Successful communication has always been a fundamental part of any country's military strength; the speed and accuracy with which messages can be passed are vital to victory on the battlefield. Before the days of the radio and telephone, American Soldiers relied on musicians to relay movement commands. Music also signaled when to wake up, when to eat, and when to go to bed.

Many of the victories of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars can be attributed in part to the battlefield musicians who signaled information to entire regiments with the use of their fifes, bugles and drums.

Today, even though radios and cellular phones have replaced fifes and drums on the battlefield, the tradition of the music lives on through the efforts of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Fife and Drum Corps.

Soldiers in the FDC play fifes, bugles and drums to pay tribute to the military men and women who fought throughout history. They are a living history, dedicated to passing on the legacy of the American Soldier to the next generation.

"This is about preserving a piece of our nation's history - fifing and drumming is not a dead artifact, it's a living tradition that people can experience today," said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Ruddle, a snare drummer with the FDC.

On Oct. 11 and 12, the Soldiers in the FDC held a workshop to pass that tradition on to aspiring musicians from throughout the United States.
Soldier teaching young boy to play snare drums

The 4th Annual Juniors' Workshop hosted 105 young musicians, ranging from 10 to 20 years of age. Attendees came to Fort Myer, Va., from 17 states to hone their skills on the fife and drum.

"We want to perpetuate fifing and drumming by reaching out to the future musicians of the art form," said Ruddle, who was the coordinator of the workshop.

To do this, the Corps held 10 classes in the fife, bass drum, and snare drum over the two days, ranging from a novice class to advanced. Each class was taught by members of the FDC themselves.

"We are trying to pass the torch to the younger generation, just like others passed the torch to us 20 years ago," Sgt. 1st Class Karl Sauter, the FDC's bass drum section leader, told his novice bass drum student. "This isn't something you learn in school."

It was material the students were happy to absorb. The combination of music, learning from fife and drum experts, and the chance to meet other fife and drum enthusiasts made for an ideal weekend.

"The best part of this weekend was learning the new songs, and getting to know the people in my class," said Nicole Cylkowski, 19, of Granby, Conn.

"I would definitely come again next year," said Jeffrey Reed, 15, of Stormville, N.Y. "I got to jam with a bunch of people from different parts of the country. We came together and put this [musical collaboration] together."
Soldier teaching young boy to play large drum

"It's an opportunity for students to learn from the masters," said Jim Coffey, a retired FDC member and the original coordinator of the workshop.

"It's the responsibility of the corps to perpetuate the art of fife and drum, and this workshop does just that. These students are the future of the Fife and Drum Corps," said Coffey.

Ryan Born, a 10-year old snare drummer from Yorktown, Va., was enthusiastic about the idea of learning more about the corps in the years to come. "Yeah, I want to come back next year," he said. "It was awesome."

The young people weren't the only ones having a good time at the workshop. The instructors were also pleased to be there. "Being with the kids, interacting with them, is what I went to school for," said Staff Sgt. Richard Jones, a bass drummer with the FDC. "I like being able to apply what I learned in my college courses in the Army - to teach, to influence."

"This weekend was about keeping the kids interested in fifing and drumming, to keep it alive and strong," said Jones. "I think we accomplished that goal. Last year, we had students from eight states, this year we have them from 17. The workshop gets bigger and better every year."

The FDC hopes to hold another workshop in October 2009. For more information, and to sign up, contact Sgt. 1st Class Richard Ruddle at (703)696-9593.