In stressful situations, remember to work together rather than tear each other apart.
Change is never easy for a large group to take in stride. In 2015 during my freshman year, the West Branch High School Warrior Band in Beloit, Ohio, went through many huge changes. A color guard, majorette line, and drum majors were added.
Being in any of these new groups was very difficult. The band was very hesitant to listen to a drum major as opposed to a director. The drum majors had a hard time getting respect from the band.
By the next year, the drum majors got a little bit better. A lot of hours of work and some serious trial and error have made a huge difference.
After two years in the guard, I was asked to try out for drum major, and I made it.
Leader in Training
In the month and a half between drum major tryouts and band camp, I realized that the band wouldn’t take me seriously if I weren’t good at what I do. The hard thing about being new to having drum majors is that there really isn’t a huge line of leaders before you to set a standard of expectations.
I spent most of my summer watching baton-twirling tutorials from The Ohio State University Marching Band. It is definitely difficult, but eventually I can pass on the things I learn onto the next drum major. Everything has a beginning, and I just happen to be at the beginning of this particular unit.
Being drum major has made a huge impact on my leaderships skills. Early in the summer, I was a leader in training at a band and music theater camp where I also got to take classes on the best ways to lead.
Being drum major has given me an amazing opportunity to use these skills in real-life situations.
In the Same Direction
In the past the new auxiliary units were very disliked by the band. It was very difficult to stay positive and feel like a part of the “band family” created in years before. The band was bigger than in the past, and it was very difficult to get the entire group to work together in the same direction without tearing each other apart. This friction has greatly decreased but still needs work.
Working together for the best interest of the group is one of the main reasons I wanted to try out for drum major. I got to see firsthand how a smaller section, such as the guard, could improve more when the rest of the band became more accepting of it. In my opinion, the best thing for our band moving forward would be to build support to help the entire group thrive. All of that sounds great in theory, but putting it into action has been difficult.
The Band Always Wins
Something that I have heard before every performance is: “The band always wins.” This phrase has come to mean more to me than I ever imagined. Watching the band grow in size and ability has shown me that even when the band is facing a difficult time, we still win. Our band’s capacity to take change and turn it into continuous growth keeps our band strong. No matter the outcome of a performance, we are able to take it in stride and be better for next time.
My freshman year we also started a tradition of doing Ohio State’s “Script Ohio” in our show for the last half of the season. We spent many long nights working on the routine.
We would wait for the football team to finish using the practice field. The field didn’t have lights, and it was nearly dark by the time the band got on the field. This dilemma didn’t stop us. Band members became very creative in attaching their phone flashlights to their clothes or instruments. Some even brought headlamps. We must have looked ridiculous, but it was the first step to being performance ready.
Even with the many hours put in, the debut of the show didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped. The band might not have won that week, but we did in the long run because of our ability to work through a down time. We were able to turn around and practice to be better for the following week.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to future drum majors is to take change in stride. Never let one bad practice or performance stop you from being the best band you can be tomorrow.
When you are a drum major, the band looks to you. If you are positive and helpful, the band will benefit greatly. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone has specific talents that they bring to the band, and when those are all focused in the right direction, the group can go further than ever imagined. Keep the faith and remember: “The band always wins!”
About the Author
Kylie Dean is a junior at West Branch High School in Beloit, Ohio. She plays flute, bassoon, and piano and was on the color guard for two years. This year she is a drum major in the marching band. Kylie hopes to continue her music career into college and get a degree in music performance.