PASADENA, Calif. – Loud beats, undeniable rhythm, and precision. The middle schoolers who are part of the Wilson Drum Corp and music program have been a powerhouse band for decades.
Their director is Marvin Hatchett, who is also a school security guard. He has been leading the band for over 30 years. He played drums in school, and started the Drum Corp after talking to a student who had nothing to do after school.
“He was sitting on the thing and he didn’t have anywhere to go,” Hatchett said. “I said ‘So what do you do?’ And he said, ‘I’m in performing arts.’ And that’s how I got in to performing arts because there was no one to give them the opportunity after school.”
Over the last 35 years, his students have performed for the Mayor’s office and in the Rose Parade. They even took home Gold at the 2018 World Strides State Competition.
However, the program is now in jeopardy of stopping as Pasadena Unified School District considers closing middle and high schools partly due to declining enrollment. Wilson Middle School is one of the schools on chopping block and if the doors close, the music may stop.
Lead snare drummer Charli Clay has been part of the program for three years. She says even more impressive than the music they play is the bond they have created.
“I love that Marvin loves all of us and he doesn’t just say it he shows it,” Clay said. “I also love that we all come together and just have a great time after school.”
Charli’s an eighth grader, so she is leaving after the school year, but she knows the drum corps may also leave if the school closes. If that happens, she thinks younger students will miss out on all the lessons she learned as part of the program.
“It shows other people not only just to play the instrument but it shows people respect and a bunch of other lessons are learned here,” Clay said.
Hatchett hasn’t decided yet if the music will continue if students are moved to a new school.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Hatchett said. “That’s something that depends on the climate of that particular school.”
He stays every day after school for a few hours before his roughly 30 mile commute back home. So he may stop if the school closes and if they disband, he hopes the students take the music well beyond Wilson.
“The most important thing is for them to take what I’ve taught them. And keep that with them. And teach one,” Hatchett said. “And I’m praying that’s what’s being taught here they’ll be able to carry it and continue what I’ve done for 35 years, so it won’t go in vain.”