Student drum majors conduct band through pandemic

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Photo by: Francisco Castaneda

Seniors Emma Annan-Noonoo (left) and Sarah Stebbins (right) prepare to conduct

Story by Ashlan Brooks and Mattie Vacca

After the second quarter of the home game against Atchison on Oct. 16, the halftime show begins. The people in the stands watch the newly emptied field as the marching band files into neat rows, their posture erect and their instruments poised. 

A platform is carried from the sidelines and placed on the 50-yard line. A hush falls over the stadium as the drum major steps up and lifts her arms. Instruments snap up in unison and a collective breath is heard. With the flick of her wrist, the band begins to play.

At any given performance, one of the drum majors- seniors Emma Annan-Noonoo or Sarah Stebbins- can be seen conducting the band in the place of Band Director Cooper Neil. 

Everybody thinks it means that you have drums but it doesn’t,” Stebbins, first-year drum major, said. “[We] are basically just student leader[s] of the band. We do everything Neil can’t do. We get the band warmed up and get them in their spots so that they’re ready for when Neil comes outside.”

It’s really a good position to be in because it shows that you can have leadership over a big group.”

— Sarah Stebbins

Some of their other responsibilities include correcting their fellow students’ marching and retrieving forgotten items at rehearsals.

Being a drum major requires a special set of skills and circumstances. The majors are picked based on which instrument sections have players to spare.

“We hold auditions, and you have to be a junior or a senior to audition,” Stebbins said. “Then Neil picks out of the group of people that audition.”

After Noonoo and Stebbins were selected, they should have participated in band camp over the summer. However, it was canceled due to the pandemic. During that week of camp, they would have taught the new freshmen players to march and adjust to being a part of a high school band. 

“We didn’t have the things that we needed to make sure we had a safe experience yet, which means that new marchers didn’t know how to march, and not everybody had learned their music together,” Noonoo said. “We had to take all of those eight-hour days and spread them out over all of this time. That’s why it took us so long to get to the point where we could perform a halftime show.”

While things haven’t been exactly normal this season, the band has been taking precautions to ensure that they will have future performances.

“It’s been a very different season, but I’m still really happy that we’ve had it. Some bands aren’t getting to play and so I’m grateful that we’ve been able to do that,” Noonoo said. “Mr. Neil has done a fantastic job of keeping us safe. He’s taking a lot of precautions and we really appreciate that.”

Throughout the pandemic, Noonoo and Stebbins have stepped up and shown they can manage, despite the pandemic. This is a skill that Stebbing hopes colleges will admire.

“It’s really a good position to be in because it shows that you can have leadership over a big group,” Stebbins said. “And a lot of bands look for that. [It shows them that] we know how to play our instruments and be student leaders.”