Life in Band and As a Drum Major

A question that I’ve been asked a lot recently is “What is a Drum Major?” Not only that question but others too such as “Is being a Drum Major hard?”, “What do you do as a Drum Major?”, and “How do you become Drum Major?” Drum Majors have been around for hundreds of years. The term “Drum Major” found in print dates as far back to 1598. The first modern-era Drum Major was Edwin “Tubby” Essington(1920-22) who was Drum Major for The Ohio State University Marching Band. The Drum Major Academy which provides students with marching, leadership, and conducting training, was founded in 1978 by George N. Parks. My teachings about being a Drum Major came from the band director here at GWHS and all that I know about being a Drum Major wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for GWHS band director, Mr. Sims.

According to my experiences as a Drum Major, a Drum Major is someone who leads and conducts the band. By being Drum Major you’re almost like a band assistant to the director because one of the responsibilities is making sure everyone is behaving, not doing things they’re not supposed to, you might be helping other band members, and more. To be Drum Major you have to audition at the end of your junior year. Since Mr. Sims has been at GWHS there have been 15 Drum Majors and to my surprise there have been more female Drum Majors than there have been male and a few female Drum Majors were Drum Major twice. Another name for Drum Major is Field Commander because you give out commands to the band to get on and off the field to perform. Being a Drum Major at first for me was a little overwhelming because it was like all the pressure of the band was on my shoulders, but somehow I adapted quickly and soon standing on a ladder in front of the band was nothing, but routine. 

According to GWHS band director, Mr. Sims, there might not be only one Drum Major, there could be two, three, even four or five. That might sound like a lot, but you would only need that many if the band is really big, and how that works is you will have one Drum Major in the middle conducting as if that one is the only Drum Major and the other Drum Majors will look at the middle Drum Major and conduct with the middle Drum Major. It might sound complicated but it isn’t once you have seen the arrangement. I saw the arrangement when I went to Band Day in Huntington, Wv, with the rest of the GWHS band, and got to practice with Marshall’s Band on the college Campus. According to all of my experiences of being in a band, a trip we call Band Day is only one of the few that we take in a year. There are competitions, Away Football Games, Parades, Ratings, the band’s jazz band performs at Home basketball games, and band members can audition in Charleston for All-State, which is by far the hardest thing to try and be in for a band.

Competitions are something that a bunch of Bands come to, and compete against other bands. Competitions are hard and the only way to prepare for them is to go to summer band which normally starts in July and can go into the second week of August. Band members are required to attend at least seven days of summer band in order to be in band, it’s almost like an audition to be in band. The music has been different every year and is chosen by the seniors in band right at the end of their junior year. The competitions are what you would see us performing at half-time at the home football games, which is easier because at competitions you have judges for everything from music, marching, the Drum Major, and more. The band will sometimes go to one Away Football game that isn’t a play-off game, but if the Football team goes to play-offs, the band goes to play-offs too. The band does go to be in parades and they are just like marching the half-time show, physically demanding. Ratings is like a competition, but in concert form. Ratings normally go on in March or April, and the band gets music that the judges pick and travel to where the judges are. The band can get ratings from 1 to 5, where 1 is the best that you can get. The band’s jazz band is a jazz band where there isn’t a conductor and the jazz band is made up of a few members that are already in the band. This year is my first year and there are twelve members in the jazz band. The jazz band performs at Home basketball games and at concerts. All-State is the hardest thing a band member can try and be in because the competition is extremely high, the judges only select a small number of band members, and you have to memorize a number of scales and play them perfectly 

Mr. Sims is my favorite band teacher and one of my favorite teachers at GWHS. He started out playing the trombone in 5th grade and has played ever since. He kept going into high school and learned that he loved band and music and he soon found out that he could teach music. He pursued his newfound dream and had no idea what he was getting himself into, but he learned that he loved the challenge and the satisfaction from playing the hard pieces of music and years later here we are with a knowledgeable guy with knowledge not only in music, but in the real world and he has taught me so much about music and how to be a good Drum Major. But it’s not just Mr. Sims that taught me about being a Drum Major, it was the band as a whole that taught me. How they reacted to me, talked to me, viewed me, looked at me. It was all teaching me to be a leader, to step up and be not only a role model to the underclassmen, but to be able to be a leader that isn’t afraid.