By Katey Garrett

For Justin Qualls, an alumnus of Exeter Union High School, drumming is not a pastime, it is a way of life.

As the former captain of the Exeter drum line (that competed in World Championships in 2004) Qualls quickly gained the experience needed to be a bold leader in the world of drumming.

In 2005, as he accepted his diploma, Qualls also accepted the John Phillip Suza award that annually honors one outstanding musician graduating from high school. Qualls was head-over-marching-shoes in love with drumming and his involvement with music did not stop when he graduated.

With the beat of his heart sounding much like a snare drum, Qualls marched onto the College of Sequoias campus with his mind focused on music and medicine. Although he has found interest in becoming a physician's assistant, Qualls has not backed away from his first love. While adjusting to college life, he continued his long-term involvement as a praise band drummer for the Porterville Church of God and took on the new commitment of drumming for Elevate, a Christian organization for local youth. Although his plate was overflowing with academics, work and music, he was starving for more.

Qualls, the son of a former EUHS drummer, is the Battery (snare, tenor and base drum) Tech for the EUHS drum line, where he instructs his younger brother Jordan, 16, the drum line captain.

Band director Kirk Clague is pleased with Quall's eager and upbeat attitude.

&#8220Justin would never toot his own horn but I think that the moment he walked in the [band]room, he realized that he's been made to lead,” he said.

The lineup of students in the ensemble this year is outstanding, but what seems to have impressed people the most is the lineup of instructors. Adam Peitz, an alumni of Clovis West and the current center snare at Fresno State, who formerly competed against the Exeter drum line, is now the Exeter Caption Head, who instructs and oversees the entire drum line and pit (mallets, bells, etc).

Working with Qualls as a battery tech is one of his best friends and long-term drummer for the Exeter Church of God, Jason Rallis.

Former EUHS drum captain, 21-year-old Rallis, was also honored with the John Philip Souza award and is the grandson of former EUHS band director, Bob Harbin. Rallis said he is proud of Quall's leadership.

After graduating in 2006 as the drum captain, Scott Grimsley, who has also been a drummer for his church and is a sibling of a former drum major, joined the team of instructors as a snare tech. With three award winning drum captain veterans from Exeter and one from Fresno State, all with impressive bloodlines of musicians, Exeter students are ecstatic and ready to work hard.

The field show this year has been inspired by the impression of flight. From the Wright brothers to outer-space and current times, with no specific chronological order.

The show will incorporate different aspects of air travel and the members of the band are working hard to prepare for their first competition at the Visalia Band Review in October. With 10 drummers, seven pit (mallets, bells, etc) members and nearly 60 other musicians, Qualls knows that the group is full of potential.

&#8220They've all really matured within the past month. They aren't afraid to work hard and they have great discipline” said Qualls, who shares everyone's excitement, as they look back on the summer of band camp and forward to competing in the Sierra Cup Classic at Fresno State later this fall.

With memories of marching on the Exeter field and traveling with the drum line to compete throughout California, it seems as though the comforting sound of a perfectly tuned drum will forever be the beat to which Qualls' life marches.

With plans of continuing his college education and balancing a plate full of activities, Qualls shows no sign of leaving the EUHS band room any time soon.

&#8220I love doing this; drumming and working with friends. I'm going to stick around.”

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