All You Can Be

Being drum major at her high school and then with the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band turned one shy teenager into a strong leader.

Throughout high school, marching band has been one of the greatest joys of my life. However, I never imagined that one day a crowd of thousands would cheer as I set foot on a field in San Antonio with some of America’s greatest young musicians.

From Shy and Quiet…

As a freshman in high school, I was extremely shy and quiet. I played the clarinet and never stood out from the crowd. Truthfully, I wanted to remain in the shadows. As junior year approached, I still had not discovered my place, and there was nothing that I felt particularly great at. I had no intention of trying out to be my high school drum major. But my sister, Olivia, pushed and pushed, assuring me that it would be so much fun. I began considering it and realized it would be an amazing opportunity.

I was selected as the drum major of my high school marching band and became very successful but not without hard work. I was challenged to develop a keen sense of rhythm, to build lots of upper body strength, to read a score of music and to be a leader and motivator at the same time.

I went undefeated, defending the Best Drum Major Award at every competition and receiving the highest drum major score, 19.6 out of 20, at the Tournament of Bands Atlantic Coast Championships a few seasons ago. With these successes, I knew I had found the thing I was really good at, and my love for conducting was inexplicable.

…To Army Strong

I auditioned for the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band with the encouragement of my band director and assistant band director. I filled out the application, wrote an essay, sent in multiple audition videos and various recommendations, and then waited for the results.

In May 2008, band class began just like it did every other day. Minutes later I was crying in surprise and excitement. My band director announced that I had been selected as the drum major of the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. It was the most surreal moment of my life!

The months following, I was recognized at the intermission of Drum Corps International (DCI) Championships in Indianapolis and at my own marching band’s championships in Allentown, Pa. I appeared in two magazines and three newspapers. I had gone from shy freshman to having my picture in a magazine!

A New World

As the day of my fl ight to San Antonio approached, I grew more and more excited but also extremely nervous. I did not know what to expect. For some odd reason, I had a calm feeling at the base of all the confusion. I knew that the following Saturday I was going to give the performance of a lifetime.

We spent four days rehearsing—22 hours total—before the day of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. At my own high school, I was the one who motivated everyone. In San Antonio, it was backwards. The other students pushed me!

My band has approximately 40 students, and this one had more than 100 of the greatest musicians from across the United States and an all-DCI color guard! It was a different atmosphere for me, but stepping out of my own world and into this one made me grow and learn so much more.

The day of the bowl came quickly. It was an honor to know that we would be performing for thousands. A large portion of them were Army soldiers. I was honored to wear the Army colors. Giving all I had was the only option and was exactly what I intended to do.

The show consisted all of American songs. One of these was “America the Beautiful.” Nothing will ever compare to looking up just as the song climaxed to see an American flag hanging over the stadium. I was doing what I loved, and I never knew that I would come so far.

I marched off the field with every moment of my high school days replaying like a motion picture in my head. I remember my first day coming into a high school band rehearsal and how nervous I was. However, I had now achieved my greatest high school dream. I hope to be an inspiration, so people will see that taking a chance and working hard can make you achieve your dreams.

These days, I think about the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band everyday. The friendships I made, the people I had the chance to work with and the qualities I gained have changed my life. I learned discipline, my conducting skills grew, but most importantly, I learned that fear can be overcome with passion and love for what you dream and strive for. That shy freshman now stands with the world at her feet and looks at her future not as a fear but as a story that has only just begun

About the Author

Christine Norton is the drum major of the Panther Marching Band at Middle Township High School in Cape May County, N.J., and was the drum major of the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. Christine has also played the clarinet since the age of 8. She is a senior and will be attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., next year. She plans to be a member of “The Spirit of the Mountain” Marching Band at Liberty.