Playing in your high school band is a commitment that will give you many fond memories to look back on for the rest of your life. High school is a time to socialize and discover yourself, so if music is something you are passionate about, what better way to express that than by joining the band? Nothing is more rewarding than working hard with your fellow friends and bandmates to perfect your performance and finally getting a chance to perform it at a competition, football game, or other band-related event.
However, no group effort can reach its full potential without some kind of leadership, and marching band is no exception. This is where the role of the drum major comes into play; the drum major is, among many other things, responsible for leading the band, whether it be during practice or a performance. Being drum major is a huge honor, but it does not come without hard work, dedication, and practice. If you are considering becoming a drum major in your high school band, below are some drum major tips that will help you reach your goal.
What Does it Take to Be a Drum Major?
Above all else, being musically proficient is the best of all drum major tips. This does not simply mean knowing how to read music and being able to play your instrument; it means understanding how music is created and structured (music theory), being skilled enough at your instrument that playing it becomes second nature, and also knowing how to march with precise timing and accuracy. While some people may feel like they don’t have what it takes to become skilled in these areas, you can certainly improve with practice. Some people may be born with natural musical talent, but anyone with the right mindset can learn any skill they set their mind to! Working with a private instructor will also help immensely.
Leadership skills are also essential to become a drum major. Good leadership can mean different things to different people, but a few universal traits of an exceptional leader include being firm in your decisions, knowing how to gain and hold the attention of a group, and having good problem-solving skills. If you’re uncomfortable holding a leadership position and do not like having responsibility, then maybe being a drum major isn’t for you; this does not mean, however, that a quiet or shy person cannot be a drum major. Leadership is all about figuring out the best way to lead a group toward a goal, which can be done by anyone with ambition.
Another drum major tip to master the ability to conduct. Without anyone conducting the band, the music can get sloppy. Conducting is a skill that takes time and patience to master, so consider learning from a qualified teacher to receive the best learning experience.
How Do I Become a Drum Major? Tips for Students
While the requirements and processes involved in becoming drum major can vary from school to school, there are typically five general areas that candidates will be tested on to prove their worth as a drum major. Keep in mind that these divisions are not set in stone, but the skills involved in each are helpful to master:
Parade: The purpose of this section is primarily to test the candidate’s physical proficiency. Typically, all candidates are given a recording of a march prior to the trial, and your job is to create a routine to accompany it. You are judged on the ability to march in a concise manner and on your creativity and originality as a drum major and musician.
Field: This section is meant to test your conducting ability. You may be placed in a situation similar to a field performance, and asked to conduct the band in a mock performance. Clarity, precision, and confidence are important for this section, because it’s meant to test your ability to lead and conduct the band in a performance setting.
Teaching: This is another section of your audition that requires superb leadership skills. You might be given a small group of band members to teach a simple routine or command to, and you’ll then be judged on how well you can communicate with the group and how quickly you can teach them.
Interview: The purpose of this section should be fairly clear. You’ll likely be interviewed by your superiors, which may include your band director and possibly a drum major selection committee. Each candidate will usually be asked the same questions, all meant to measure your particular skillset: leadership, musical proficiency, ability to conduct, and anything else relevant to the position.
Vote: In some schools, the rest of the band might vote for who they think is the best choice for drum major. The purpose of the vote is to allow everyone in the band to give their input, because since the drum major will lead the band, it is only fitting that their opinion on who the leader should be is considered.
There are plenty of other drum major tips you can utilize if you wish to become a drum major, but this should provide a good starting point for you. Being the drum major for a band can be a demanding and sometimes difficult task, but it’s a rewarding experience, and something that will look great on your resume!
If you are serious about it, taking private music lessons and practicing regularly is the best way to improve yourself and become the leader that drum majors need to be. Good luck in your musical endeavors, and even if the position of drum major doesn’t seem right for you, remember that there are plenty of other opportunities for musical expression; anyone with passion for music belongs in the band, so find the right position for you and excel at it!
Photo by Renee Silverman