A visit with the new drum majors

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Photo by Carlie Clem

Senior drum major Madison Norton works with band members during summer practice.

Story by Brad Lenaway, staff writer

The sun bears down upon the full ensemble in the midsts of the August heat. Sweat rolls down everyone’s faces as they stand at attention.

Both drum majors look as their peers, hot, exhausted and waiting for the bittersweet moment of leaving to go inside to the air conditioned band hall.

The order to “reset,” is called out and the hopes they all had to go in slips slowly into the distance and is replaced with abysmal irritation.

Recently the band program underwent a significant change; lead band director Buddy Deese retired. Arnie Lawson has assumed command, and with his new reign, brought change in the eyes of many.

The new drum majors, senior Madison Norton and junior Selwin George, now face this era of change, and must endure the woes of the populous of the band, whether they are good or not.

Now, it is the chance to see how these new drum majors are dealing with the band in its new swing of change.

Q: What all has been changed to the marching part of the marching band fundamentally?

Selwin: As far as our marching fundamentals, much has changed in that of a specific style, that being a corps type style (meaning the way marching is done professionally in drum corps). It really is just kind of different though, more subtle things. If anything, I feel that it is going to help because, I mean, it’s easier and some of the operations are not really too different.

Madison:  I agree, but I would say it is a stricter process now to how we learn as well. It is very nit-picky on how we are having to teach everything compared to how things were taught last year.

Q: So would you say that these changes might benefit the band compared to last year?

Madison: It’s just different—I mean every year that I have been here, we have changed something. For example, how the trumpets hold their horns, that has changed every year that I have been here, so it’s really just another year but with more changes, though granted the change with the trumpets this past year was a great a change, so the changes this year just might be the same.

Selwin: I would just like to say that as a band, regardless of what changes happen, or as a group really, we never want to let ourselves be any worse than the previous year, so I believe they will benefit us in some way, be it whatever.

Q: How would you say the band members feel about all the new changes? Are they taking the changes well by what you have witnessed?

Madison: It has gone better than what I had expected in all honesty. I was expecting people to be more stubborn with leaving the old ways. But to the contrary, more people are having a better mentality with all that is different, and I believe that’s why they are taking it well.

Selwin: Yeah, that’s the main thing that determines our pace and how well we like something; it’s just our willingness to adapt, of course that’s pretty obvious, but we have had definitely more open–mindedness.

Q: Selwin, how do you deal with the comments or complaints of your peers over whether they like the changes or not? Is each class different?

Selwin: It’s not so much by class, but by person. In our band, we have a very wide range of diversity, and that’s isn’t meant by a cultural thing, but by personalities, different levels of talkativeness and participation—so, when people usually have a complaint, we have just really been taught to explain why we do something, and do it quickly; that way we can do things in the most efficient way possible. So no it’s not so much the class or any specific person in that matter. And if there are any comments or complaints brought to me or Madison, we have been instructed to tell Mr. Lawson, that way a plan can be rethought of and to make work. He isn’t trying to setup a regime, but simply make a fluent system that works.

Q: Madison, if you could give a status of the band’s morale at this point, after seeing their reaction to all that has happened and what might happen, what would you say it to be?

Madison: Well, today, just today for example, everyone was really tired and annoyed with repetition of fundamental practice— it really is getting harder and harder just to be excited. It’s hard to stay positive, but that is because we are getting very tired with beginning fundamental practice, though tomorrow is a new day and, with us starting drills, I think the morale will get better and better.

Q: Lastly, how do you both feel the band will do this year with all that has happened? Do you think the changes will truly be seen by the fans and onlookers in the stands?

Selwin: If we are measured by the way we look, and this isn’t a degrading thing, but to the common eye, on one performance on one Friday night out of the year, we aren’t just suddenly going to become something completely different, because three fourths of our band is the same members as last year, but I think people will begin noticing that we are having better musicians, and that we are having more pride in what we do. We are always trying to be better and we can say that people will start seeing us as we look better, but I think one thing that they’ll start noticing is that we take a little bit more seriousness in what we’re doing and that is something that has changed. In all, I think we will do very well.

Madison:  I agree with Selwin completely, the effect will be slow, but I believe also that we will become better than last year and continue to rise in greatness. And I am just going to add, that it doesn’t really matter who is in command, it doesn’t matter who the band director is, it doesn’t matter what changes we make, it matters only on how well the members can and will do themselves. I mean all a person wants to do is be the best they can be and if that should mean that they are better than yesterday, then that’s the only difference there needs to be made. And that, is the difference we are trying to make— be better than yesterday and greater tomorrow by the work we do today.