How to become a Successful
High School Drum Major
by Rick Wilson
Drum majoring is a skill that is learned and developed. It is not something that is merely picked-up on a weekend. However, there are some things you can do that will make you a better drum major. They are listed below.
These tips are based on the experience gained over the past twenty plus years while training hundreds of drum majors and while grooming many of the top competitors on the West Coast.
1. Practice regularly
Set aside a specific time to practice. I have observed that top competitive drum majors set aside a specific time to work. If you wait until you have some "free time" to practice, you may never touch your baton or mace. Create your practice time by putting it into your schedule and having the discipline to get your practicing done.
2. Plan your practice sessions
Establish a regular practice sequence. By knowing in advance what you are going to get done in that practice session you will waste less time and get more done. Some of my best performers didn't always practice more that my other students, but they did always practice more efficiently.
3. Watch other drum majors perform
The problem with competing in band competitions is that you often don't get to watch any other drum majors. Watching others perform is one way to learn what to do and what not to do. If there are any half-time competitions, parades or band reviews in your local area, go and enjoy the show. You'll be amazed at how much you can learn in one afternoon.
4. Compete in solo competitions
Solo competitions are a wonderful place to gain practical experience performing. They allow novices a place to get rid of performance fears and old timers a chance to keep their skills sharp.
A word of advice. Don't take any competition too seriously. All any competition does is give one judge's opinion about one set of performances on a given day. No competition I have ever been to has ever measured the true test of a drum major, how well they can lead their band.
5. Enjoy what you are doing
Drum majoring is a performing art, as is music, dancing or theater. Work to get the full satisfaction out of performing. A well done performance with an applauding crowd is fun. Enjoy it.
Drum majoring is also a leadership art. Always work towards the goal of helping your band being the best it can be. If you do, you will have a very satisfying time as a drum major.
Try new things. Experiment with your conducting or spinning skills. You will soon discover new moves and start to develop a performing style that is unique. Drum majors that have a good solid understanding of the basics and have a unique performing style are often the ones in the winners circle.
7. Go to camp
There are a number of drum major training camps that are held around the country during the summer. Attending a camp will expose you to a number of different styles and instructors. It will also expose you to a large number of other drum majors. Besides being a great deal of fun, you can often learn as much from the other students as you do from the teachers. There is a list of camps you may want to consider on the Resources page.
8. Get ongoing professional training
The fastest way to achieve a high level of skill is to get professional help. An experienced instructor can quickly refine your techniques. You will gain the benefit of his or her years of experience.
Return to the Drum Major Information Center