Tribal sounds fill the space as a hypnotic snake slithers through the Garden of Eden. A red glowing orb, very similar to an apple, catches the snake's attention, and it moves toward the light.
As the snake enters the orb, it waits for the first humans to arrive in the garden, eager to deceive them.
Until then, the "snake" tricked onlookers at the University of Dayton Arena by making them forget they were not watching an actual serpent move, but rather the 36-member Bakersfield College Drumline team.
The spectacle impressed judges as well, leading the team to earn a gold medal in the Independent Open Class division at the Winter Guard International World Championships this past weekend in Dayton, Ohio.
This is the first time the ensemble has earned the top spot, said Efren Gutierrez, lead creative director. It is the sixth time in seven years the drumline has made the trip to Ohio, and last year it ended the season with a sixth-place finish.
"It’s still surreal to me," he said. "I don’t think it’s hit me yet."
The team also won first place during the preliminary and semifinal rounds.
Preparations for the team's performance began last summer, when Gutierrez met with his design colleagues. The story they wanted to portray, titled For Man We Wait, was set in the Garden of Eden before man arrived.
One of the images that drove the design team to the concept was a serpent character perched up on a tree with two human entities walking toward it, Gutierrez said.
"In our program, you’re not introduced to man ever. It’s set in the garden and focuses on the snake and how deceptive and hypnotizing it is," he explained.
The design team worked with musician Ezekiel Lanser, who composed a piece full of African drumming and tribal sounds. He drew inspiration from "The Jungle Book," specifically Kaa, the snake, Gutierrez said.
Once the musical soundscape was dialed in, it helped the team bring the visual concepts to life, including costumes and setting.
A coaching staff of 10 people, including Tim Heasley, director of Marching Arts Ensembles, worked with the 36-member team to prepare for the competition. Working with various drums, hand cymbals, keyboards and other instruments, the team rehearsed around 20 hours every weekend during the winter months, practicing choreography, music or design aspects.
Additionally, the team participated in several fundraising opportunities, such as community performances, sponsorships and selling candy, to attend the world competition.
"It’s a life changing experience to walk into that arena, compete and see it all come to fruition," Heasley said. "We don’t want things such as financing to get in the way."
In the end, nothing could stop the ensemble from clinching the top honor in its division, but Heasley recognized it has been a "slow process" to get to where they are now.
"It’s important for our students to see things that are successful don’t happen overnight," he said.
With the win still settling in, Gutierrez said he is ready to start preparing for next year.
"Everyone believed in the staff, process and whole idea of what we were trying to do," he said. "I’m excited to meet with the design team in the coming months."