Julie Siberts has been preparing her whole life to become the first female drum major of the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band. Here’s how she broke barriers and opened doors.
Being the first female drum major of the Pride of Oklahoma was a life-changing experience. In an organization with 325 members, being the drum major comes with a lot of responsibilities. Some of these I greatly anticipated, and others could not have come as more of a surprise.
The Pride sets a standard of excellence that is hard to match, which means that the drum major must consistently strive to do more and give 110%. This past season tested me in many ways but was rewarding in so many more. I am honored to have been chosen to return as the 2018 drum major, and I cannot wait to see what this season has to offer.
Fulfilling a Legacy
I grew up in Virginia but was well aware of the traditions of the Pride of Oklahoma. Both of my parents were music majors at The University of Oklahoma and performed in the Pride.
I grew up playing all sorts of instruments with oboe becoming my primary. Since the oboe cannot be marched on the field, it was inevitable that I would learn a second instrument. I was in the color guard at my high school for a year and marched in the trumpet section for two years including being section leader.
Music is my greatest passion, and I wanted to give back to an organization that gave so much to me. I knew I wanted to try out for drum major, so that I could serve my band. My high school drum major position provided me more responsibility than I had ever had before. It was because of my high school experience that I knew I wanted to be in marching band in college.
When I first visited The University of Oklahoma, I knew it was where I was supposed to be. The campus created a feeling of home, the professors were welcoming and talented, and the students were friendly.
Making a Prediction
As soon as I received my admissions letter, I distinctly remember that I turned to my mom and in a joking sort of manner said, “Mom, I am going to be the first female drum major of the Pride of Oklahoma.”
It was a very lofty goal that I felt was completely out of my league. The Pride was enormous compared to my high school band, and with so many dedicated members, I could only dream of being in the position.
When I joined the Pride as a trumpet player, I instantly fell in love with the football-centered culture. Going into my second year, I knew I wanted to audition for the drum major position.
Because the Pride only has one drum major, the process is very intense. It is a very difficult process that includes conducting, undergoing interviews, and demonstrating “the strut.” I was nervous that the position that I wanted so badly was too far out of my reach and that I might not be good enough. The audition process made me really think about why I wanted to be the drum major and pushed me even further into my passion for the Pride.
To my disbelief on the evening of Jan. 31, 2017, an email was sent out to the entire Pride announcing that I would be the drum major of the Pride of Oklahoma.
I was so excited and humbled to have earned the position that I initially did not realize the effect my gender would have on the community. I was surprised that several newspapers reached out to me to share my story. During the course of the following months, I received notes from parents, some of whom I did not even know, explaining how much of a difference this news would make for their daughters. It was not until the season began that I truly realized how much of an impact my role would have on the generations of Pride members that followed me.
Being a Role Model
During the past 113 years, the Pride has not had a female drum major until now. There are more and more females that try out every year, which increased the chances of the drum major becoming a female.
Being the first female drum major meant that I dealt with people who were very excited about my position and a few who were not so excited. However, the directors and the members of the Pride of Oklahoma were so unbelievably supportive that these few negatives seemed so small and distant.
As the drum major, I was responsible for creating a positive morale during rehearsals, conducting all of the halftime shows, calling out and conducting pep tunes during the football games, organizing community outreach pep bands, and most visibly for doing “the kicks” and “the strut” at pregame.
The job is not an easy one. It comes with many critiques from fans, peers, and directors. Everyone views the drum major differently and has different expectations in varying areas. I quickly learned that I had to take critiques in a constructive way, so that I could better serve the organization. I love a challenge, and being the drum major proved to be one.
Being the face of the organization is a huge honor. I was responsible for keeping my energy up at all times and for representing the Pride in a positive way through every interview, pep band, fan encounter, and game day event. I love the Pride and The University of Oklahoma, so this enthusiasm was not difficult for me to express. I felt extremely prepared to take on the role but was not aware of how the role would change because of my gender.
Being the drum major of the Pride of Oklahoma has completely changed my life. Performing in front of 80,000 people in my favorite place on Earth with my favorite people is an experience I will never forget. The position is visible to so many young band members and compels me to be a role model in more ways than I could have realized. I remembered this responsibility through every rehearsal and every interaction that I had with alumni members and current and potential future Pride members.
To all of the other drum majors, leaders, and members out there that I have not had the opportunity to interact within a band program or not, remember that the reason you start something might not be the same as why you finish. Allow yourself to make mistakes, live the moment, and always believe in yourself and the people around you.