Leading the beats: drum majors of marching band reflect



The full drum major team, from left to right: Mr. Edwin Cordoba, Vardaan Singhania (’25), Brayden Ye (’24), Nolan Lees (’23), Julia Szambelan (’22), and Mr. Jonathan Grantham.

Sharon Jiang, Staff Writer

The 2021 Amador marching season ended as the final beat of their show The Light of the Moon settled on the Dublin High School football field on November 18. With the end of the season last semester came the preparation for a new leadership team and marching show. Band students also reflected on their past performances, especially those who “lead the beat” on the football field: the drum majors.

In the Amador marching band, there are three total drum majors: one sophomore, one junior, and one senior. Since students audition as ninth graders, they stay in the role for all three years throughout high school, and graduate up to a next level of responsibility each year.

Drum majors conduct the full marching band at football games, rallies, and competitions to keep the band musically organized and structured. In simple terms, drum majors move their arms to communicate the different tempos that help all of the band members on the field know how to find time together.

They also oversee section leader auditions, make the band flow from a student perspective, and act as an intermediary between the band directors and the rest of the band. 

“Things that students might not see on campus are they are really the most outward facing moral compass of the band, representing the best of our values,” said Jonathan Grantham, Head Band Director.

Since drum major is one of the first opportunities for students to get a leadership position in their sophomore year, current junior drum major Nolan Lees (‘23) took it as a precious chance to build a contribution to the community at the beginning of his high school life. And now, he hopes to assist more students to achieve their leadership goals in the music program.

“My decision is rooted from passion for music and passion for the people there, [and] passion for the community…[The leadership position] is a lot of fun…There’s definitely a lot of work. But I wouldn’t say there was anything I felt unsatisfied with…It never feels like I have to, [or] like I’m fighting for anything. It just feels like I’m doing my job and I’m helping others do their job. And it’s a very positive space,” said Lees

Julia Szambelan (‘22), the senior drum major, has just completed her high school marching journey as the past marching season ended.   

“I really like the community aspect at band, and it’s just something I really enjoy doing and thought it was a really great way to get back and also to help shape the band in the future…[and] to create an environment where everyone is welcomed and more people feel like they can have a safe space to be in”, said Szambelan.

Since the 2020-2021 online school year has made it hard for students who are new to cooperate with their peers and establish connections with the community, sophomore drum major Brayden Ye (‘24) experienced some challenges when he stepped into the leadership role at the start of the 2021 marching season. 

“In middle school, one of my brother’s friends was also a drum major and I always looked up to him and when that time came for my class to try for drum major I thought that it would be a natural option,” said Ye. “This past season was technically my first actual marching season, [so] the main struggle I had at the beginning was that I didn’t know that many people, and in marching band, it’s very important to have good chemistry bonding.”

Current freshman Vardaan Singhania (‘25), who played in drumline in the past season, looks forward to taking on the role of the sophomore drum major in the next marching season.

“Music has always been a big part of my life, drum major is kind of like the ultimate leadership position for music. So I could give back to the band or sort of contribute in a bigger way…[For the next season], I hope that we have fun, we go to competition and we win”, said Singhania.

Last semester, Amador enjoyed their first in-person season since the COVID pandemic, and won various awards at marching competitions: 1st Place for percussion at James Logan Invitational Band Tournament; 1st Place for VIsual at Independence Band Tournament at Independence High School in San Jose; and 1st Place for Class 6A at Foothill High School. With those good results marking Amador marching band’s progress, the drum majors hope to continue the team’s great progress in the next season.  

“With all that, coming back from COVID, we were just hoping to have good starting grounds. But now I feel we have a great foundation from last year. So I think going into next year we have a lot of opportunity to grow both in skill and in community,” said Lees.