Lo raises the baton in the drum major’s signature “Victory V” at the beginning of a performance, which signals to the band to begin playing. According to Lo, this signal occurs after a one long whistle, which gets the band’s attention. Photo by Nellie Brosnan.

“I didn’t really have any strong reason to be drum major other than wanting to spin the baton and wear the cool uniform,” junior Ryan Lo said.

For the last two years, Lo has been the drum major of marching band. Standing in the front, he leads the band in an ornate white costume with baton in hand and whistle around his neck. He conducts both marching and pep band as well as carries out all the instructions of the band director. During his sophomore year, Lo took on the role as assistant drum major when he substituted for the head drum major, 2011 alumus Kevin Jiang. Once Jiang graduated, the position for head drum major was open and Lo was eager to fill it.

Along with two other applicants, Lo had to audition to be head drum major and was chosen by orchestra teacher John Galli, marching band director Jon Fey and the marching band seniors. According to Fey, interviewees were judged on two things: their ability to conduct a piece and their eye pattern routine, a routine the applicant designs to show their originality and creativity. Because he scored the highest in both and possessed many necessary drum major characteristics, he was chosen.

“Leadership and conducting skills are two things a drum major must have,” Fey said. “But those things, at least for me, come secondary to the ability to get along with people.”

Lo agrees that communication and leadership are key aspects in being a drum major. He claims that people do not just automatically listen to you because you stand at the front and hold a baton. Part of his job is to teach the band to work with him and each other.

“As head drum major, a lot of people, particularly the freshman, look towards you as an example for what marching should be like,” Lo said. “You’re more than just a conductor; you’re a role model as well.”

Marching band collaborates with Color Guard for competitions in the fall. According to Color Guard captain Caitlyn Sullivan, the season for Color Guard and marching band is the same, and they work well in competitions because they rehearse together. They participate in parade competitions and marching band, Color Guard and the drum major can each win their own trophy. According to Fey, Lo has been only about half a point to a point away from winning a drum major trophy. They are currently preparing for their next parade competition, which will take place on Nov. 19 at Arcadia High School in Los Angeles

However, being a drum major requires a lot of responsibility and time commitment. Along with leading the marching band, Lo must also go to all the football games to conduct the pep band. Most students who take band have the choice to take marching band or pep band, but he is the only student who has to do both.

Lo considers being a drum major a responsibility rather than a hobby because there are so many specific elements in the band that he must keep track of, as well as performing his own baton tricks — and it takes place on top of his regular junior workload. Fey, however, is impressed with Lo’s abilities as a drum major, especially as a junior.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a two-year drum major.” Fey said. “He had his first year to get his feet wet and now he’s getting so much better. I’m excited to see him next year and how much he’s progressed.”

the author

Nellie Brosnan is a junior staff writer for El Estoque. She enjoys writing feature stories, doing multimedia projects, has a blog at elestoque.org titled "Life is better with flavor," and is on El Estoque's photo staff. If you have any questions, please send an email to n.brosnan@elestoque.org. Enjoy!

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  1. Karishma on November 18, 2011

    Nice job Nellie! Very interesting article :)

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