Starting a year behind. Dealing with rebelling members. Using unconventional methods. And succeeding through it all. Experiencing just a few of the many life lessons that make being drum major worthwhile.
Photo by Image of U Photography Studio
What would you think if I told you I hated band? It’s hard to believe, but I went from that guy who was in band only out of necessity to being a super band geek.
When my band director was looking for a baritone for marching band for my sophomore year, I volunteered. I had played trumpet for four years prior, but only in concert band. I started private lessons with my director as he taught me the instrument and music.
Then it was time to march the big thing—and I had thought the trumpet was heavy! Marching the baritone was going to be a completely new challenge. This is where I fell in love, and marching band overtook my life. The amount of work put into a show and the amazing feeling after performing your show is why I love marching band. Concert band just couldn’t provide the experience that marching could. I also think euphonium/ baritone is just awesome.
I was a member of the Meadowbrook High School Marching Band in Byesville, Ohio, and we competed under the Ohio Music Education Association. We were small but good for our size and received a “2” rating, or “excellent.”
I made a goal for myself after the season: The next season I would do whatever I could to help the band. I wanted to be my school’s drum major. I thought that the best way to help the band is to be the one leading them in the right direction.
Trials and Tribulations
It was only my second year when I got the position of drum major. Even though I was a veteran, I was a rookie in many ways. My experience was limited to one year on marching baritone. The odds were against me. During auditions it was myself, two soon-to-be seniors and one other veteran member. After the audition we stood there in a line as our band director kept us waiting for the results for what felt like forever. He wouldn’t make eye contact, then looked over at me and pronounced I had received the position. I still haven’t learned why he chose me over the others.
I faced many trials through my career as conductor. One of the biggest challenges was with one of the other members who auditioned against me. She was a lot more popular than I was and didn’t like that I became drum major after just one year of experience. She convinced some members of my band to revolt against me and not listen to my instructions. I had to stand my ground and show that I wasn’t going to break. I stood strong although I was on the brink of tears.
When my band director learned what was going on, he spoke up to the band about my role. Even though I had little experience, I was their leader, and he had made his final decision on the position. I then had to show them I knew what I was doing although it sometimes felt on the inside like I didn’t.
I had received many positive comments from judges on how I was doing that first year as a drum major and even more during my second. When my band competed and played at football games, the other bands loved me. I was expressive, passionate and powerful in my conducting. It seemed like most people loved me, but my band still held some things against me.
Though there were challenges being drum major, it was the greatest thing I have ever done.
I had a somewhat unique method of how I presented myself during the show. I wanted to be remembered for my showmanship. I marched on with the band, went to my spot on the 50-yard line, went to parade rest and bowed my head. It was the band’s time in the sense that they were the focus. I waited for the halt from the snare, which signified my 10 seconds of fame. I silently call myself to attention, keeping my head bowed, and begin my salute. My head would snap up when the tip of my hand contacted my brow. I did this, presenting a different salute each time, showing the judges my band was ready, and I was the one leading them.
When I was drum major, I had a different style than most have. I led my band through our show and never once watched the center snares’ feet. I have been told many times that a band can’t be successful if a conductor doesn’t watch feet. It hurt me to know that a conductor from a camp I attended and looked up to believed that way is the only way to be successful. I kept time on my own and had two successful seasons, receiving a “1” rating both years, proving her statement wrong.
Band was my life, is my life and will continue to influence me for the rest of my life. This position changed my life for the better. I went from being shy and not so sociable to being well-known throughout many bands. Being the intense conductor I was, I had the chance to grow and meet so many different people, including my girlfriend. I owe it all to my high school band director for giving me the opportunity.