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“I’m done!” our frustrated band director shouted, throwing his baton down on his stand and storming into his office. If this was his way to motivate the Band to try harder, it didn’t work. All 250 members of the largest high school band in Virginia just sat there, no one daring to break the fragile silence. A minute later, our director still hadn’t come out, and the rehearsal was getting nowhere. I decided that I would rather have a productive rehearsal than just sit there staring at the wall, so I got up and took charge.
Even though I was only a junior at the time, I was the Drum Major. My role was not only to conduct the band, but effectively lead them as well. So, while our director recomposed himself, I ran through spots in the show that I felt needed work and I taught the band about conveying emotion through playing. I gave background on the piece, Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, and how certain instruments play different characters in the story of communism that Shostakovich was telling through music. The band played with a newfound enthusiasm and the music had a liveliness to it that I had not previously heard. I also called a meeting with the section leaders to discuss what the problems were in terms of marching, and their ideas on how to fix it. We compiled a list of spots that needed work and I gave it to my director, still sitting in his office.
That afternoon, we fixed those spots during rehearsal and eventually went on to earn our 37th consecutive rating of “Superior” at the state assessment, the longest streak of any marching band in Virginia. Of course it was not just that one moment in rehearsal that led to our success- it was a culmination of the leadership of the drum majors, section leaders, and directors, and most importantly the hard work of each individual member. Each of those 250 musicians had the capability to earn that 37th superior rating from the beginning. As a leader, I just helped them realize it.
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