Pace High School graduate Mike McDonald is the drum captain and center snare drummer of musical percussive ensemble Music City Mystique. This ensemble has been recognized in Winter Guard International as the best drum line in the world more often than any other. This puts McDonald in a position to be one of the best snare drummers in the world, perhaps the best.
“Back in April of 2008, I made a silly promise to myself that one day I would eventually become the center snare at Mystique,” McDonald said. “It was a promise in the same sense that most boys growing up promise themselves they’ll be astronauts when they’re older.”
Among the accomplishments McDonald enjoyed in his years at Pace High, his achievements with the drum line brought to light his unique personality and drive. In McDonald’s senior year of high school, he led the drum line to fifth in the world at WGI World Championships. This had never been done and has not been done since at Pace High School. He went on to march with Florida State University’s drum line but said he knew he needed to push himself to the next level. That led him to spend his summers marching Drum Corp International with Spirit of Atlanta and Phantom Regiment.
Between his three-month DCI summer drumming tours, he spent the winter and early spring marching in WGI. It focuses on performance and drumming in way DCI does not. It is usually a show that tells a story or conveys an idea through drumming, marimbas and performances of those on the floor. Music City Mystique is known for pushing the activity to the next level. The innovative ideas, writing and marching drill design have led to entire revamp of the activity. Year after year, they are the most anticipated show in WGI. They say they are the most decorated WGI drum line for a reason: being the best.
This is McDonald’s third and final year marching for Music City Mystique. In 2011, MCM took the gold at WGI World Championship. The show “Mantra” was quite possibly the most innovative and moving show in WGI history. It combined yoga and movements that normally should never be done with a drum on while playing more notes than anyone with a precision unmatched by their competitors. Every note was played with great precision, and every move was executed in a meticulous manner. The gold medal was theirs at the start of the season.
McDonald said the effort he puts in is worth it. “I drive 18 hours a week to get to Mystique rehearsal, but that’s the easiest part of it. The expectations placed upon members of the ensemble are so high, sometimes it seems like they’re impossible to reach.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way though. Due to the rich and inspiring history of Mystique, I want nothing more than to live up to the challenge and continue the legacy of outstanding productions,” McDonald said.
In 2012, MCM placed second in WGI World Finals. MCM led by McDonald return for the 2013 season ready to prove they are still the best.
This year, McDonald will be leading Music City Mystique through another heavily anticipated season. He is graduating from Florida State University early and will be attending law school, all while finding a way to live his dream driving from Tallahassee to Nashville every weekend six months out of the year and leading the most rigorous drum line in the world. All eyes will be on McDonald as he stands where very few legendary drummers have stood. The season begins now and will end in April, and McDonald will lead his drum line to what is sure to be yet another innovative year with Music City Mystique.
“It’s extremely humbling to become a leader at what I consider the best percussion ensemble in the world,” he said. “The idea they consider me worthy of holding this position is still hard to believe, and is something I refuse to take for granted.
“It’s now my responsibility, along with the other leaders of the ensemble, to facilitate the education and progression of these individuals. We have to help hone their skills and minds in order to truly be the best in the world.”