As a graduating senior at Fort Zumwalt East High School in St. Peters, Missouri, Lukas McGill’s time in high school has been dominated by disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The health crisis impacted more than just in-person classes. It also meant that McGill was robbed of a chance to compete for a championship at the Winter Guard International World Championships in 2020. Like so many other activities, the winter drumline season was cut short.
But now in his final week of classes, McGill continues to relish the success he and 40 other students in the Fort Zumwalt School District achieved last month. In Dayton, Ohio, his drumline — Modulation Z — won the gold medal in the Independent A Class.
The victory is even sweeter this year because Modulation Z came so close to a world championship last season, finishing in second place.
“I feel like it’s all just surreal. I don’t know if it’s all hit me yet,” McGill told St. Louis on the Air. “I feel like it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
McGill plays the tenor drums (sometimes called quads). It’s among the percussion instruments used in winter drumline. Other instruments include snares, cymbals, bass drum, marimba and vibraphone.
Winter drumline is similar to the kind of marching band halftime show you might see at a high school or college football game. In six minutes, the drumline tells a story through its choreography, costumes, props and the musicians on the field.
This season, Modulation Z used a remix of “Survivor,” a 2001 hit song by Destiny’s Child.
“At the very beginning, we’re crawling… and it’s kind of supposed to simulate the kind of waking up from an attack or an asteroid moment,” McGill said of the show’s “Survivor” story. “Something bad has happened. We don’t know exactly what but we’re kind of first waking up and it’s basically us trying to survive.”
Ryan Treasure began planning for this season’s show last July. Treasure is the director of Modulation Z and founded the O’Fallon, Missouri, based group in 2013. He’s among a team of coaches who guided the drumline to this year’s gold medal.
“I was blown away,” Treasure said of Modulation Z’s finals performance. Treasure is also the assistant band director at Fort Zumwalt East High School and Dubray Middle School.
“There’s a little bit of that Dayton magic, because I don’t feel like they had performed that well at any other point during the entire season until the prelims, semifinals and the finals,” he said.
Modulation Z won convincingly. The group achieved a score of 96.05. It was two points ahead of the second-place finisher and the second highest score ever achieved in the division.
To get to the championship, Modulation Z put in a lot of work. Starting in November, the group would practice weekly for no fewer than 11 hours. That bumped up to 17 hours in the two weeks preceding the tournament in Dayton.
McGill said all that time and energy was worth it.
“I feel like it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said. “I’ve met some of my closest friends through band and Modulation Z. I feel like some of those relationships will go past high school and past college.”
McGill will attend — and play baseball — at Maryville University this fall.