Music City Mystique is a world-renowned theatrical percussion ensemble based in the music capital of the world: Nashville, Tennessee. The group competes under the governing organization Winter Guard International (WGI) and is an eight-time World Champion. Music City Mystique is a 501(c)(3) non-profit youth organization that provides a positive educational activity for young musicians. The non-profit youth ensemble consists of around forty performing members between fourteen and twenty-two years of age. Members of McM are required to pay dues to help offset the expenses associated with running the organization.
“Creative adaptability is the key to success year after year.”
JOSH NELSON | DIRECTOR
The year is 1994—the early days of what is now WGI Indoor Percussion. Marching drumlines and front ensembles compete in school cafeterias, on stage, and in auditoriums, wearing marching band uniforms and standing still while they play. It is a far cry from today’s WGI Indoor Percussion ensembles, but the seeds of competition are being sown in places like California, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, and middle Tennessee.
Spurred on by early competitors from Nashville, Tennessee—Father Ryan High School (entering competition in 1993, the first year of WGI percussion) and John Overton High School (entering competition in 1994)—Alan Rice sees a void in one particular area of the competition: the independent class. While the independent class was created for the 1994 competitive season, three of the inaugural groups were associated with drum and bugle corps and the fourth group was associated with a university. There was no group representing the large talent pool in the South. Alan, well-connected in the marching percussion scene throughout the South, tells his friends and former students, Don Click and Chris Finen, that Nashville is the perfect place to fill this gap in the independent class by starting an independent line from Nashville.
At the time, Don has a great front ensemble at Brentwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee, but not enough students for a full-sized battery. A little further west, Chris Finen has a great marching battery at Harpeth High School in Kingston Springs, Tennessee, but not enough students for a competitive front ensemble. In the first of many moments of clarity, Don and Chris combine their schools and create Nashville’s first independent WGI Indoor Drumline: Music City Mystique. The talent was not limited to Don and Chris’s high school groups, however. Players from all over middle Tennessee came out of the woodwork and helped define Mystique’s signature swagger from the first downbeat. Starting from scratch, Don, Chris, Alan, and countless others helped cobble together Mystique’s first show, “A New Beginning . . .,” and lay the groundwork for what is now the second oldest, and most successful, Independent World Class percussion ensemble in WGI.
During the next few years Don, Chris, the staff, and the members would build the organization into a family. Always thinking outside the box and focusing on “what we would want to see in a show,” Mystique won its first world championship in only its second year. The group dared to rethink what an indoor drumline show should sound and look like. The membership grew, the shows increased the demand and pushed the envelope, and Mystique quickly became a leader in the activity. The road was not without its bumps, though. Mystique marched on hand-me-down floors, played on borrowed instruments, and made their own uniforms in Don’s kitchen. It was a grassroots, all-hands-on-deck approach.
As the visibility of the group increased and WGI Percussion grew in popularity in the 2000s, Music City Mystique became a destination for young talent from middle Tennessee and across the United States. Members dedicated themselves to joining the ensemble, some driving upwards of eight hours every weekend or moving from Japan, just to experience a season with the McM family.
Now celebrating the organization’s 25th year, Mystique is proud to have left its mark on WGI, proud to have been a family to hundreds of musicians, and proud to push its boundaries into the future.