All About the Fifes and Drums of Williamsburg!

It’s probably quite obvious that we have a fondness for the Fifes and Drums of Colonial Williamsburg, and why not? This fascinating music has become a historical fixture and the soundtrack of Williamsburg, Virginia. If you’re wondering how they came to be or how you can experience this music today, look no further! Today we’re sharing a little history and opportunity for those who enjoy this corps as much as we do…


Military music is something that dates back long before the formation of the United States. During times of war, it was common to have music accompany the battle, and during the Revolutionary War, it was the sound of fifes and drums. Just as the artillery was stocked and soldiers were acquired, musicians were hard at work. Usually boys of about 10 or 12, they represented the sound of freedom, an instrumental war cry for the Colonists.

Here is a newspaper excerpt from Alexandria, Virginia, on June 12, 1775. In it, two men, Thomas Sterling and Thomas Hooker, offered their services as musical teachers for the war:

“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.”

Since then, this music has been preserved as a historical tribute to the American Revolution and the role of Williamsburg in it. Whenever you visit the living museum that is Colonial Williamsburg, it’s the sound of the Fife and Drum that completes the experience. Now both boys and girls from ages 10-18 are able to be part of a centuries-old tradition. 

It’s so exciting to see these performers live, and here are your opportunities to do so:

  • If you have admission to Colonial Williamsburg, be sure to join for Behind the Field Musick, which takes place every Friday and Tuesday at 3:30 on the corner of Botetourt and Nicholson Streets. This 45-minute program gives you behind-the-scenes insight into what it takes to make this music happen, as well as an extra dose of history!
  • The Drummers Call takes place in Colonial Williamsburg every spring and is an incredible weekend of military music from around the country.

  • And, of course, any major holiday event is commemorated with the Fifes and Drums, such as the 4th of July, Veterans Day, or the Grand Illumination in December!

This music is an integral part of the live history that is preserved in Colonial Williamsburg, and we at the Fife and Drum Inn are proud to invoke the symbol as our namesake. Next time you’re in the Colonial area, give us a call and stay in the heart of town, surrounded by warmth, history and, of course, music!

Have you seen the Fifes and Drums of Williamsburg yet? Tell us about it in the comments!

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