Sign up to receive the snarescience newsletter via email by clicking here!

Walter Powell interview - february 13, 2007

Walter Powell began his drum corps career on snare with the Anaheim Kingsmen back in 1988. The following year he marched with the Suncoast Sound. He finished up his marching career with Santa Clara Vanguard from 1990 - 1992, acting as the section leader in '92. Yes, that is Walter's solo at the beginning of Electric Wheel Chair! Walter's list of instructors include Scott Johnson, Ralph Hardimon, Glen Crosby, Kevin Murray, Lee Rudnicki, Steve Yates, John Campese, Wayne Bovenschen, Joe Segovia, Mike Mann, Danny Echevarria, Kurt Wilson, Joe Gary, Mark Richard, and Cleveland "Teddybear" Davis.

Walter has given back to the drumming community in a huge way, having taught countless high school groups in 3 states, the UL Lafayette drumline, Chopsticks, Chops Inc., MN Brass Inc., and Phantom Regiment. Walter has come full circle and is currently instructing at SCV.

snarescience: Thank you for agreeing to the interview Walter. I know you are a very busy guy, so in what function are you working with SCV this year?

Walter: I'm one of the snare techs - the other tech is Micah Hardwick who was there last year as well. My role is to prepare the snare line for the summer tour. I'll be at all the camps including the 'everydays'. Micah will be with them for the tour. I'll bop in and out here and there since I can't be on the road with them the whole time. So, basically, I have to get them into shape before they hit the road.

snarescience: Very cool. So, you marched with SCV '90-'92, some incredible years for drumming. Can you give us some of your highlights?

Walter: Well, '90 is kind of a blur for me. The two things I remember most are the auditions and marching off the field at finals. The auditions were pretty stressful but exhilarating. SCV had just won drums for the second year in a row, we had no idea how many vets were returning, and of course, it was SCV! So, my buddy, Karl Schwabauer, and I headed up to Santa Clara with the attitude that two of those possible spots were ours and nobody else's. I distinctly remember doing my individual audition at the corps hall with Ralph Hardimon, Glen Crosby, Scott Johnson, and Steve Yates staring at me and telling me various things to play. It was nerve racking but it worked out. I made the least for now : )

Most of that season, I was trying to get the technique down more than anything. It was the polar opposite of what I had done until then. They called it "the touch" and it was deceivingly difficult to get down but when a line plays great with "the touch" there's a sound of clarity like no other.

We had 3 vets in that line and the rest of us had little or no "Top 12" experience. The line was Mike French (section leader), Karl Schwabauer, myself, Erik Amin, Paul Stivitts, "Cat", Tim Dent, and Leon Tagawa. I think we improved a ton but didn't really turn any heads as a snare line. It was a great experience though.

I think my fondest memory would be learning from Glen Crosby and Scott Johnson. Glen can be the most intense individual on the planet when needed and he's a great motivator. He could get the most out of us when we started showing signs of mental, physical, or emotional fatigue. Scott was great for us in the sense that he was a snare drummer's drummer. He would write parts for us here and there that would not only challenge us but show us off a little. I sort of viewed them as the good cop / bad cop duo but both had the same mission to make us better.

In '91, we had 6 vets with the addition of Chip Webster (previously with the Colts) and Rick Bolivar. The staff changed a bit. Ralph left for the Blue Knights. Glen was no longer with us. Scott took over the program and had Lee Rudnicki helping out the snare line and co-arranging the battery book. Lee was the section leader of the SCV '88 line and taught the '89 line so he was already familiar with the technique so there was little adjustment needed from both the players and staff.

The show that year was Miss Saigon which lended itself to some sweet beats and tons of GE. I guess the best part of it was winning drums but most of all, the snare line was pretty smokin' and that's what I'm most proud of. My only regret was that our section leader, Karl Schwabauer, couldn't march the last two weeks of tour due to knee injuries. Bummer indeed. At least he took 5th place at I&E with an impressive solo.

In '92, I wasn't going to march so I could save money for a drum set and school. But, Scott called me and convinced me that I should march. Today, I'm glad he did. So, I moved back to California in January and we got started.

That season, Kevin Murray (BD section leader '88) was our snare tech and co-arranged the battery book. I was named section leader. The guys in the line, at finals, were: myself, Chip Webster, Leon Tagawa, Tim Dent, Jeff Queen, Jon Weber, and Nick Angelis. We had a great winter program that year because as a snare line we were sort of self governing. Me, Leon, and Tim were on our third year at SCV and Chip was on his second year at SCV. Jeff Q. was the section leader at VK. Jon Weber was the section leader at Black Gold and Nick Angelis came over from Boston Crusaders with a ton of experience. We basically ran sectionals without any staff around. We switched who ran each sectional and we each did individual performances of everything for each other to critique. It not only made us step up our individual playing quality, but it bonded us and formed a level of trust or respect for one another. This could never have worked with a line that wasn't experienced or mature enough to check the egos at the door.

The line was extremely clean at a consistency that was very reliable. There were times that we'd play dirty just to mess with Kevin. And when he'd start to freak out, we'd play clean again. It was fun for us and frustrating for him. Yes, I know we were jerks for doing that but...oh well : )

Anyway, Scott wrote us a meaty book and we played the heck out of it. I had a blast that season. Our scores, however, were frustrating to say the least. It was disheartening to know that in the lot, we were rock stars, but the field show wasn't getting equal praise. No matter how clean it was, it just didn't translate into higher scores. Oh well, I guess. The only thing we, as players, could control, was our playing on the field. The show design and scores weren't for us to worry about. So, we'd go out, throw down, and hope things would work out. At any rate, I'm proud of that line and what we accomplished. Oh yeah, the tenor line was pretty good too : )

snarescience: Walter, thank you so much for taking the time to recount these amazing years. I still get fired up every time I see vids from the '92 SCV lots.

Walter: It was my pleasure. We all love talking about ourselves, right? By the way, can I get a copy of that vid?

Walter Powell currently resides as the house session drummer for World Record Productions and is constantly performing in clubs and private events.