About the Fifes & Drums
See the Fifes & Drums Perform
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 modern 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.
Alexandria, June 12, 1775
The Subscribers would willingly learn any Number of Boys the Military Musick of the Fife and Drum; and also supply any Persons with Musick for the said Instruments. Gentlemen desirous of having Pupils instructed may depend on the greatest Attention being paid to them. Our Terms are half a Guinea Entrance, and a Guinea per Month for each Instrument.
- Thomas Sterling
- Thomas Hookins
Fifes and Drums Today
50 years and counting
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 Revolutionary City 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. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 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.
Order a copy of the documentary Drummers Call and the companion CD of digitally remastered Fifes and Drums recordings.
Watch 2008 archived video of the Drummers Call Grand Review, Alumni Weekend, Basel, Switzerland performance, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums is supported in part by the William and Gretchen Kimball Young Patriots Fund.