By Eleni Bow
Imagine being granted a position you’ve been yearning for all your high school career. However, a realization sweeps over you – you’re not in school anymore, are you even able to participate?
This is what was bouncing around in Allison Wright’s mind as she earned the position of a drum major.
The senior had been wanting this leadership position since she was in seventh grade at Wes-Del. Her teacher at the time, Zach Enos, is now in his third year at Delta. He had watched her grow and improve through the years, and knew she’d be a good fit to lead.
“I’ve been through a lot and band has always been a safe place for me, so I worked really hard to get the position,” Wright says.
She had made the difficult decision to attend school virtually to protect herself from Covid-19, but it isn’t necessarily a walk in the park.
While still trying her best to limit exposure, Wright returns to Delta each day to attend the woodwind band class for sixth period. She plans to return in person next semester, but is still weighing the pros and cons. “I have to take the risk of returning to school to ultimately do what’s best for me socially and academically,” Wright says.
With the band split into two class periods this year, Wright has been working with the woodwind section of the overall class.
She hadn’t started out knowing what to do, of course. “The drum major does a lot to learn about the right way to conduct and keep the band in time,” she says. “It’s harder than it looks!”
When at the school, Wright performs both technical and general tasks. Along with keeping the band director organized and keeping everyone on track, she leads her section of the band at the Friday night football games, especially at halftime.
She conducts the band and keeps in time during their show, and offers constructive criticism afterward.
“I want things done right and I’m not afraid to speak up about it, but I also try to joke and have a good time with everyone as well,” Wright says. “I’m sort of like a mom.”
Her motherly nature shines through when reminding everyone to put their uniforms away after a game.
Being a drum major is more than just a title to her.
“I really love everyone in the band and it’s a big deal to me, the same way a senior football player may take leadership over his team,” she says.
The band wouldn’t be where it is today without practice, however.
Along with playing an instrument, students have to understand their sheet music and keep in time with their movements on the field. “It’s much more of an art form than people give it credit for,” Wright says.
Even with the challenge of working with nearly 50 other people, the band thrives and inspires with its craft. The group continues to grow and accomplish, all while having fun.
While working with others, she does her best to care for each individual.
“I hope everyone in band knows that they can count on me in and out of band to be there for them, even if we don’t know each other well,” she says. “I try to convey that I care and that I know that life isn’t always easy. When I’ve gone through hard times, I always had band to fall back on, and I want to provide that same safety to others.”
Kindness and understanding are cornerstones to success for any position. Wright tries to balance getting to know her peers while building on their skills.
“Of course, I love playing and conducting music too, but it’s the connection that keeps me going. We really are a family,” she says.
Like a true family, Wright’s fellow band members appreciate and look up to her. Sophomore Lauren Buckley says Wright is always keen to keep her woodwind section in line. “She’s like the ringleader, and we’re the rest of the circus,” Buckley says.
With the band now holding class in the auditorium for social distancing, the group is now split into class periods, with the brass section taking place during fifth period.
Along the woodwind group, the brass group needs a leader. Enter Kaleb Keys, senior.
When he’s not playing his trombone, Keys works with his group as drum major, which he sees more as a “public servant” type of role.
He usually can be found checking in with the section leaders or students struggling with their music. If a piece is too difficult for them, Keys will help them move to a lower difficulty or take them back to the basics.
Keys often doesn’t need to give more motivation than they already have, however.
“The great thing about band is that almost every kid in that room in there is motivated already,” he says. “They love it so much to the point where it doesn’t matter what position you can put the band in, they’re gonna work.”
Besides possessing teaching skills, Keys is a strong believer in having compassion.
“If you can help others, you can understand others’ situations,” he explains. “When you teach, you start to see how people think and understand things, and that allows you to fix situations or reasoning easier.” He does his best to understand other’s upbringings and idiosyncrasies.
While he does possess some strong skills, he knows he still has a lot to learn. Taking some tips from his Boy Scouts handbook, Keys applies them to be the best he can be, for himself and others.
He constantly self-evaluates to figure out what he can do better. “You never understand one thing fully, you just got to keep working on yourself,” he says.
Keys tries to see the Covid-19 restrictions in a positive light, seeing them as a mere “growing pain” for the band. “Without Covid, I would probably be running around on my feet like a headless chicken more, but it’s not a huge thing,” he says.
While connection is harder in the auditorium, self-awareness has increased. Students are able to hear themselves play better and can make corrections accordingly.
During the rest of his time as drum major, Keys hopes to improve the band as much as possible. A big factor was Delta’s Athletic Department allowing the group to put on their halftime shows. Besides entertaining the few fans, their performances gave Delta a leg up on marching competitions, since the school has now gotten an extra year of practice. The other schools in and around Delaware County had to cancel their marching season this year.
With all the hard work that goes into the band, some people may come up with the misconception that band is very serious business. However, Keys believes otherwise.
“It’s a blast. Most people think it’s like some nerdy generic thing, but we have shenanigans — within limits of course — but it’s really fun and enjoyable,” he says.
Both Keys and Wright had to prove their capability for their positions in a variety of ways. Along with writing an essay about their desire for the job, the candidates are also being constantly evaluated by Mr. Enos. “I think of them sort of like an ‘avatar’ for the band; they represent the highest ideal of a band student, so I try to choose carefully,” he says.
Enos takes note of their actions as soon as the start of junior year. “Many people focus on the conducting side of their duties, but that is probably the least impactful thing they do,” he says. “It’s all about setting the right example and helping the band grow and do things right.”
While they only hold their position of leadership for their senior year, the impacts and teachings of a drum major can be astronomical.