Being drum major helps one student rise above his shyness and unite his small band into a mighty family.
As I was in the middle of directing the main theme to “Star Wars,” I happened to look over at my own shadow. There I was. It really hit me when I realized that I had made it to such an honored position, one that I never thought I would accomplish.
Eighth grade began with a new young band director, Elise Van Holsteijn, who brought fresh ideas and energy to our small band program. To expand our look and sound, she invited junior high musicians (one of them being me) to participate with the high school marching band at Central City (Iowa) Community Schools. About half of our junior high band accepted the challenge. We earned a third place trophy at an invitational and a Division II rating at state competition. It was during that season that I knew our marching band was an organization I was proud to be part of.
When I reached high school, I was overjoyed to be a full member of marching band with both early morning rehearsals and band class. We numbered about 30 musicians, but that didn’t matter to me once I was handed my new red and black uniform, which I would grow to love and wear as a symbol of pride.
My freshman year started as a blur, yet I knew I belonged in the marching band, playing my soul out on those white lines on the football field. Before every performance, we had started a tradition to shake the new snow-white plumes together. It became more bittersweet with each performance bringing us closer to the end of the season.
From Dream to Reality
At competitions when I was not watching bands themselves, I was focused on the drum majors as they moved and directed the ensembles, and I knew I wanted to be just like them. But as a freshman, I wondered how I could be selected over talented musicians who probably deserved it more than I did. Being drum major was my dream, but could I honestly make it a reality?
I decided to try out for the drum major position just to get feedback for the future. The auditions for drum major took place in the spring, and nothing had ever made me more nervous. I participated in a practice interview with an adult, and I also practiced conducting along with the given music, so I was well prepared.
Dressed in my best clothes, including a tie, I surprised myself and the directors with my confidence despite my shock at even coming to the auditions as a freshman. After several agonizing days of waiting, I was grateful and excited to be invited to be one of two leaders of our small town’s growing high school band.
I’d always been incredibly shy and quiet, an introvert. In this role, I couldn’t hide in a shell anymore. It was time to step up my game and break out of my quiet, enclosed personality to become the leader I wanted to be.
Growing as a Family
As drum major, I was required not only to direct and know my cues but also to help, lead, and offer guidance to the musicians—and to create a salute, of course. There were anxious freshmen and eighth graders who were just like me, all learning something new. I eased them into marching band during band camp, offering marching help and encouragement when needed.
As the season progressed, a resounding thought settled deep into my mind, and it became my personal motto for the band for the rest of the year: “Show them that you belong here.”
I didn’t want our marching band to be just another marching band. I desired most to help transform the marching band into a family that worked together and impressed people.
To Higher Ground
I’m astonished at how much I have changed and grown by becoming a leader of such a small but mighty band. Being selected as a shy freshman for such an esteemed position has raised my confidence to new heights, and I’ll always remember the Friday nights of standing on that podium, knowing that I’d achieved this dream.
My advice to any drum major is that nothing matters or works well unless you can unify everyone to work together as a big family, with each member performing their own individual roles while respecting each other.
If a piece of music involves more than one person, then the hearts must all be connected as well to perform their best.
About the Author
Alex Hoffner is currently a sophomore attending Central City (Iowa) High School. He plays multiple instruments in the marching, concert, and jazz bands. Along with pursuing his strong passion for music, he operates a photography business and participates in track, speech, choir, jazz choir, and the fall musical.