For Drum Major Lance Pedigo, leading comes naturally. All year round and at any time of day, chances are good that you’ll see him marching at the front of the Fifes and Drums, keeping time and metering the pace of the corps of young men and women who make the music of history ring through the streets of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.
Podcast (audio): Download (13.6MB)
Harmony Hunter: Hey, welcome to the podcast. I’m Harmony Hunter. Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums are an integral part of the Revolutionary City. Leading them, both literally and figuratively is a face you might well recognize from countless images and performances. Today on the podcast we’re profiling Lance Pedigo. Lance, thank you for being here today.
Lance Pedigo: Thank you for having me today.
Harmony: Tell us what you do as part of the Fife and Drum Corps.
Lance: As part of the Fifes and Drums, I have been involved full time since 1991 where I was brought back to be a supervisor for the corps. That entails drum majoring, teaching, researching and keeping the standards that were established before me up to par of the fifes and drums and adhering to the military discipline and making and allowing young people in this area to become not only good citizens, but good ambassadors for the local area.
Harmony: And before we get to the meat of what you do, we should mention that this podcast today comes from a listener request who wanted to know more about you because your face is seen in so many places. You are a very visible ambassador for Williamsburg and for the Fifes and Drums. How do you get to be out front, really literally, for so many of these things you found your own sort of corner of fame?
Lance: Well, I’m not the only one out front, but I must say that it does happen a lot and that is because of the drum major’s position in leading the Fifes and Drums down the street with the mace. We tend to perform at a few high-profile performances throughout the year whether it be a military tattoo or a Veterans Day ceremony or Memorial Day. These special events usually involve the Fifes and Drums. I’m lucky enough to be a part of this organization and leading them down the street.
I was just in Deep River, Connecticut and there’s a large Fife and Drum muster there every year, which is a gathering of Fife and Drum corps from around the country, or actually I should say world because there was a large Swiss contingent there this year. But at the inn that I was staying the owners came over, and I was in plain clothes, and the owners came over and said, “You look very familiar. I’ll be back in a minute.” And they thumbed through a bunch of brochures, and for some reason the brand new Deep River, Connecticut brochure had a picture of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums, kind of small but with me up front drum majoring. So he made that connection before I even started talking about Colonial Williamsburg so that was fun.
Harmony: What an honor. Well before you had dreams of the fame that you enjoy today, how did you begin your career with the Fife and Drum Corps? You were a member at a young age, weren’t you?
Lance: Yes. So at age 7, George Carroll was then the director of the Fifes and Drums and he was accepting a few students and I was lucky enough to be one of those students at that age and spent a year and a half studying with him and doing weekly lessons with him along with a few other young people from the area. George left. Rodney Edmonson then became my instructor as well as the next director, John Moon. And under John Moon’s guidance, was brought into the Fife and Drum Corps at age 9 and I stayed all the way through till graduating after my senior year in high school.
Harmony: And how did you come back to wind up back here as your career?
Lance: So the circuitous path was one of living in different areas and honing my drumming skills. So after Colonial Williamsburg and after graduating Colonial Williamsburg and high school in this area, I went to James Madison University for a degree in music, on to New York City, that piggybacked on being in the Statue of Liberty All American Band, marching band, to commemorate the reopening of the band. I just decided to stay in New York after that.
Again, lessons, studying more about drumming, performing in some Broadway and off-Broadway shows then down in New Orleans, more drumming, more studying, then to Hawaii for a bit of the same on a cruise ship, which seems kind of odd, but being a drummer you learn to play all different styles. So I, through the show, drumming and the playing of the drum set did that. And then towards the end of that tour I should say I received a call that there would be an opening and I was very interested. Provided some stability and allowed me to give something back to the organization that trained me.
Harmony: So you’ve mentioned on this show before, you’ve told us a bit about the traditions in the Fife and Drum Corps and the way that these young men and now young woman also are trained. It’s a very regimented program with a lot of degrees to move through. How does this discipline, how is that manifest in the body of the Corps? How do you see what happens at lessons and training come out when they’re marching?
Lance: From a very young age, they are required to have regular attendance, have regular assignments for their tunes and keep up the standards. So that sort of instilling that responsibility affects them all through life and you see kids mature through the Fife and Drum Corps that they just get better and better at it because they have to. And it spills over into the rest of their life. We have parents and both the kids say, “You know, that really helped out him or that really helped out me because I learned to get this stuff in on time, think about things in advance, you know, look out for others and just be responsible.” And you see it in any team activity.
This one in particular is a little more rigid in that it is based on a military system. It is co-ed. It does allow for any young person in the community who has a will to want to succeed at it to what we allow them to succeed and we get through any problems along the way and that’s half the lesson right there. If you come across a road block or you come across a place where things aren’t going so well, is to find a way to succeed and move ahead and get beyond and keep up the successes and that’s what we try to teach in the corps today.
Harmony: As you’re working with these young people, these are adolescence and teens, do you think about the legacy you want to leave or do you just think about trying to hold them together? What is it like working with these young men and women?
Lance: It’s the whole gamut and there are times when things are just going so quickly that it’s just a matter of pointing them in the right direction and then we refocus and retool. And when we can concentrate on let’s talk to the individuals of what we need to actually do. We have this peer teaching system where I’m the manager of the program or drum major. Then there are two supervisors, also adults, and now two field music teachers or instructors that we’ve just been able to bring on who are former members of the fifes and drums. So now we have alumni coming back to help instruct and to pass on those traditions back down the ranks.
I like to think of at least some successes that I’ve had during the past few years in both the fifes and drums and the music department that I’m now in charge of which encompasses the rest of the music in Colonial Williamsburg is that we are bringing more young people back into the program to enable them to get passed down these traditions of playing. So the baroque style of playing a violin or viola di gamba or a flute, the fife, the drum. All these instruments that would have been present in the 18th century in Williamsburg, these traditions, have to be maintained and instructed from the best in the field. I feel that we have the best in the field and I feel that we have the best in the field to allow that to happen here at Colonial Williamsburg.
Harmony: And this gives us an opportunity to talk about the music program as whole, because this tradition and the playing of this music is preserved not just through the fifes and drums, but through the whole music program.
Lance: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. We have a very strong ensemble here, the Governor’s Music Ensemble. We also have a very strong theater which we are actually going to be doing some musical 18th century theater pretty soon and we also have even the balladeers in the taverns. I mean everyone contributes to the different styles and the different sights and sounds that you would have had here in the 18th century and I fortunately get to work directly with those entities.
My two proudest, I think, times of year when we get to feature the fifes and drums in May for Drummers Call weekend. We just had our 11th year and that happens over Armed Forces Day, usually the 3rd weekend in May, but we bring in fifes and drums Corps from around the country and Canada so we say it’s an international event. And also the fall for the Early Music Festival and that’s where we get to feature our musicians, we get to bring in guest musicians and recreate some of the sounds and productions that would have happened here during the 18th century and that’s for the early music festival, that’s the third week in September.
Harmony: You and so many of, well, you and all of the musicians that are part of Colonial Williamsburg music programs are such special ambassadors for Colonial Williamsburg and the time period. There’s something about music that has a special magnetism for people. It draws them back into the past in a way that other interpretations don’t. What is it about music that allows people to identify with history?
Lance: I’ll come back to Fife and Drum on that because we represent an era of the colonial period that will involve a separation, you know, from Britain. The stirring sounds that you would have heard people, that is, they just want to hear that stirring sound. So if you hear the Fife and Drum marching down the street: this kind of a call to organize, a call to come forth and march down the street. And whatever that particular cause is, you’re kind of drawn into it just from hearing that steady pulse and that nice melody going down the street.
Just as you would hear an ensemble play after your dinner, some nice quiet music, the tradition brings you right in like a string quartet would bring you right in. I just think that Colonial Williamsburg and what we represent here brings you to the basics of where our entertainment or where our, you know, social norms came from. So the things that we come to expect today, which we expect kind of very quickly, you know, these things take time to develop. And this is where it started and it’s nice to be a part of that.
Harmony: Lance, thank you so much for being our guest today. It’s wonderful to meet some of the people that make the Historic Area really come alive so it’s been a pleasure to have you here today and we hope to see you out on the streets real soon.
Lance: Thank you so much.