Published August 20, 2013
Volume 21, Number 8

Young American Patriots Fife & Drum Corps Is More Than Music

While among the most elemental and culturally universal of musical instruments, the fife and the drum have long been associated with the militaries of Western Europe. Starting in Switzerland in the late 13th century, the establishment of fife and drum corps spread across Renaissance principalities, proving invaluable as a tool to maintain order and discipline among the troops. Napoleon’s victories in distant lands clearly illustrate the music’s power to inspire armies on the march. The units also served as the time clock of the era, issuing the signals for rising, assembly, meals, and other camp duties.

During the American Revolution both the British and the colonial armies deployed fife and drum musicians in their martial maneuvers. Thus was born the indelible association between the musical format and the founding of the United States. The tradition languished after the Civil War but was restored to the spotlight during the nation’s centennial, in 1876, with the formation of civilian fife and drum bands that still keep the legacy alive today.

A perfect example of the modern-day incarnation is the Young American Patriots Fife & Drum Corps, or YAPs.  Launched three years ago by Pleasanton resident Jason Giaimo, YAPs offers a number of attractions for children from eight to 17 years old—and to their parents. 

“We are an award-winning, performance-oriented, non-political parade band dedicated to perpetuating the music, history, and heritage of our nation's founding through musical education,” Giaimo explains. Inspired by his own experiences as a Master Fifer and gold medalist in national competitions, Giaimo has created a menu of wholesome activities that keep the interest and attention of the group’s 15 members.

After a break for the summer, YAPs resumes its schedule of Friday night instructional meetings at the end of August. The weekly sessions often include informative speakers who have demonstrated leadership in action, such as the Viet Nam helicopter pilot who dressed in full army uniform to deliver a talk about war and geopolitics. “When kids start studying a topic like this in school, it will come alive for them and capture more of their interest,” Giamo comments.

Another guest was the CEO of a social media start-up. The connection to fife and drum music may not be obvious, but there are parallels. “When you start a company, you are taking a risk, just like our founders did in 1776,” he points out. “Many leadership characteristics are present in a range of scenarios.”

The band’s appearance at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art the day before it closed for refurbishing in June offered a different kind of lesson, the intermingling of the past and the present. “We were a colonial band in the midst of modern free-form dancers and music. The kids loved it,” relates Giamo. 

Last year the band played for members of the U.S. Men’s Olympic gymnastics team at the HP Pavilion, and even did a photo shoot with NASA astronaut and International Space Station veteran Ricky Arnold. “We give kids opportunities they never would have otherwise.”

With its first public performance of the season scheduled for the Pleasanton Labor Day parade, YAPs is actively accepting new members. The youngsters, Giamo emphasizes, do not need prior musical knowledge.

For schedules, pictures of the group in uniform, and a sample of fife and drum music, go to http://www.youngamericanpatriots.com.

Also in this issue ...