Growing Up

As one of the first drum majors (and, so far, the only female leader) at Stony Brook University, Megan Spicer helps shape the future of one the fastest growing collegiate bands in the country—and finds herself maturing in the process.

Photo by Frank Posillico

It was young, but so was I. My predecessors were tough, but I knew I had what was needed to join the ranks of the previously all-male list of drum majors.

The Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band was only 2 years old when I registered for MUS 268 at my freshman orientation, and from what I gathered—small. From the stories we’ve heard and the one that is announced before every halftime show, “In 2006, 17 intrepid students took the field …”

We all knew the band’s history. It’s what makes The Spirit of Stony Brook. It sets us apart from almost all other programs, which have all been in existence for decades. When I joined the band in its third year, we were putting almost 100 members out onto the field, and that number only went up during my time here.

We are currently one of the fastest growing collegiate marching bands in the country. Our summer recruiting staff played a major part in that. They were at every freshman orientation held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays throughout the month of July. The appeal of a marching band on Long Island could also be a part; the state of New York only has five other college marching bands, and most are upstate.

Putting Fears Aside

I showed up to my first college-level band camp in August of 2008, and I was terrified. I was coming from another state to a school that had no familiar faces. With a quick make of my bed, a hug, a kiss and a “Just be you, and they‘ll love you for that,” my parents were gone, and I was being thrown to the fish.

Marching season came and went as did pep band. All that was left were drum major tryouts. I had tossed the idea around of trying out, but I wasn’t sure if I really had what it took to be at the forefront of a college-level band.

I put the fears aside in hopes that they wouldn’t resurface in the future. I practiced my salute and marching patterns in the reflection of my dorm’s sliding glass door for weeks before the auditions.

My hard work paid off, and I was appointed as the first female drum major of The Spirit of Stony Brook. The honor I felt was incredible. Because of the age of the organization, those who were the leaders of the young band would set a precedent for the future. We were the ones who would determine the future of this band. Not only that, but on the drum major plaque that lists every year’s drum majors, I would be the first female.

All Thought Through

I learned a lot that first year as drum major: How to lead a band that was comprised of a myriad of different-aged members. How to earn the respect of the members. And how to make sure I didn’t lose my cool.

I’m not entirely sure how it appeared to the band members and staff, but it was difficult. Every command I called, every pattern I conducted, every drop spin I did with the mace was thought through. I didn’t want to do anything wrong.

The season wasn’t perfect. There were times I was so excited by a touchdown that the tempo for our first down tag— the last four measures of our victory song—was faster than the band members and I would have liked; it’s hard not to get caught up in it all.

Back to High School

Spring semester ended just in time for me to attend my old high school’s drum major tryouts. I had once been a leader of this band and was now looking at the potential candidates with a different approach. I knew what was expected for the position.

During the tryouts, I spoke with some of the candidates on ways that they could improve, such as how to call commands from deep within their bellies and how to avoid a sloppy conducting pattern just by the way they position their hands and fingertips. I provided some insight to the selection committee and helped determine who the next drum major of my high school was going to be.

Shaping the Person

Now the final season of The Spirit of Stony Brook’s first and currently only female drum major is quickly approaching; I have been appointed associate drum major.

The Spirit of Stony Brook has shaped me into the person I am today. I’ve taken concepts that I learned about leadership, communication and empathy and applied them in every other crevice of my life.

I have grown as the band has grown. After three years we have both turned into the strong and confident beings that the world sees today.

About the Author

Megan Spicer is a senior journalism major with a print concentration at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University. She has been a member of the marching band since fall 2008 and has served as the assistant drum major since spring 2009. This year she will be the associate drum major. She has played the saxophone since fifth grade.

Grad Assistants: Unsung Heroes

Practically every college or university marching band has graduate assistants. But what exactly do they do? Anything and everything! From Halftime Magzine, a print publication ...