When the band sets a goal, drum majors must take initiative to help the band achieve success.
All of the Bellbrook (Ohio) Marching Eagles waited patiently for the semifinals awards ceremony at Bands of America (BOA) Grand Nationals in 2013. Earlier in the season, the band had decided to step up its game and aspired to perform in the final round of this national competition.
When the time arrived, the guard captains, the other drum majors, and I walked onto the field in front of thousands to find out how our season would come to a close. We had worked all season for this performance opportunity, and it was coming down to the decision of seven judges.
Chuck Henson, the voice of BOA, read the Class A placements and announced Bellbrook in first place for semifinals. That was one of my proudest moments as a drum major.
Motivated and Motivational
When I auditioned for drum major, I had no idea that my life would change forever. I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life because of the influence that the drum major my freshman year had on me. Being drum major is about so much more than just conducting and leading a band. You have the opportunity to be the most influential and motivational person on the field.
On a very personal level, the student leadership members of our band receive “little siblings” at the beginning of the season. These siblings are first-year members of the marching band, and I was matched with two different rookie students. Being their mentor was my opportunity to show them how music can change their lives. I have watched my little brothers grow into amazing musicians and people.
The drum major is required to communicate with peers, directors, parents, and community members.
One challenge I faced was getting my voice to project across the field, especially when giving commands to the Marching Eagles. At first, I would sound very angry or upset with the ensemble; however, during my senior year, I learned to project my voice from my stomach. It is all about the energy and intensity that is used, not always the volume.
There were times when I would raise my voice to the ensemble because the rehearsal was becoming unfocused. I reminded them of the goal to perform in BOA Grand National Finals.
In the Middle of It All
Drum majors have the extremely difficult job of being the middleman between their peers and the director. At Grand Nationals, I made it my job to decrease the stress of the directors, parents, and my peers by making sure that I knew the schedule like the back of my hand. Many of my peers would come to me with questions and concerns, which I would take to my director if I could not answer them myself. Young students, especially in a large ensemble, can sometimes feel intimidated by the director. The drum majors alleviate this fear.
When we performed at Grand National semifinals, our warm-up time was at 6:30 a.m. I took the initiative to get ready quickly, so I could assist and motivate other ensemble members.
From Good to Great
Through my drum major experience as well as teaching at Fred J. Miller Summer Clinics after graduation, I have realized that the difference between an excellent drum major and a good drum major is the ability to take initiative. Students can have great conducting skills, but if they do not take the initiative, they are not helping themselves succeed.
I owe a huge thank you to my senior class. Without them and the rest of the leadership team, we would never have made our dream become a reality. Each day at rehearsal, I knew I could rely on them to work together as a team, so that all I needed to do was get people moving in the right direction. Teamwork is so crucial to the success of a drum major. Your peers need to be there to help you through the toughest times and celebrate with you through the best of times.
Be You! Or Reflect!
I recount my final performance as drum major of the Bellbrook Marching Eagles and cannot remember the fine detail. Instead, I see all of the memories that were made. That season, I stayed true to myself and showed the ensemble my emotion and passion for music.
During our finals performance, I began to shed tears of joy as we played the final impact. I then turned around to the crowd and gave them the biggest smile. That is why I wanted to become drum major.
Each year, certain individuals are chosen to be drum majors because the staff is confident that they display the proper qualities of leadership, communication, and commitment. Remind yourself that you were chosen for that reason, and you need to stay true to yourself.