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Soldier places 5th in World’s Fastest Drummer competition

Sgt. Coville Alan Bradley, 98th Army “Silver Wings” Band Percussion Section leader, gets in some practice time before a rehearsal Aug. 15. (Photo by Jim Hughes)

Sgt. Coville Alan Bradley, 98th Army “Silver Wings” Band Percussion Section leader, gets in some practice time before a rehearsal Aug. 15. (Photo by Jim Hughes)

Published: August 22, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August. 22, 2014) -- Anyone wanting to march to the beat of a certain 98th Army “Silver Wings” Band drummer should be prepared to get where they are going very quickly.

Sgt. Coville Alan Bradley, percussion section leader for the band, proved his mettle in mid-July at the World’s Fastest Drummer competition in Nashville by placing fifth in the Battle of the Hands out of about 5,000 competitors worldwide.

“Of course, part of me wanted to win, but fifth out of about 5,000 is absolutely great,” said the Gulf Breeze, Fla., native. “It feels great to know that is where I’m ranked in the world. What one of the judges was saying before we started is this is the Olympics for drumming – for speed drumming. I’m into heavy metal and I’ve got a little bit of speed. It happens to be my day job, as well, so I get to practice that stuff. My goal is for next year to take first in both the Battle of the Hands and Battle of the Feet — it’s never been done before.”

And he appears to have a good shot at accomplishing that goal as his scores in both the Battle of the Hands and Battle of the Feet were close to the eventual winners’ scores.

In the competition, drummers are given 60 seconds to hit a drumometer as many times as they can.  In the hands finals July 19, Bradley hit the pad 891 times and the winner hit it 1,049 times. The world record listed on the competition’s website is 1,208 hits. For feet, he hit the pad 771 times and the winner scored 820.

Bradley started on his World’s Fastest Drummer journey at a regional competition in Pensacola, Fla., after his brother recommended he try it out, thinking he would do really well at it.

“I’m into heavy metal, so I have speed, and I’d known about the competition for several years,” he said. “But I didn’t know if I really wanted to do it. Usually when I go home on weekends, I have gigs lined up that I’m getting prepared for or stuff like that. But the day of, I looked at the flier and went.

“I just wanted to see what I could do. I didn’t go expecting to win, that’s not the mentality I have, so I went to see what I could do and ended up winning the thing,” he said. “I had no idea how I would do. It has been so long since I’ve done anything like that.”

Even though Bradley is 26 years old, he has a long history in music, thanks to his mom.

“My mom is a piano major from the University of Hawaii and a piano teacher, so when I was old enough to really know what a piano was, I started taking lessons from her. In middle school, I switched to saxophone, and in high school, I wanted a change and I auditioned for the high school drum line and I made it,” he said. “It just changed my whole life, man … changed my whole life.

“I switched in high school, at about 15, so about 11 ½ years I’ve been playing – it’s just a continual progression,” Bradley added. “Unlike other instruments, drums are infinite. There is nothing that can box the drum set in – you can do whatever you want with it and someone will consider that music. Even if it is really bad to somebody, it might be very excellent to somebody else. I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s so diverse.”

Bradley mentioned several drummers who he considers influences on his drumming, including Mike Mangini, Dennis Chambers, Eddie Christmas, Steve Gadd and a few others.

For the 98th Army Band, Bradley performs with the rock band, jazz combo and Latin band, and he feels that one key to his success is versatility, which he said is exactly what the Army wants out of its drummers.

“That’s what we are and what we do – play a plethora of different genres. If a drummer is only good at one genre, you’re not what the Army Band wants as a whole,” he said. “My goal is to be master of all trades,” adding he would also like to eventually become a drum instructor at the U.S. Army School of Music.

And while Bradley says he loves “very heavy metal,” he has in recent years discovered a love for jazz, big band and funk.

“They’re just so free and open,” he said. “And you have to know all of these rules in order to break them correctly – it’s insane,” he said. “But I love them and I love learning about them.”

Marrying his love for different types of music with the Army has proven to be a winning combination for Bradley, as well, and also paid dividends at the World’s Fastest Drummer competition.

“It was just good to go there and represent the Army – that was also a big reason I did it,” he said. “There was no one else from the Army there. There were some cats from Berkley who were there. The  guy who won it was from China, and he asked me what I did for a living and I was wearing my U.S. Army School of Music T-Shirt and kind of pointed at that because he didn’t speak very good English. He said, ‘Oh, OK .’ He knew what the Army Band was. It’s nice to be an Army musician and be ranked up there – other musicians see you and maybe think about the Army.”

That Army ambassadorship could come in handy as experience for him, too, as Bradley said he’d like to one day volunteer for recruiter duty.

“One of my dreams in my career is to do three-year volunteer recruiting duty because you get to tell your story and sell the Army, and I’ve had a great one so far,” he said. “I get to do what I love for a living, and I get to do very exciting things because of what I do for a living. It’s awesome. I love it. It’s my passion.”

This article was originally published at

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