By Chesley Oxendine
Recent visitors to the Fort Gibson Historic Site may have heard Civil War era music in the air thanks to Site Interpreter Corey Twilley and his band of fife and drum players.
The group, currently comprised of three youths and other volunteers from across Oklahoma, routinely practices both entertaining songs and the music used for giving orders during battles and drills.
“When we start, people come out of the Fort to see what’s going on,” Twilley said.
His youth players include 12-year-old Hunter Harris of Lenapah, 16-year-old Blake Patterson of Hulbert, and 12-year-old Alden Foster of Jenks.
Twilley said building a bigger band would be beneficial for the Fort in a few ways, chief among which is fulfilling required volunteer hours.
He invited those interested in trying to come try things out - and eventually join the band, dressing the part and all.
“We have the uniforms, the equipment, the instruments, the tents for when we go out for weekend events,” he said. “They just bring themselves and food, and we try to provide everything else.”
Patterson said his grandmother helped him become involved after touring the site.
“She came out here and visited, and when she found out they were looking for a band, she called,” he said. “I said, sure.”
Patterson and his colleagues have already participated in some of the fort’s events, such as education days. “It’s an honor,” the snare drum player said. “I like it a lot.” Harris’ favorite part, though, remains the actual music he plays.
“I really love playing the drums. It’s a lot of fun,” he said. For Harris, it was his father that brought him to the band. “My dad re-enacted here once,” he said. “I kind of liked music, and I really like Civil War stuff, so I went for it.”
Twilley reached out directly for bass drummer Foster through Foster’s mother. “My mom was his math teacher once,” he said. “And I just said, ‘where do I sign up?’”
Foster said he settled on bass drum after trying several instruments, including fife. “I started on the fife, but that’s just not my instrument,” he said. “Then they had me play bass, and I found out I was really good.”
Once he decided on his instrument, Foster found a love for improvisation too, he said.
“Sometimes I play regular beat, but then I like to add a beat, and come up with something on my own,” he said. However, Foster’s favorite part of participating in the band remains the historical aspect. “History’s very fun. It’s never been boring for me,” he said. “This is really fun, and I’m learning even more than I’m teaching.”
It’s good exercise, too, the bass drummer said.
“It’s helping me grow,” he said. “This drum is pretty heavy, so carrying it around is good for me.”
Anyone interested in joining the Site’s band is invited to the Fort on the last Saturday of every month, at 10 a.m. For more information, potential players can call (918) 478-4088.