Jet, Patriot drum majors lead by example
WRITTEN BY GREGG L. PARKER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSHUA BERRY
Six Madison teenagers lead hundreds of students as they entertain and compete for thousands of spectators. Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools each have three drum majors who command their bands.
Drum majors for Bob Jones are Madison Emmons, Sarah Mays and Walker White. Leigh Thomas is band director, and Kevin Smart is assistant director.
Emmons, a clarinetist, said she plans to major in music at the University of Alabama. “Being in band means that I’m a part of something. For most of my life, I’ve struggled with feeling alone … like there’s nowhere to feel safe. But band became a safe haven for me,” Emmons said. Her parents are Neil and Rebecca Emmons.
Mays plays clarinet and bass clarinet. As a band member, Mays said she knows she’s a component of “a wonderful program that has inspired thousands over the years.” Her parents are Steve Mays and Amy Mays.
White plays trombone and euphonium and is self-taught for piano. In band, White is “in a tight-knit family that has one similar goal: to get better,” White said. His parents are Jonathan White and Jessica White. Drum majors at James Clemens are Katie Daughtry, Jadon Sweat and Avery Williams. Keith Anderson is director, and Brian Sims serves as assistant. Daughtry plays mellophone and French horn. She said she’s considering Auburn University to study education.
To Daughtry, “‘Being in the band’ means combining musical ability and athleticism … and working together with my peers to create a memorable marching show and lasting friendships.” Her parents are Brandon and Shannon Daughtry.
Williams can play both woodwind and brass instruments – clarinet and mellophone. Tentatively, she said she plans to major in genetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“I’ve always liked to invest myself in other people’s success,” Williams said, “and becoming drum major allowed me to improve the band.” Her parents are Scott Williams and Tiffany McDaniel.
The drum majors all are seniors except Mays, who’s a junior.
Madison’s drum majors agreed that “being the example” is their primary responsibility. “The band follows us. We have to set a good example constantly, while also being down to earth and real,” Mays said.
Leadership skills are prerequisite, Williams said, with “passion to push the program to its best, maintaining our core values of excellence, integrity and unity. While we can be considered the ‘boss,’ I define drum majors as the servants of the band.”
Drum majors chalk-line practice fields, conduct halftime shows and warm-ups, lead workout exercises and follow football games to start and stop music in the stands.
Responsibilities can vary, however, from person to person. White, for example, also plays a euphonium solo for the Jets’ competition show.
For training, Madison’s drum majors completed leadership camps at the University of Alabama and other sessions. They also learn tips from relatives, friends and local directors.
Their shared challenge involves conducting techniques; they practice often to improve. Fatigue also can be a factor. However, their shared strengths are empathy for fellow band members and the drive to improve constantly.
For 2018, James Clemens’ halftime/competition show, “Days of Blue,” is set in the 1920-1930s during the Great Depression. In homage to George Gershwin, the timeless music features “I Got Rhythm,” “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Summertime.”
“The story arc is portrayed through a grandfather’s eyes, recounting to his grandson his story of the fall into the Great Depression, hustle to make a living, extravagance of the few upper-class in a jazz club setting and a renewal of hope that we can overcome as long as we do it together,” Williams said.
James Clemens Band has competed in the Trussville Marching Invitational, Hewitt-Trussville Husky Stadium; Peach State Marching Festival, Barron Stadium, Rome, Georgia; and Alabama State Marching Championships, Muscle Shoals High School.
A crowd pleaser, Bob Jones Band’s football show features a mashup of “Thriller” and “Uptown Funk,” followed by “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and “Dirty Pop.” The band’s competition show, “The Divide,” represents controversy and arguments related to current events and the global attitude, Emmons said. “The show’s storyline goes through the arguing, exasperation and exhaustion – then overcoming and becoming united even through our differences.”
Bob Jones Band’s contests have included Stones River Championship, Siegel High School, Murfreesboro, Tennessee; City Invitational, McGavock High School, Nashville, Tennessee; and Alabama State Championship.