Major Turnaround

Every drum major plans to have a great band camp and a productive start to the fall marching season—but unfortunately, things don’t always turn out the way you plan. Find out how Chopticon High School went from a rough start to the national stage.

Photo by Teresa Ferreira

I was a returning second-year drum major for the Chopticon High School Marching Band in Morganza, Md., and our 2012 band camp was coming to a close with only a quarter of our show on the field and our first performance in a week. The band’s ambition was beginning to falter, and time was ticking.

Rough Start

At Chopticon, we have a reputation to uphold. Ever since I joined the band three years earlier, it was common practice to place first at every competition we attended and maintain the title of Maryland State Champions. With time running out before our first performance, the veterans could see our reputation slipping through our fingertips.

The rookies didn’t yet understand the seriousness of marching band. Without the entire band on the same page, tension was building among the members, and attitudes took a turn for the worse. Band camp ended with our traditional preview show, and the performance was almost embarrassing for various reasons.

Struggling to Move On

As the season went on, attitudes declined even further, and we lost a lot of practice time due to bad weather. However, we never ceased struggling onward. Long practices were added onto our already busy schedule as the band fought to make up for lost time. To help push the band along, I would help individuals outside of practice with music or marching. During sectionals, I would rehearse the winds, focusing on problematic sections in the music. I tried everything to keep up morale and lighten the mood.

Just a week before the USBands state level competition, we lost most of our muchneeded practice time due to Hurricane Sandy. We had just finished setting the last of our drill the previous week, and it needed cleaning before we could perform it. I did my best to stay positive.

When the day of competition arrived, we finally were able to go on the field for one last rehearsal. I gave it my all in an attempt to push the band to be the best it could be.

While I thought the band had a decent performance, I was not quite sure if it was enough to maintain our title of state champions. Next thing I knew, I was down on the field at the awards ceremony, receiving the first place trophy for group 2A and the awards for best effect, music and visual performance!

A New Band

There was not much of a celebration period for the newly crowned state champions. Immediately we began to think about the following week’s competition, USBands Group 2A National Championships. I had found new faith in the band. The rookies had finally seen and felt what it means to be in Chopticon’s Marching Band, and their mentality had officially changed.

The entire band started to work together as a unit with one common goal. We had decided we wanted to earn the title of National Champions, a feat only possible by hard work. We strove to add more dynamic contrast and more visuals and focused on improving upon the weaker sections of the show.

The day of the National Championships began with early morning practice before we all piled onto a bus to travel to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. I conducted the show with all my ability and emotion, inspiring the band to give its best performance and to leave it all on the field.

In the end, our hard work was finally met by the honor we received. There was an eruption of sound from the stands when Chopticon was announced as the first place winner and the National Champion. I could not contain my excitement. I broke attention as my hands flew to my face. I smiled up into the stands, watching my band mates jump around and ecstatically embrace one another. My hands were trembling as I reached out to accept the enormous trophy as well as the award for best effect.

Once-in-a-Lifetime

Our fame did not stop on the field. I had the privilege of closing out the season by traveling to Hawaii with the band to represent the U.S.S. Maryland in the annual Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in December. Getting to Pearl Harbor took a tremendous amount of fundraising and preparation. We were even featured on our local news to boost the efforts.

In Hawaii, we had the opportunity to speak to surviving veterans and to perform in front of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. The parade itself was incredible. Thousands of people lined the streets of Honolulu. It was the largest parade I had ever been in or even seen. I felt honored to be a representative of the U.S.S. Maryland.

A Lesson Learned

I take great pride in all the things that were accomplished this season. I have pride in the band and in myself. I learned that no matter how rough the beginning of the season seems, as a drum major, you must stay positive and never have doubt in the band. It is the drum major’s job to inspire each band member to perform to his or her best ability. It is a tough job and can be stressful, but when approached with the proper attitude, unforgettable accomplishments can be reached.

About the Author

Carrie Barrett is currently a senior at Chopticon High School in Morganza, Md. She joined marching band in 8th grade and became drum major as a sophomore. Her primary instrument is piano, but she also plays flute. She plans on studying music education in college.

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