Dedication leads to success: How to be a leader in band, orchestra, or both

January 31, 2011 — by Ashley Tang

Any student participating in a music program knows and appreciates the leaders who work diligently to keep the department running smoothly. These leaders go above and beyond what is expected of most other members, thus maintaining the unity of a band or orchestra.

“Leaders are people who walk the walk and often times do the do,” said music department director Michael Boitz. “Someone who makes an impact on the program to make it stronger and better.”

These leaders improve the music program by investing both time and effort.

“You always see our managers running around and working hard,” said Boitz. “When something needs to be done, they get it done.”

Contrary to some beliefs, these leaders did not simply show up one day already possessing the qualities that they have now.

Junior Akash Kar, head manager of band and an orchestra manager, believes that in order to achieve a leadership position in the music program a student must learn to be punctual, dependable and dedicated.

“First and foremost, you need to be an active person in the group,” said Kar. “Once you’ve established that, the next thing to do is to show initiative. Start to help out once in a while when help is needed.”

Students wanting to take action could do so in a variety of ways. Aspiring band leaders could come early and help the drum majors set up or stay back and help clean up the field. Ambitious orchestra members could assist orchestra managers with setting up chairs and stands for rehearsal or they could help “rack and stack” after rehearsal.

“If you’re a good marcher, go out and help the people who aren’t as great as you,” said Kar. “Or give them some advice on your own time. It’s very obvious who’s dedicated and who’s not.”

Little things like helping someone out or picking up a piece of trash in the band room do get noticed, more than some might think.

“In my mind, I can see at the end of rehearsal who helps put stuff away, and who does it with a good heart and a good spirit,” said Boitz.

After proving his or her dedication with time and effort, a student may consider applying for the job of drum major, band leader or orchestra manager. But first, what exactly are their responsibilities?

“As drum major, you’re kind of the mediator from the teacher to the students,” said senior drum major Jason Shiuan. “Basically, your main goal is to make sure rehearsal runs smoothly for the teachers and directors so that they don’t have to worry about small things like having a microphone, getting the field set up or making sure people are ready. We kind of help them run the group.”

Band and orchestra managers set up and clean up for rehearsal, coordinate competitions and concerts, take attendance and prepare and distribute music. Behind the scenes, band managers prepare schedules, drill coordinate sheets and equipment. In contrast, section leaders run sectionals about once a week and need to be voted in by band members.

Once a student decides to apply for a leadership position, he or she can talk to Boitz to obtain an application and sign up for an audition.

“The application [for drum major] is like any other application,” said Shiuan. “You have to write a couple of paragraphs about why you want the position and how you can help the group.”

The audition part of applying for drum major requires much more preparation, although the actual audition differs each year. Previous candidates have had to teach a small group of people how to march. But for Shiuan, his audition was to conduct the band for one piece.

“I had to study the score and think of what to teach the band ahead of time. It was a lot of fun,” said Shiuan.

Although applying for a leadership position may require a lot of work, it’s part of what makes the music program so successful.

“We have to narrow it down and make it as stringent as possible so that we can have a very strong manager team,” said Kar, “which, I’m happy to say, we do have.”

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