Band Director Gives Insight to Section Leader Hopefuls

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The marching band — directed by Clifton Thurmond — allows students to apply to lead as section leaders or drum majors: this is a process that involves looking into a student’s character, achievement, and ability to lead.

Thurmond has taught band for 20 years, five at Lee’s Summit High School and 15 at West. He said he became a band teacher because he enjoyed the band in high school and college, where he majored in music.

Thurmond said he looks for outgoing, committed servants of the band to lead in the positions of the drum major and section leader. “Understanding that we’re all going to come from different walks of life and have different talent levels is important for our student leaders,” Thurmond said.

He said that the application process is comprised of an online application, letters of recommendation, and an interview with the band directors. “For drum major, there’s an actual audition where they will conduct and lead the band and some general marching basic skills to show their command,” Thurmond said. Finally, the band directors choose section leaders, while the drum majors are put to a student vote.

In addition to the formal application, Thurmond said he and Brandon Johnson, another director, are looking at the students’ entire year of work, along with their behavior. “How were you on February 15th during class? Did you show up on time during March and May? Everything that we do from the beginning to the end is all part of the audition,” Thurmond said.

Once chosen, student leaders are immediately held responsible for communication and organization. There is a leadership retreat in which those select students bond and learn to work together. “They will hold a couple of sectionals (or section meetings), or they’ll bond and do team building things and practice music and marching,” Thurmond said.

Thurmond said he advises students to consider their ability to commit to a leadership position before applying and to “make sure that they’re making a decision that’s best for the band, not best for their status. Being a section leader is a lot of extra work, so if you’re too busy, or if you don’t like more expected of you than what’s expected of a general member, then this isn’t the right position for you to apply for.”

Drum majors, Thurmond said, are equal to an extra band director. “The drum majors may have less power and fewer decision and discipline issues to deal with — I mean, that’s not their department — but a lot of the tasks and roles of the band director are fulfilled by the drum majors as well,” Thurmond said.

For the upcoming school year, Thurmond said he hopes “that [the band] continues to improve and provides the opportunity for kids to feel successful and have a great time while doing that.” 

The band team has students with musical history under their belts. Junior Isabella Christie has had music in her life since she was three years old, starting out with the violin. “I also played mellophone for marching band and trumpet for jazz band. Other instruments I have learned are ukulele, violin, guitar, and piano,” Christie said.

During middle school, Christie switched up and tried new instruments. “I switched to French horn — kind of a spur of the moment decision — and it has given me so many wonderful opportunities. I was a member of the district honor band in middle school and part of the junior all state,” Christie said.

Euphonium player, junior Mia Page, said that Thurmond has prepared her for the audition by making her more confident as a player. Additionally, “he’s made it very clear that the positions are not supposed to be for the title, but for the people who actually would want to be leaders,” Page said.

Page said she’d like to display open qualities as a leader. “I want to be someone who people feel comfortable talking to, but also a person who they respect.” Page, who applied for section leader, said she enjoys helping people and “making sure that [her] section members get the help they need.”

With Page wanting to be section leader, she would hope to inspire students.  “Ever since freshman year, I knew I wanted to be section leader because I saw all the section leaders and looked up to them. I was like, ‘oh, I want people to look up to me,’” Page said.

She said she plans to become a choir director in the future. “I started choir and band in 5th grade, and I just kind of continued on from there. It’s become so much of a passion that I want to pursue it after high school,” Page said. 

Leading music is something Page said she’ll be practicing, should she be chosen as a section leader. “I’d really like to learn how best to teach the underclassmen, and I hope to pass down my wisdom to them.”

Page said that she enjoys band because she feels they’re a close-knit group. “We’re a huge family. Even though you may not know every single person, you still have that bond that you’re in band together.” 

Aside from the relationships in the band, she said she values making music. “I also really love playing the instrument [Euphonium] because that’s more of a stress reliever for me. It’s just another outlet for me to express my musical passion,” Page said.

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