Major bummer: Band leadership takes on new look during pandemic

Grace Melting and Jaeden Bell should be experiencing the capstone of their senior years as the drum majors for McNary Marching Band. Instead, they are left wondering if they’ll be able to play at all this year.

Usually marching band is graded as a course during first semester, but halfway through October the band hasn’t even met.

For Melting, who has been playing the flute since the fifth grade, it was a disappointment. She followed in the footsteps of her older brother, who played the trumpet, and sister, who played the clarinet.

“That was the one class I looked forward to going to every day,” she said. Because the school is grouping students together by grade level, it is difficult to have a class like band.

This will be the first time in Melting’s high school career that she is not in the wind ensemble, the most advanced band at McNary. She auditioned and made it into the wind ensemble her freshman year, and she has been in marching band since she was in eighth grade.

Melting describes a drum major as the, “glue that holds the band together.” They are the intermediate link between the director and the band; they also conduct the band during performances.

“The biggest thing that we’re going to miss out on is our competitions. We would have had three competitions this year,” Bell said. His favorite part of competitions was just being with other people who enjoy music.

Although technically the title of drum major only applies to marching band, but that person is seen as a leader all year long. 

Bell, a trumpet player, would have been the lead drum major for this year under normal circumstances; he’s been playing the trumpet for nine years. 

He joined band because he thought it would look good on college applications, but he soon fell in love with it.

“It has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done in more ways than just looking good on college applications,” Bell said.

Bell is participating in the jazz band via zoom, but doesn’t consider it an adequate replacement for making music with others.

“We kind of play in our own rooms with everyone. They’re still doing music, but I don’t consider it band. I feel like that requires us to be together and producing as a group,” Bell said.

There is hope that in the spring they will be able to do more visual performances, but all of that is subject to school reopening.