Drum Majors, Conducting The Marching Band Into A Promising Season

The Drum Majors-- Abby Putnam, Joshua Carlson, and Spencer Hardyk -- in the music wing after the first football game of the 2023-2024 season. Photo taken on Sept. 1, 2023
The Drum Majors– Abby Putnam, Joshua Carlson, and Spencer Hardyk — in the music wing after the first football game of the 2023-2024 season. Photo taken on Sept. 1, 2023
Lisa Wang

Likely known as ‘those people that wear the funny hats and wave their arms around’ in front of the marching band, the drum majors play a crucial role in leading the State High Marching Band through the football season. Without their skillful conducting and strong leadership, the marching band would not be able to perform their half-time shows, or successful marching pre-game or post-game. Given the hefty responsibilities placed upon the drum majors, there are three to balance out the workload. This season, the head drum major is Joshua Carlson, with assistant drum majors Abby Putnam and Spencer Hardyk.

Their duties include keeping the band together musically, aiding students in learning show drills, and overseeing the marching band as an ensemble. While being a drum major requires a huge time commitment, the 2023-2024 season’s drum majors are deeply motivated and love what they are doing. 

All three drum majors have been involved in music for a long time, playing instruments in bands and singing in choirs. While music plays an important role in their lives, they also have other interests.

“I started piano in about first grade, sang in choir at a similar time, and then moved on to trumpet in fourth grade and French horn in sixth grade. I’ve picked up other instruments along the way. So I’ve always had a background in music,” Carlson stated. “ Other than music, I’ve been creative overall in different aspects of art. I also enjoy being active, getting outside, and spending a lot of time in the woods, skiing, and mountain biking. I’m just curious all the time, and I’m ready to throw myself into new experiences; I’m always open to new ideas, and new things to try that I haven’t done before. I always think it’s good to get into new things like that.”

Similar to Carlson, Hardyk also has outdoor hobbies along with his musical passion.

“ […] I play the euphonium,” Hardyk exclaimed. “I like to mountain and play disc golf whenever I can and I usually go to Harvest Fields. Other than marching band, I like to play the occasional video game and sing in choir.” 

Putnam is deeply involved with the music program at State High and has been since she first set foot in the high school. 

“I’ve [been in] marching band since freshman year. I’m really involved in the music department; I’m choir president this year, and I’ve been involved in Master Singers since my sophomore year. I also play the oboe, and flute in the marching band,” Putnam said. “ […] Besides music, I really like to read — [so] over the summer, I take advantage of my free time, and I breeze through tons of books in all different genres.” 

Sure marching band is only for a quarter of a year, but it is by far the most fun I’ve ever had in high school […]. Just being around the marching band community, everything marching band people have to say are nice things, [and] you’ll never hear a negative comment from anyone directly to your face.

— Spencer Hardyk

Although music has had a different impact on the three of them, they all share one thing: a strong love for marching band. 

“This was actually something that I thought about really hard last year because I’m in two major clubs — Marching Band and Thespians– and people were asking me, ‘Which one do you like better’, and it took me a while to decide,” Hardyk stated.  “I really thought about it, and I’m like, sure marching band is only for a quarter of a year, but it is by far the most fun I’ve ever had in high school, and I just love to play my instrument, and music in general. Just being around the marching band community, everything marching band people have to say are nice things, [and] you’ll never hear a negative comment from anyone directly to your face. Everything is so incredibly awesome in marching band. I love marching band so much that I want to do it in college.”

Hardyk was not the only one to comment on the people in the marching band. 

“I would definitely say I love marching band. I love it mainly because of the community. It was really my first year, we didn’t have a real marching band season because of COVID, and so it was sophomore year when we got to get into the stands and play stand tunes with everyone,” Carlson said. “That really made me love marching band; it was just the community of meeting all these people in your rank and getting to know them and there are so many great people in marching band. It was awesome to just meet people, and that’s what makes me really love marching band.”

It’s not just any other musical ensemble community. There are more complex aspects to marching band than just creating great music. 

The family community that is created at the marching band is just something that I’ve never really been a part of, and it’s very interesting how much of the community can form in such a big school. Even [if] it is a 180-member band, it still feels like all of them are part of my inner circle group of friends.

— Abby Putnam

“There’s a lot to enjoy about music making and kind of being in a group. It’s really unique to any sort of music ensemble because there’s also the aspect of [show] formations,” Putnam explained. “There’s a much greater family aspect than I think any ensemble can have due to the amount of time that we spend with each other. In addition, the family community that is created at the marching band is just something that I’ve never really been a part of, and it’s very interesting how much of the community can form in such a big school. Even [if] it is a 180-member band, it still feels like all of them are part of my inner circle group of friends.”

This love for marching band drove each drum major to take up leadership positions prior to becoming a drum major. These leadership experiences eventually led them to the position they have now.

“I became a drum major because [in] the past year, I was involved in leadership, [as the] Uniform manager, working with the uniforms. It meant a lot to me to meet so many people in the marching band, since they’re awesome and amazing people,” Putnam said. “So after working through that, and also wanting to increase my knowledge concerning conducting and music in general, and organization of a large group, I thought it would be interesting to be [a] drum major this year.”

Last season, Carlson also had a leadership position, which led him to realize the importance of leadership in the marching band. 

“I wanted to become a drum major to help out the band because the band needs good leadership to function. It was also a dream of mine when I was younger to become a drum major, and I always wanted to be the guy in the front conducting. I enjoyed leadership positions throughout the years. In marching band, I’ve had different positions, and I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of marching band. I think it’s really important and a good skill to have — to be a leader. I wanted to become a better leader as a drum major, and that’s why I did it,” Carlson stated.

With all the hard work these three leaders have put in, there are a lot of things that the drum majors are excited about this season. 

“This year, [I’m most excited for] obviously [being a] drum major. I set the goal to be where I am now over a year ago, so I’m really happy [with] where I am now, so I couldn’t be more excited to play for the first game on Friday,” Hardyk exclaimed.  “The shows this year are sounding really cool; the Guardians show has songs that pretty much everyone’s familiar with, and I think people will have a fun time with that. I think the ‘Wicked’ show is just going to be really fun to watch, so I think the students who go to football games have a lot to look forward to.”

I’m looking forward to just the feeling of walking out in front of the band, to everyone in the stands, and hopefully having a successful first game. […] The stand tunes are also going to sound great. So, when the students are in the students’ section, they should totally keep an ear out from behind them for the band.

— Joshua Carlson

It’s not just the shows that they are excited about.

“I’m looking forward to just the feeling of walking out in front of the band, to everyone in the stands, and hopefully having a successful first game,” Carlson stated “Both shows are looking very good; the band has been working really hard on learning the halftime shows, and they’re really cool and coming along great. The stand tunes are also going to sound great. So, when the students are in the students’ section, they should totally keep an ear out from behind them for the band.”

One thing is clear: Without the drum majors, and the people willing to step up and help lead the marching band into the season, the State High Marching Band would be completely different from the ensemble they are now. Students can look forward to two fun shows during football games this year, and see the hard work put in by both the drum majors and the students. 

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