For the First Time in Its History, Four Women Lead the Cavalier Marching Band

September 14, 2017

As you find your seat in Scott Stadium on a sunny Saturday afternoon, you’re drawn to the shifting sights and sounds: the bright advertisements on Hoo Vision, the shouting fans, the acrobatics of the cheerleaders and dance team, as well as the rowdy student section. Suddenly, a cheer begins to ripple through the crowd, as a line of students carrying drums of different sizes emerges on the bright green field. Behind the drumline, tuba players stand at the ready. The drum cadence thunders to a start, and the tubas lunge into a dance, metal wrapped around them, glinting in the bright afternoon sun. The movements of the drumline and the tubas are mesmerizing, so much so that when the drumbeat changes and you spot movement in the tunnels, you are almost surprised by the sight of rows and rows of uniformed band members pouring out onto the field to perform their pregame show. This is the Cavalier Marching Band, a spectacular display of sheer size and sensational glory.

In the lead are four marchers wearing white uniforms and carrying maces as they prance across the field. They do not wear the hats that the rest of the band wears, and their capes sit across both their shoulders instead of just off to one side. While the rest of the band takes up position for their first song, the four in white climb onto the podiums and lift their arms to conduct and to encourage the audience to clap and cheer.

These are the drum majors of the CMB, the talented and steadfast leaders of a dedicated band. In the CMB’s 14 years of performances, this year is historic. For the very first time, all four drum majors are women.

Meet the CMB Drum Majors

Catherine Pollack

Virginia Crabtree Amanda Yi Liz Peratt

 

Being drum major is a difficult job! There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that most people don’t see. The drum majors learn the name of all 320 band members; they smile and say hello to every first year. The band counts on the drum majors both during rehearsals and on days they don’t rehearse. When you’re a full-time student with other responsibilities, balancing everything can be hard. But these four female leaders are up to the task. 

So what’s it like to make CMB history, as the first all-female drum major team? What makes all the hard work worthwhile? Here’s what each inspiring drum major had to say:

CATHERINE POLLACK

Catherine Pollack is a fourth year Biomedical Engineering and Statistics major, and a first-time drum major. While the other three drum majors had conducting experience coming in, she did not, which she found daunting but worth the challenge. “As a trombone player, I knew the trombone section incredibly well and I knew the low brass very well, but I’ve really loved the opportunity to get to know people outside of the group I interacted with for the first three years,” she said. With a marching band so large, meeting members outside your section can be difficult. The drum majors get the unique experience of working closely with many different sections, creating new relationships along the way. Effective time management is key, says Catherine. She's learned to say no extra commitments and explained that keeping a detailed schedule is often how she gets through the week.

VIRGINIA CRABTREE

Virginia Crabtree is a fourth year Speech Pathology and Audiology major, and while she was a drum major in her high school band, this is her first time as drum major for the CMB. When I asked her why she auditioned for the role of drum major, she said, “I auditioned because I saw the impact that the former drum majors have made on the band and me personally, and I felt like the band has given me so much that I wanted to be able to give back and make an impact on the underclassmen and really make the first years feel welcome and part of the family.”

“What inspires me the most is the band members themselves, being up on the podium and receiving so much support from all the band members is really incredible. Really just seeing the progress we make as a band and seeing everyone grow together is really rewarding,” she said, smiling.

AMANDA YI

Amanda Yi is a third year Psychology and Economics major, and this is her first time being a drum major for the CMB. When I asked her what she found most rewarding about being a drum major, she said that it was the love of music, shared between all the members of the band, that made the experience worth it for her. “Music has been something that’s been a part of my life for as long as I remember and being able to have this role as drum major is really important because[of] being able to be around all these people who are all very encouraging and positive and love music just like me.”

One aspect of being a drum major involves trying to keep the band happy and motivated, which means that it’s very important for the drum majors to appear happy and motivated themselves. Amanda told me that this is one of the most difficult parts of being a drum major for her, because sometimes you’re stressed or you’re not having a good day, but you have to try to show that you’re glad to be in band rehearsal. She told me that the end result, the rest of the band feeling more motivated because of the drum majors and putting on better and more exciting shows, motivates her to push through.

LIZ PERATT

Liz Peratt is a fourth year pre-med, Biology and Religious Studies major, and this is her second year as a drum major for the CMB. “I definitely think I’ve gained a lot more confidence, since my first year,” she said. She told me that a lot of her motivation has come from realizing that her role of drum major isn’t about her, but about making sure that every band member is enjoying their experience in the band and putting in their best effort.

“As a drum major, you’re given a different perspective on what the band is and who the band is. I’ve gotten to see into other people’s lives in ways I wouldn’t have been able to had I not been drum major,” Liz said, with a bright smile. All the drum majors emphasized how much they loved the support from the band, the friends they have made outside their original instrument sections, and the devotion every member has for them.

 

All four drum majors share similar ideas about the importance of women leadership in the band. “Having women in those [leadership] roles, where their opinions can be heard, brings this whole other element to the table of leadership which is so critical,” Catherine said.

Amanda talked about the importance of the women in the band knowing they can earn leadership positions. “There are a lot of women in the band, and it is a very unique opportunity that the four of us get to have this year, because there hasn’t been a completely women team of drum majors before, and I think that the four of us working together and getting things done and being successful together is a really awesome thing for the band to see for the first time.”

Liz talked about the leadership she has seen within the band. “I’ve loved seeing more female section leaders, and female drill instructors, and those upper roles, especially in brass sections. I think women bring a different feel to things, the way that we work together. For people to see, ‘oh these are four women who are leading this band,’ I think that is very important to show the university and the wider public.”

Virginia’s thoughts on women leadership focused on the idea of role models. “When I came into the band, the people that had the most impact on me were the female leaders, specifically in the [clarinet] section, because it gave me people to look up to, and follow in their footsteps, and that’s important for anyone to have someone they can relate to, to be able to look up to in the band.”

These four women are the spirit of the band, role models to every aspiring drum major, and a great example of the importance of women leadership within a group like the marching band that thrives off of student leadership.

Next time you attend a football game, watch the women twirling the maces and conducting from the podiums and think about all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure this performance goes without a hitch. There are many wonderful performances to come, with these drum majors in the lead and hopefully many more teams of women drum majors in the years to come.

 

Photo credit:

Group Photo by Thomas Pajewski. Individual Shots by Hannah and Katherine Pajewski.

 

 

Contribute a Story!

Have an idea for Iris? Send it to us!