Almost ready to give up her instrument, one young musician decided to try high school marching band. And it has changed her life forever.
Photo by John Sayer
At the end of a long, but very good rehearsal, I call the band to attention, “Band-atten-hut!”
The band responds with the vocal, “ONE.”
That’s who we are. One band who makes one impact. It is our philosophy for how we run things in our group and how we carry ourselves outside the group.
I’m Katy Steklac, a senior and one of the three drum majors for the Chelsea (Mich.) High School Marching Band. If you had told me three-and-a-half years ago that I would be in this position and loving every second of it, I would not have believed you.
When I was fitted for an instrument back in fifth grade, I was told that the flute would be the best instrument for me. And thus, I began my musical journey through band. But for the next three years, band was just another activity to me. It wasn’t my top priority or my favorite thing to do.
Then, during the summer before my 8th grade year, my family and I moved from Nebraska to Michigan, and I started with the middle school band at my current district. Unfortunately, my musical training was not quite up to par with this band’s playing. I ended up being the last chair of the flute section, which to me wasn’t good enough with my Type A personality. When it came time to register for classes for my freshman year, I had had enough and signed up for choir in place of band.
Drum Major Dreams
But somehow, with the positive reinforcement from Mr. Catherman, our high school band director, and some of my close friends, I decided to try band for one more year. When I arrived to the first day of band camp, I was absolutely terrified, and my nerves were shot.
But as the season went on, everything just clicked. I just instantly knew that I would love it. And as I watched the drum majors, I knew I wanted to eventually be one of them. I spent much of my free time thinking about how cool it would be to lead a large group of people before I even graduated high school!
I ended up trying for the position at the end of my freshman and sophomore years. I didn’t make it the first time and didn’t really expect to because I was only going to be a sophomore, but the second time, I learned that I was one of the new leaders of the band! I was completely overjoyed and full of excitement.
This is now my second year in the position. This year, we are performing music by the rock band “Queen.”
As much as I love band, I was a little skeptical when I heard about all the new ideas we were going to try to implement. I was nervous about doing things with three drum majors instead of two. For the first time this year, we will have a twirler in our group. We are hosting our first annual marching band exhibition, and we now have a huge observation tower at our practice field that one of our freshmen cymbal players built for his Eagle Scout project.
But I have learned throughout my high school career that changes just take time to get used to, and in most cases, the new ideas will help to make our program not only much better but also much stronger.
Support All Around
My responsibilities aren’t confined to just conducting the band in performance. My co-drum majors and I are in charge of organizing the group at the beginning of a rehearsal, warming them up, stretching them out and getting them pumped up for the next hours ahead. We inform the section leaders of the plans for the day and greet everybody that comes through the doors. We make sure everybody is on task and is taken care of. It can be exhausting, but it is always completely worth it!
We are so lucky to have great support from the state of Michigan, town of Chelsea and the rest of our student body. We always have a big crowd at our football games, and over the past few years, less and less people have been getting up during halftime to use the restroom or buy something from the concession stand. They know that they are missing out if they do.
In mid-September, we will host our first annual marching band exhibition with about 10 high school bands and the University of Michigan Marching Band closing the show. Our hope is that the show will bring even more awareness to the community about what the world of marching band is all about.
Footprints on My Heart
I think one of my favorite parts about being in the marching band is being a part of such a great team. Like Mr. Catherman says, we are the largest team in the entire school, and we have to get all of our minds to think the same exact thing at the same exact time. That is not always the easiest to accomplish. But our 145-member group works extremely hard, plays hard and can perform at a level that I am extremely proud to be a part of.
I like being able to get to know all the band members better than I would if I was just playing my flute. The people I get to work with are so incredibly talented and genuinely good people that have all made footprints on my heart. I love being part of this group and can’t imagine it not being a major part of my life.
As a result of this experience, I now know what I want to do for the rest of my life. When I graduate from high school next June, I will be headed off to college to get my degree in music education. But I will never forget my years as the drum major of the “Pride of Chelsea” Bulldog Marching Band!