Update (6/1/2007):Hey current and future drum majors, This article is being read dozens of time a day (by people just like you) and there is still no discussion on this article. Please leave us a line, tell us about you, your band -what you experience as a drum major, fears with tryouts etc. We would love to hear from you and have a conversation with you! Let’ start a conversation about this today! Again you can remain anonymous if you would like or provide a link to your band page in the website box at the end of this article! ~J. Pisano :)
Lately, MUSicTECHnology.net has been searched a lot for “drum major help” and “drum major advice”. I guess it’s that time of the year! In August of last year, I had a student submit an article about helpful drum major warm-ups and I published it. It was well done, very insightful and will provide another great reference for current drum majors or those seeking to be a drum major.
As a marching band director, conductor and adjudicator, I have specific ideas about what I look for when considering a drum major and what is expected of them throughout the year. I have composed a list of a dozen items that I feel are necessary attributes for a good drum major to have.
Each band director will have their own ideas about what constitutes a good candidate for a drum major or a good drum major. This list is not exhaustive but it does provide a good framework for thought.
There is one pre-requisite that all drum major candidates must have before any of the following is considered and that is a strong desire to actually be a drum major. Some people may have all the qualities listed in this article and more but if they don’t really have the desire to become a drum major then they should not consider it as a matter of practicality.
1. Drum majors must be masters of meter, rhythm and time:
A drum major that does not have a good sense of rhythm and an “internal clock” to keep and provide a tempo is not much use on the field.
2. Drum majors must be clear and concise in their conducting patterns:
A drum major that does not provide a clear ictus and an even takt is doing more harm than good to the ensemble. Clear, large, easily visible patterns are more useful than fancy and ornate ones.
3. Drum majors must be respected by their peers:
A drum major that does not have the respect of their peers will find themselves having a very difficult time being in the leadership role.
4. Drum majors must be respected by their directors:
A person that has not earned the trust and approval of their directors will find themselves not being a drum major in the first place.
5. Drum majors need to be disciplined:
If a drum major is undisciplined in their day to day routines and with their course work, they will not be disciplined on the field. In order to be an effective drum major, scores and routines need to be memorized, resolving field placement issues needs to be second nature and there are a host of other things that need to organized, deployed and implemented by the drum major. Unorganized people will find these tasks daunting if not impossible.
6. Drum majors must have a resilient personality:
Being a drum major is not for the meek. There will be times when you will feel pressure from both your peers and directors. Drum majors need to be able to channel all the feedback they get, both positive and negative, into the proper places and learn and grow from it.
7. Drum majors must have a commanding presence:
The drum major must execute their whistle commands and vocal commands with authority. They must direct with confidence. They must act the leader, play the leader and become the leader that the drum major role demands.
8. Drum majors must have the heart of a servant:
The drum major is not an all glory role nor should it be thought as such. In actuality, the drum major is a servant on multiple levels. They serve the ensemble, they serve the composers, they serve the directors, they serve their school or organization and most importantly they serve the musicians and drum majors of tomorrow by providing a model and blazing a path for them.
9. Drum majors are part of a team and they need to be be an integral member of the team:
The drum major is a key component in a larger community, the band itself. The best leaders are both leaders AND “team players”. The drum major doesn’t have to have all the answers; however, they need to know where to get them and more importantly: how to work through them when needed. The band is a group and every single person has their own important role.
10. Drum majors need to be in good physical shape:
Directing the ensemble from the field is exhausting. Drum majors are called upon to climb ladders, run up and down the field, wield the mace, direct while moving backwards and deal with a lot of other mental and physical challenges. A person who is not in shape may find themselves in a medical predicament that they do not want nor need to be in.
11. Drum majors need to be huge supporters of the band and inspirational:
There are few people that can inspire the band to get “pumped” like their own drum majors. Drum majors need to be able to inspire the band to be the best that they can be and after a hard day of performing or rehearsing, the drum major needs to not only reflect on what needs to be fixed but also what was done well. The band members require constant encouragement and feedback.
12. Drum majors need to realize they are human too.
Often times it seems the weight of the “world” is brought to the shoulders of the drum major. A drum major is not super human, nor are they expected to be. A good drum major is able to let down at times and enjoy what is happening around them. Mistakes will be made, learn from them. I was once told that perfection is the enemy of true excellence. Nothing will ever be “perfect” but we can make things better and we can be excellent! True perfection is unattainable and if you focus on every little thing that is going wrong you will never realize the amazing things your band has accomplished on their journey.
The drum major is not alone in these roles and the burden of theses responsibilities are carried by many. The directors, advisors, officers, section leaders, squad leaders, and the members themselves all share and are part of the “community”. To be an effective leader you must be able to see the “big picture” and realize that every single band member, audio/visual and band managers included, have large roles to play. All members are part of the “whole” and when the band is excited about being the band (Esprit de Corp) and everyone is functioning in their capacities -success will, no doubt, follow.
I would appreciate your comments or additional thoughts! Please drop us a line and/or leave a note of encouragement for all those reading this post by replying below!
[tags] marching band, drum major, music, advice, tips, help [/tags]
Joseph M. Pisano
Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.
For Marching Band section leader/drum major tryouts we have to write an essay in addition to everything else for the audition. I tend to have trouble starting an essay and finishing it and i might ramble or repeat things multiple times. So I'm here just asking for some feedback, comments, suggestions, critique. Thank You!
Please respond to the following. Attach additional pages if necessary.
Describe your past involvement/experience in marching band.
Explain why you are auditioning for this position.
What makes you the best candidate for this position?
My high school career and personal being can be defined by marching band. Being a member of the Delran High School Golden Regiment has taught me more about myself, respect for others, having fun, seriousness and about positive experiences more than anything else I have ever participated in, and I would love the opportunity and privilege to be a student leader for the 2012 "Golden Regiment" marching band season.
I have spent two years marching in the "Golden Regiment' and my senior year in high school will be my third, and sadly, last. When I think of marching band and my past experiences these few years, the main thing that comes to mind is the comradery that has been formed between all of the members of this band; which in some ways becomes our second family. I think of the lessons I have learned about being a part of a group and putting needs of others above yourself. I have been honored to have the extremely rewarding feeling that comes with being a part of a group; especially a group like our "golden machine" that plays music, performs a show and tells a story at the same as it tests an individual both mentally and physically. My years of marching on the filed as a bass drum and performing as a member of the pit percussion section have given me a new sense of pride that can not be earned any other way.
In my years of being a member of the percussion section of our marching band I've had student leaders that have helped me successfully get through my first year of band while improving as a musician, marcher and person. Section leaders, in my opinion, are the people of the closer group of musicians playing the same instrument that help motivate the members of the section. They are the people that inspire the rest of the section to play well, meet their personal expectations and ultimately, exceed them. I am auditioning for this position because I would like to join the legacy of extremely important and influential people on and off the field that inspire a section to perform to the best of their ability and beyond it.
A student leader should be a person who can lead by example as well as words, helps to reinforce instructions given by instructors, and exemplifies authority by using respect. I feel as if I am the best candidate for this position because I can do all of these things. [I've learned that true leadership requires action and example in addition to the words that come out of one's mouth and I know that I already and will continue to do this. (?)] A section leader needs to be reliable and dependable, honest, willing to go the extra mile to make a section the best that it can be, committed, personable, and always ready to do any and everything necessary to make a section and the band the best that it can be. I believe I possess these qualities and my willingness to use them makes me the best candidate for this position.
Marching band itself, the instructors and student leaders have had a huge impact on my life and have molded me into a better musician and human being, and I feel extremely grateful, honored and privileged to be a member of this ensemble, and I would love to be a drumline/percussion section leader for the 2012 "Golden Regiment" marching season at Delran High School.
Notes: I didn't want to make it too long, as it was for student leadership and not an English class, but please be tough. I really want this to be stellar. Thank you sooooo much for reading!
I don't think DEFINED is the right word to use there at the beginning. Those things are not defined by band. They might be comprised entirely of activities associated with marching band... but that would be a little hyperbolic. But still, it is okay to say they are comprised entirely of activities associated with marching band, or you can say they are focused more on marching band practice than anything else.
...exemplifies authority by using respect---I don't know what this part means. I think maybe you can explain it in a clearer way.
Honestly, I think this part is too obvious. What you are saying is true, but it is just too common, a simple discussion of what leadership means. So... I think you have to write something that is unique because of the way it reflects your unique vision and life situation. Your unique story makes it possible to have a very unique theme for this essay.
Marching band itself, the instructors and student leaders have had a huge impact on my life and have molded me into a better musician and human being, and I feel extremely grateful, honored and privileged to be--I think this part at the end is great.