Zest Profile: Rebecca Ploener

Rebecca Ploener: Featured Musician

There’s hardly a moment when Rebecca Ploener isn’t smiling. Even in one of the empty classrooms of the LLC at ten o’clock in the morning, she looks like she’s been up for hours, and could be up for hours more. She swings her legs while she’s sitting, brushing off the grass and dirt on her feet.

Rebecca, a Pennsylvania native, is a sophomore at Appalachian State. Although her current major is Exercise Science, she used to be a Music Industries major. Why the switch?

“As a music major you spend a lot of time on your craft, and your craft becomes your job, and I was tired of playing and not enjoying it anymore.” She mentions this somewhat discontented. “I was tired of not enjoying what I was playing anymore.”

Rebecca’s love of music has a pretty established history. She’s been involved with music since the third grade: starting with the cello, she then switched to playing trombone, which she played for five years. After that, she tried her hand at bass trombone, and in twelfth grade picked up the instrument she plays now—euphonium, a brass instrument often described as a small tuba.

Rebecca played in marching band throughout high school. In 2014 she joined the Cadets 2, playing with them for two years. In 2016 she marched with the Boston Crusaders, touring for ninety days in the summer. This past summer, Rebecca marched with The Cadets, one of the oldest and most honored drum and bugle corps in the Drum Corps International.

If you have no idea what drum and bugle corps are, you’re not alone. Drum Corps International or DCI, is a major league of marching arts with roots in the military.  Drum corps are competitive marching bands, with ensembles of brass instruments, Percussion instruments and color guard.  They perform eight to twelve minute shows, touring around the country and perfecting their shows as much as possible.  The Cadets in particular have ranked within the top ten marching bands in the world ten times.  

“A lot of people think it’s insane to do drumline, and it kinda is.” She doesn’t describe it gruesomely, but it still sounds brutal. “I give up one weekend a month during the school year, and then I move in just to sleep on gym floors, and rehearse for sixteen hours a day and play the same music for ninety days. With the same people.” She rubs her head, probably realizing how awful it sounds put into words like that.

She jokes, “Why would anyone want to do that?”

Regardless, playing euphonium with The Cadets and the Boston Crusaders was a world class experience for Rebecca. “A lot of things can go wrong at The Cadets,” she starts. “It can be frustrating. It can be overwhelming. But there’s nowhere I’m going to experience that again. I can say that pretty confidently.”  As she explained almost everything about The Cadets, there was a sense of reverence, and a smile on her face.

“I learned to find the positive things when everything was negative,” she says about her time with The Cadets. “There’s a lot of reasons to do it. One of the reasons is for comradery.” She scrolls through pictures of her summer, where she has pictures with mascots from different stadiums, and pictures from Disney World in Florida. She names people she’s still in touch with, and people who have changed her. “They’re family,” she explains. “You know they’re there for you, even if you’re different than them.”

When we asked about stories she might have of The Cadets, she takes a minute. We offer input about what we might want to know, but she bites her lip. “Yeah, I’m not allowed to talk about certain things,” she says, which sounds like exactly the stories we were looking for. “It’s like, what happens on the bus, stays on the bus.”

Our hopes were dashed, but we were also intrigued. What could possibly be so special and sacred about that bus? What kind of wild shenanigans did the Cadets get up do where they couldn’t talk about a regular old bus?

She did give us one story: “Sometimes we’d play a show that’s two hours away. That’s about the most free time we’d have. This guy, Jon Bilby gave us a pep talk: “You have to shake the bus!” And he’d literally just stand up, shaking the inside of the bus, while the bus is still moving. We’ll do this in the last forty-five minutes before the show, every one screaming. And you get to the place, and as a Cadet you have to be straight faced in public, complete military style. But we had so much hype in us.”

She laughed about this, later saying, “We just kinda scream a lot.”

Rebecca will age out of the Cadets pretty soon, as the organization cuts you off at twenty-one. She talks about her present, a possible future in music, despite her change in major. Even though she currently studies exercise science, she seems pretty certain that she’ll still be involved in music. She plays in ensembles here at Appalachian State, and she still takes music courses, too. Rebecca keeps herself open to music, noting that there are still ways she could play, even if her career isn’t based in music.

“I could still open an instrument repair shop. I’d have to do an apprenticeship for seven years, and then I could open my own shop. It’s still an option.” It feels considered when she mentioned this avenue, before briefly talking about others such as private lessons or helping out with high school bands.

“I want to keep music as a passion instead of a career. There’s a lot of ways I can stay involved with music. And it might change, but for right now, I just like being able to play.”