W, which is my signature stick.”
Do you have a favourite rudiment?
“That would have to be the paradiddle-diddle. I think the only reason for that is that I can play them really fast. If I want to impress somebody with speed then this is my go-to rudiment.”
Which other Drum Corps would you most like to play with?
“When I was marching, it would definitely have to be Santa Clara Vanguard who were my neighbours. I was actually going to march with them in 1975 but my father said I should stop home for the summer and help him build a big addition onto the house. I didn’t march that one summer and the next summer was ’76 and that’s the year all my friends talked me into going to the Blue Devils instead of Vanguard. Although I didn’t march with them I was fortunate enough to teach there for a couple of years. Nowadays, there are so many good drum corps – I love everyone’s style! However, I can’t really show any favourites other than my guys.”
What is your proudest drumming moment to date?
“Probably the one year I taught WGI (Winter Guard International) drumline. We did a show about a deaf girl called The Sound of Silence. I was the main guy there and I did all the original compositions and stuff and it was extremely rewarding that we did the story of a deaf person and how they would experience music. Some people to this day think it was an acting job by this girl but she was really deaf and we based the show on what she knew and how she felt music. She felt the vibrations more than anything else. We ended up winning gold medal at the WGI Championships. I think it was in 2001. The memory of going through the whole season with her was absolutely amazing. This is my 38th year with the Blue Devils organisation and there are so many memories there but the one that sticks out is the indoor performance of the RCP drumline back then.”
Do you have any advice or a quote you’d like to share with us?
“My advice is, YouTube! What YouTube has to offer is an amazing tool. You can type in any drumline you want and watch any exercise or show music you want and it’s right there for you. It’s a great learning and teaching tool that we never had back in the day. My favourite saying, which has been forever, is: “If you’re not having fun we’re doing it wrong.”
The Blue Devils Drum Corps in action