Academic journal article Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME)

Leaders of the Pack: Responsibilities and Experiences of Collegiate Drum Majors

Academic journal article Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME)

Leaders of the Pack: Responsibilities and Experiences of Collegiate Drum Majors

Article excerpt


Participants and Researcher Role

The participants in this study were three drum majors from a major university marching band: Anthony, Sonya, and Nicole. At the time of the study, Anthony, a piccolo player, was 22 years old and a fourth-year member of the marching band. Sonya, a horn player, was a 20-year-old and in her third year as a member of the marching band. Nicole, a clarinet player, was 20 years old and a second-year member of the marching band. All three participants attended high school in the same state as the university and each participant was in his or her first year of service as drum major with the university marching band. Sonya and Nicole had previous drum major experience at the high school level, but Anthony did not. Of the three, Sonya was the only participant pursuing any formal music studies at the university level as she worked toward a double major in music education and science. The marching band director selected the three participants for their drum major positions through an audition process and he purposely selected students of staggered ages and years of membership to maintain continuity in the flow of future leadership.

I was initially introduced to the participants in my capacity as a graduate teaching assistant for the university marching band program. I entered graduate school after six years of working as a director for high school and middle school bands, including the direction of a competitive high school marching band. Though I had no personal experience as a drum major, in my position as a director I auditioned, selected, and trained drum majors each year and these experiences helped me to connect with the participants. As a member of the university marching band staff, I assisted with both the visual and musical aspects of rehearsals, working with the director, other staff, and student leaders to prepare performances. At the beginning of the study, I had worked with the participants for approximately two months, and by the conclusion of the study, I had worked with them for a total of five months.

Data Collection and Research Questions

Data for this study were gathered through observations, a series of short on-field interviews, and longer individual interviews. The marching band practice field served as the initial observation site for the study. Early in the semester, I observed the participants and made "time on task" charts, noting how the drum majors spent their time during rehearsal. A sample time on task chart is included in Appendix A. These charts helped me gain insight into the drum majors' leadership responsibilities such as setting up equipment, synchronizing conducting gestures through practice, consulting with director and staff members about musical and visual aspects of the performance, and answering questions from band members. Reviewing these charts allowed me to shape the context and scope of questions for the in-depth interviews. In subsequent observations, I continued to make time on task charts and then supplemented these observations with short participant interviews during rehearsal breaks jotting basic field notes in my notebook. Additionally, while I attended all home football games as a staff member, I dedicated my time to specifically observing the participants during one home football game performance to acquire a greater understanding of the multiple roles they fulfilled. The main purpose of the initial data collection phase was to formulate context and questions for the in-depth interviews.

I carefully monitored my place on the participant-observer continuum (Spradley, 1980; Wolcott, Le Compte, Milroy, & Preissle, 1992) during the observation and short interview data collection phase in an effort to balance my paid staff duties with my research agenda. Unable to devote an entire rehearsal to pure observation and unwilling to talk with the drum majors for long periods of time during rehearsal, I carried a small notebook with me throughout rehearsals and tried to negotiate a fair balance between my research and teaching duties. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.