Oh, Brother

Photo by Kevin Dunder

One drum major learns the ropes by following in his brother’s footsteps. But this season, he must lead without him.

Where do I start? I’m the middle child of three boys. I have an older brother, Graham, who is two years older than me, and a younger brother who trails me by five years.

Growing up, I always saw my older brother as a rival and a competitor, the person I needed to beat and surpass. I followed in his footsteps through elementary and middle school. Even in high school, I was still replicating his every move. Although we were involved in various activities together, band was the strongest connection we had.

I started playing the flute in sixth grade for concert band. I wasn’t new to music since I’ve now been playing piano for 12 years, but being a part of something bigger than myself, excited me.

After middle school, I signed up for the Sunset Apollo Marching Band and Auxiliary (SAMBA) in Beaverton, Ore. I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into; the fact that my brother was involved was the only incentive I needed.

Just Waving His Arms?

On the first day of band camp, my brother introduced himself to the whole band as the new junior drum major. I had no idea what his job was; it looked to me like he just stood in front of the band and waved his arms around.

As the marching band season progressed, I started to get curious about what a drum major was. Whenever I asked Graham, he would happily explain.

As my freshman year came to a close, I decided that I was going to audition for the opening drum major spot. My brother reminded me that auditioning this year was for the experience and not necessarily for the spot because it’s very rare that a sophomore would become drum major. With this thought in mind, I gave my best and had fun at the audition.

A couple weeks before school ended, I saw a note on the band room door. It read, “Congratulations 2008 Drum Majors: Graham Kim and Morris Kim.”

I was overjoyed and terrified at the same time. It was hard for me to imagine myself being a drum major, let alone a sophomore drum major, with my brother!

In the Backfield

The following band season, I started my role as the backfield drum major under my brother’s guidance. At first, it wasn’t as fun and exciting as I expected. The amount of work “behind the scenes” was overwhelming and surprising. I soon realized it wasn’t just about “standing in the front of the band and waving my arms around.”

The metronome and PA system became my new best friends. I was in charge of playing the metronome to keep the band in time. My brother and I were also responsible for painting yard lines and hash marks on open grass areas for every practice.

Although I started enjoying my job more as I got settled, I wasn’t completely satisfied. The biggest complaint I had was how my brother was always so demanding and picky about things I believed to be “unimportant details,” little things like having extra batteries and bringing rain gear for the electronics. My brother said that being prepared was a big part of a drum major’s job.

In the course of those 10 weeks of marching band, I learned about being a leader. It wasn’t always easy, especially trying to earn the respect of kids older than me. But eventually, I learned how to deal with the weight on my shoulders and how to act before the scrutinizing eyes of every band member. Respect merely came as a side effect of my hard work. Success also resulted from the hard work.

Sunset was named the Class A Champion and placed third overall at the 2008 Northwest Association for Performing Arts Championships. This was an incredible accomplishment because we were a band of less than 80 members competing against bands two or three times our size.

Before I knew it, 2009 rolled around, and I took the place of my brother as the head drum major. I imagined it would be a lot better because I would finally be liberated from my brother’s ruthless criticisms and comments. Man, was I wrong.

A New Season

It’s true that my brother is off at college, and I am now “free,” but it didn’t take me long to realize how much harder freedom is. There is nobody I can ask for assistance or look up to when something goes wrong. The spotlight is now on me, and I face more pressure than ever before. But I confidently believe that I am well prepared, thanks to a certain brother. His harsh criticisms and the ceaseless attention to the “unimportant details” equipped me for my job.

Whenever the metronome or the microphone runs out of batteries, I am ready with extras. Whenever it starts to rain, I am prepared with proper gear. Most importantly, my brother taught me that everyone will be looking up to me for support, and that it is my job to help them. As the head drum major of SAMBA, I feel like I am fully ready to use my experiences to lead the band. At every band practice and every competition, I never forget who has helped me get where I am today.

About the Author

Morris Kim is a junior at Sunset High School in Beaverton, Ore. He has been drum major of the Sunset Apollo Marching Band and Auxiliary (SAMBA) for two years, co-leading with his older brother in the 2008 season. Morris has played flute and piano for several years.

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