Help Your Drum Majors Prepare for the Competition Season

Help Your Drum Majors Prepare for the Competition Season

Now that your drum majors have a camp or two under their belts and all of the icebreakers are done, the real work of juggling classes and rehearsal begins. While every organization runs differently and each of us has a unique idea of what is expected from our student leaders, here are some ideas for how you can help your drum majors prepare for the competition season ahead.

Band Leadership Seminars

If there’s still time, enroll them in a band leadership seminar. There are many great programs out there hosted by people such as Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, Fran Kick, Jeremy Spicer, and Scott Lang that your student leaders could certainly benefit from.  

If there isn’t time left for a leadership seminar, give them other resources. Ideally, these are things that have inspired you in the past. They might include TED talks, podcasts, books, articles, or anything that inspires you not just by means of leadership, but by mindset as well.

It is important that you and your leadership team have similar ideas on leadership in order to have a successful season once school begins. It could also be beneficial to encourage your drum majors to send you resources they find inspirational so that you can better understand what appeals to them.

Set Up Regular Student Leadership Talks

We all start these types of meetings at the beginning of the season, but as the year goes on they tend to fall to the wayside. Make it the responsibility of the drum majors to continue these meetings between section leaders, drum majors, and staff and you will see how much easier and quickly your team can all get on the same page.

Give Them Some Autonomy

Student leaders love an opportunity to take the reins for a little while. Giving your drum majors small tasks beyond musical responsibilities not only frees up a bit of your time to plan and focus on the larger tasks, but will also give them a greater sense of investment in the organization as well as a platform on which to build trust.

Examples could include:

  • Running warm ups
  • Calling the water breaks during rehearsal
  • Scheduling sectionals

Remind Them That They Are Human

Drum majors are held to a high standard; they are supposed to set an example for the organization both on and off the field. Expecting perfection every day isn’t realistic and they will often need to be reminded of that. This isn’t to say that they shouldn’t still be held to a high standard, rather, they should feel comfortable owning a mistake they make and know that they are only human.

I’m usually not one to quote Vince Lombardi Jr., but to help drum majors understand this, I alway relay this: “We will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”

Help Your Drum Majors Prepare for the Competition Season 2

Be Sure they Practice the Salute for Retreat

I know this one sounds a little silly, but hear me out. Throughout the whole season, during the show, on the field and off the field, your drum majors are the face of your organization and at no other time are they more public than during retreat. All of the drum majors and all of the band members and all of the parents and all of the sponsors and all of the volunteers from all of the schools have their eyes on your Drum Major team as they announce your organization.

Too many times have I seen an uncoordinated drum major team slip up and botch the salute. And having been on both sides of this I can tell you it is beyond embarrassing. You can save yourself and your organization from this by having the drum majors practice this at the end of each rehearsal. It doesn’t take much time and it will serve your organization well to have a coordinated drum major team.

I hope that these tips spark new ideas that fit your program’s needs and can continue a dialogue between you and your student leadership team as we move into the competition season.

Photo credits: Tony Villalobos (practice) Domani Barkley (DCI World Championships)

CJ Garcia is an Engraver and Music Production Engineer at MakeMusic, where he helps create the content for the SmartMusic library. CJ earned a B.M. in composition from the Lamont School of Music, and was a drum major for the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps from 2012-2014.

When he isn’t writing music or absorbing the Colorado scenery, CJ enjoys losing himself in the land of Hyrule while playing the Legend of Zelda series.

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