Two SHS band members make the ‘big leagues’

Pictured, from left, are junior Trey McDearmon, SHS band director Chris Wilkes and sophomore Cameron Parrish. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Pictured, from left, are junior Trey McDearmon, SHS band director Chris Wilkes and sophomore Cameron Parrish. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Two Salem High School band members are proving they have what it takes to hang with the world’s best. Sophomore Cameron Parrish and junior Trey McDearmon auditioned for and earned spots on Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps with Drum Corps International. Soon, they will be setting on a nationwide summer tour, living up to what it means to be the Pride of Salem.

Ironically, Salem will be one stop on the tour that will take them from coast to coast. Tickets are now on sale for the annual Summer Music Games of Southwest Virginia, the only Virginia stop on the tour’s lineup, and will be held on Monday, Aug. 1 at Salem Stadium.

The two, who both play trumpet, took a leap of faith, driving all the way to New Jersey and dishing out money to audition for the corps in November. Now that they’ve made it, they have to pay over $3,000 in fees that will go towards lodging and some of their cost of living. Last year, Jersey Surf placed 19th in the world. Both said they were inspired by staff member James Fox, an SHS graduate who also played in the corps, to audition for Jersey Surf.

“When they came here in 2015 and performed, personally I had a connection to it, because it almost brought me to tears with the sheer amount of sound and everything else,” McDearmon said. “That night, I went and registered to audition for Jersey Surf.”

He joined band in seventh grade, and tried his hand at a few different instruments before sticking with trumpet. Parrish, who transferred from Northside in eighth grade, has been playing trumpet since sixth grade.

“My first drum corps show was in 2011,” Parrish said. “My grandmother would take me to see them in Salem, because she was fascinated with marching band and she wanted me to excel. Last summer, she died of cancer. When we saw the show, I wanted to excel her dream and my dream at the same time.”

Parrish and McDearmon said they have been trekking back and forth to New Jersey, a seven-hour drive, for several months to attend meetings with the corps. During tour, which they will leave for next week, they will be mainly sleeping on school gym floors and getting ready in locker rooms.

“The biggest benefit is the overall tutoring and maturity level of the music,” McDearmon said. “You get very personalized information to get better all of the time.”

One person they are making especially proud is band director Chris Wilkes, who is set to become an assistant principal at G.W. Carver next year after serving more than 15 years at Salem High School.

“There aren’t that many of them in the United States,” Wilkes said. “It’s basically the professional marching band. They call it the big leagues of marching band.”

Wilkes said it is great news for the Pride of Salem, because the two will return in better shape than ever. However, he said upon their return, they will have demonstrate patience after playing with the world’s best.

“They’re going to miss a lot of our band practices this summer, but the tradeoff is that they are going to come back and their music skills are going to have improved incredibly,” Wilkes said. “They’ll get up and they’ll practice all day long, and then if they have a show that night they’ll get dressed and eat dinner and they’re off to the next town.”

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