About the Fifes & Drums
With the onset of war in 1775, Virginia began to train an army to defend against a British invasion. Fifers and Drummers were an important part of the 18th-century military. Just as Virginia enlisted soldiers and stockpiled arms and ammunition, it also trained fifers and drummers to work with soldiers in the field. In the 18th century, fifers and drummers tended to be boys ages 10 to 18. Today, in the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg, members of the Fifes and Drums are boys and girls ages 10 to 18.
In 1778, Virginia needed soldiers to protect the Capitol City of Williamsburg. The General Assembly established the Virginia State Garrison Regiment, which served in the Tidewater area of Virginia, stationing troops at Hampton, Yorktown, and Williamsburg. Fifers and drummers served with the enlisted men of this regiment. According to the Williamsburg Public Stores accounts, the field musicians numbered some 22 players.
Fifes & Drums Today
The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums – also known as the Field Music of the Virginia State Garrison Regiment – carries forward the tradition of military music. Since 1958, visitors in the Historic Area have enjoyed the musical performances and experienced the history of America’s Revolution.
Colonial Williamsburg’s field musicians are drawn from a waiting list of young community applicants. Boys and girls begin their education in military music at age 10 and practice weekly for the next eight years, until after they have graduated from high school. These young people talk with the public about the role of music in the 18th-century military. They teach younger members the music and history lessons needed to continue the tradition of the field musicians.
The Fifes and Drums appear in more than 700 performances each year. Colonial Williamsburg is justifiably proud of each of these truly remarkable young Americans, past and present. They have come to symbolize what is best about our community, our history, and our museum.
Each year the Alumni of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums performs in a handful of events. The City of Williamsburg annual Christmas Parade has been an event that the group participates in as well as the Drummer’s Call weekend held each spring.