A humorous take on being a leader and role model.
Photo courtesy of Unionville High School
You rush to the band room after school. After seeing a crowd of students huddled around a piece of paper, you shove your way through. You hold your breath as you read the paper: [Your name here], Drum Major. The first thing you do? Apologize to the kids you just bruised to get to the paper. The second thing you do? Prepare yourself for a stressful but rewarding year.
For a new drum major, the first week of band camp can be more frightening than your band director’s mood at a competition. It is the band’s first and often lasting impression of you as a drum major. No pressure. But don’t lose all hope! There are a few things you can do to avoid being seen as the dreaded “jerk,” “moron,” “[expletive],” or worst of all—“mean drum major.”
Don’t mess up. If you call out the wrong command at the wrong time, the band might end up marching into a creek. If you cut off a song at the wrong time, a couple of trumpet players may suffer from marching-related injuries. If you mess up at all, the freshmen will be terrified and confused.
If by some chance, you do mess up, don’t show it. The first ones to notice a mistake will be know-it-all upperclassmen, especially those that were vying for your position. A simple twitch of the eye will give those kids enough fodder to make fun of you for a while. Also, if you show that you made a mistake, the freshmen will be very, very scared. If you show that you don’t know what you’re doing, how should they know what to do?
A drum major is an actor and, while in the presence of the band, is always on stage. If you’re unhappy with anything, do not show it. Do not grimace, snarl or curse.
Also, always listen to your superiors. If your band director asks for you to turn the metronome up, you sprint to the back of the field in the apocalyptic heat and turn it up. If the assistant band director asks you to get him a bag of cookies during break, you ask if he’d like a juice box to go with it.
After all, if you don’t listen to the directors, why should the freshmen? And if the freshmen don’t listen, it’s going to be a long, long year—guaranteed.
Three-hour rehearsals on weeknights can be very tedious. You’ll have to deal with frustrated directors and whiny students. Whatever you do, do not have a meltdown.
Instead, have discreet stress-relieving techniques. While helping the band learn basic marching techniques, stare down the kid that always talks back. When he messes up due to your menacing glare, go and scold him for not focusing. Not only will you be letting your anger out, that kid will never talk back again. Is it cruel? Of course, but it’s better than having a meltdown.
The same thought goes through every band member’s head at least once: “If I’m in the band, why am I required to go to the football games?”
The answer: You are the show. The football game is simply pre- and postshow entertainment. The giant crowd of rambunctious students is actually there to watch the band, not some people throwing a ball made of a dead pig’s skin. Hard to believe, but true.
For you, the drum major, this is common knowledge. However, other band members forget these facts. Put a smile on your face and get the band pumped for their halftime show. If you do, you’ll have a happier band and a better performance.
This is what the season is about: competing against equally obsessed marching band members to earn the right to say, “We rule supremely!” There are a few things to consider as your band walks off of the bus to ensure success.
Do not use confusing commands. “Detail! Atten hut!” is a command that your band should know. However, “left oblique, harch!” is barely ever used and just sounds frightening. You’ll confuse the band by stating this for the first time 30 minutes before they are supposed to perform in front of hundreds of people, and some freshmen may die.
Also, don’t make up commands. “Detail! Walk forward to the fence and then stop talking, harch!” is not a marching command. Even the freshmen know that.
Win or lose, your band makes an accomplishment at every competition. They should be happy with their performance and exhibit spirit. In other words, get the band to cheer. It creates unity while ironically keeping the drum majors from feeling idiotic while completing their long salutes after award acceptance.
Plus, if you get freshmen to cheer now, imagine how loud they’ll be by senior year. We’re talking a wonderful, beautiful heap of pride. Brings a tear to your eye, no? There is much more to being a drum major than saluting and being permitted to yell at people.
You are a leader. You are a role model to those that gaze at your brilliant white-gloved hands as you paint a musical picture. Such high expectations can lead to stress but never fear.
As long as you never mess up and don’t mentally damage freshmen, you’ll have an incredible season.
About the Author
Brittany Baumeister is a junior at Unionville High School in Kennett Square, Pa. Next year will be her second year as drum major of the marching band. Her primary instrument is the clarinet, but she also sings and plays the saxophone. Brittany plans on majoring in music education in college.