While teaching the band to perform, one drum major learned how to lead with the heart.
As I marched down the streets of Waikiki with my band behind me in the 75th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade on Dec. 7, 2016, I looked over at my band director and laughed. We had made it. I waved at the people that crowded the streets, and suddenly the parade was over. Turning around, I gazed at the band and smiled at them as they quickly matched my enthusiasm.
When I started out as a freshman in the Shadow Mountain Marching Matadors from Phoenix, I remember staring up at my drum major and thinking, “I want to be her. I will be her.”
Later in that same year, when we missed the State Marching Band Festival cutoff by less than 1 point, I remember thinking with tears in my eyes, “I want to take our band to State.”
At the end of my freshman year, I wrote my letter of intent to my band director to apply for flute section leader.
A few weeks later, I was hurriedly called into my band director’s office with an upperclassman. My director told us that we would be co-drum majors for the upcoming marching season.
How Do You Feel?
My co-drum major and I learned quickly to compromise and communicate. We discussed the music together and gave each other suggestions. If there was a disagreement in the band, we came to each other to discuss the situation before approaching it together. At awards ceremonies, plaques were split between us while we both saluted the adjudicator.
A special tradition that we cherished was a chant asking the band, “Hey band! How do you feel?” which would prompt the band to chant back with unruly yelling and dancing.
During my junior and senior year, I attended the Arizona Leadership Conference led by Bill Humbert. Throughout the three-day conference, he recited a word over and over again: CANI (“CAHN-ee”)—Constant And Never-ending Improvement. Writing this word down, I listened to his philosophy of holding oneself to a standard of excellence and began to build my own philosophy.
Would I want to follow myself? Was I really worth following? As thoughts swirled around my head from the conference into the marching seasons, I paid closer attention to who I was and how I was.
When I had first began as a drum major, I was elated at the thought of having the title rather than being a leader. I knew I had to change, and it had to come from my heart.
On the night of our State Festival show in 2015, I stood before my band and thought about what I wanted to say. Slowly, I reminded them of our ballad, “If You Love These People.”
As I watched the moonlight twinkle in their eyes, I asked them if they loved each other. If they loved each other as much as we claimed we did, they would perform this show for each other and not for themselves. They would do their best for one another, and I would do my best for them.
We were rated Superior that night and finished third at the state championships.
When we heard about our invitation to represent Arizona at the 75th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade, we dropped everything and began to prepare. We had to raise more than $150,000. All of us worked overtime to mail tax credit donation forms, work fundraisers at various restaurants, and broadcast our trip on local news.
We marched endless parade blocks during our evening rehearsals and polished parade tunes.
Around 4 a.m. on Dec. 5, 2016, the Marching Matadors and our band boosters assembled for our long journey across the Pacific. Nothing compared to the thrill of the performances and parade of Dec. 7.
After performing “God Bless America” with the mass band during the opening ceremony, drum majors from each band were able to step up to the stage and place flower leis on World War II veterans who had joined us that day. Following a Facebook Live broadcast and a number of silly antics, we marched to represent Arizona and the sunken battleship the USS Arizona.
From the Heart
During my time in band, I didn’t just learn to read scores or conduct 5/4 time. I found that leadership comes from the heart and varies with each group.
I also learned how to love and how love can shape a ragtag group of kids into a family. Through our many early mornings, caption awards, and sunsets watched together, we loved each other and found our best for each other.
Hey band, how do you feel?
About the Author
Cindy Yoo is a sophomore at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University in Tempe. She currently studies biological sciences with an emphasis in pre-med and a minor in English literature. While she no longer participates in band after graduating in 2017 from Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix, she continues to support the bands behind the scenes and from the bleachers.