July 20th, 2008 10:27 EST
Blazing the Trail for Female Drummers
I still remember the very first day I joined the school band. It was August 29, 1998 at Columbia Elementary in Decatur Georgia. Although it has been 10 years, the sixth grade was the best thing that ever happened to me. The school posted flyers that band season was quickly approaching and anyone could join if they were at least a sixth grader. I immediately told my mother and family, but there was only one problem. My mother was not financially stable enough to buy me an instrument. I played the drums outside of school, so I decided to continue to play the drums in the band as well.
My uncle who was also a drummer had already given me a drum. Even though it was not new, it would do. I became the first female drummer in the sixth grade band. I cannot believe how much of a better player I was than the other male drummers. Little did I know this was only the beginning?
A year had passed by and it was time for the annual Christmas concert. I had the opportunity to play with the high school band. I was only in the 7th grade. Playing with a high school band really helped me to gain my confidence.
It`s the last day of rehearsal and Mrs. Harrington the band director, was about to select the lead player for the drum section. I had convinced myself that I was going to be the lead drummer. My hopes were set too high. When Mrs. Harrington announced who would take the lead for my section, my name was not called. I was devastated, and had never been so shocked in my whole life. She chose a male over me. Who said only a male could play the drums?
However, a female, and playing the drums had nothing to do with gender. My confidence had been shaken but I did not give up. I had to change my mind set to become the successful female drummer I wanted to be. Things could only get better. The end of the school tear was approaching.
Before I graduated from the 7th grade, I had a chance to audition for the high school Marching band. Here was my chance to shine. The day had finally come. I was so nervous in a room filled with about 200 high school students; all eyes were on me when I entered the room. It was finally my turn to play; all I had to play were seven rudiments and this would determine whether I would play snare, tenor, bass, or cymbals. Snare was the first line and I had every intention to make that line. Everyone else had been moved from the front line to every other instrument, but I managed to stay on the snare line. This was the happiest day of my life. I had done it. I had set the record. My confidence level was back. I went on to bigger and better assignments.
The summer was slowly approaching and we had little time and so much to learn. My cousin who was a member of the high school band had told me about the camp. It was time to prepare for the football season. The camp was a motivation for us to learn all the new things such as field routines, songs, and how to become a team. When I first started the camp I did not think I would last, but things turned out differently. Before I knew it, I was at my first football game about to perform for half time. All the hard work, determination, and sweat had paid off. The summer went by so quickly and the first semester of high school was approaching.
I was now in the eighth grade, which was the beginning of high school for me. Playing the drums for the high school band was not just a hobby for me, it was my priority. I had to prove to the male drummers that I was good. I was only a rookie, and I was determined to be at the head of the line by the end of the season. I was the only female on the snare drum line. I was seated in last chair, which made me feel beneath the male drummers. This gave me time to better myself as a female drummer and, build my endurance.
While playing in class, my high school band director Mr. Coln always told me I was exceptional among the male drummers. The band director did not know about the problems I was encountering with the male drummers. When the males saw that I was excelling, they tried their best to break me. I had also joined the concert and jazz band, but the males still did not give me the respect I deserved.
It was always a challenge for me to be able to get the particular part I wanted. One male has always intimidated me. Harrison Bretford would never admit that I was a better player than he. We bumped heads on every occasion. He always tried to discourage me by directing negative quotes to me. Little did he know that he was pushing me to my victory?
Bretford had a slight disability that caused his left arm to be shorter than the right. This however, did not affect his ability to play well. Bretford and I battled all throughout high school. There was never really a good day between us. We clashed almost in every conversation and nothing I did was good enough for him. Despite this, there would be changes in our relationship. While Bretford and I were not the best of friends, for the first time, he began to recognize my ability, and finally he told me how well I played. I had made a major improvement since the first season.
Almost two years had gone by since I had joined the band. Not only did my skills progress, but I was no longer at the tail of the line. I managed to move to second chair which was one step behind being the section leader. I was the assistant. By this time anyone who did not know me before, knew me as the female drummer who dominated the drum section in the high school band.
My junior year was approaching and it was time to apply for college. I had excelled in my skills, and my career choices had even begun to change. Although initially my long term goal was to become an allopathic physician, now Music became my life. Not only was I playing the drums well, but I had been receiving many engagements outside of school. I was more set on music being my career.
Mr. Coln my high school director and I had several conversations about my career plans and school choices. I only had one school in mind, Berkley College of music in Boston, Massachusetts. He did not think it was a great idea. He thought I should have had other choices as well. Only the best musicians were accepted at Berkley. In preparation I began to practice at least two hours a day. I had about five months to get my audition together. I received support from everyone I knew. I took Mr. Colns advice and applied to other schools.
There was an audition that was held every year for high school band students. Many colleges from around the world would come. It was a chance to get a scholarship to college. I went and I auditioned for several schools. By this time I had reached my full potential and realized my talent as a highly skilled drummer. I received partial scholarships from FAMU, Alcorn State, Clark Atlanta and Claflin University.
I am now a senior at Claflin University. I did not continue the marching band, but I am still a phenomenal female drummer. I play the drums in school as well as outside events. Males are now intimidated by my playing ability. I am proud to be a role model for females. Letting them know that nothing is impossible for a female to be able to do in a traditional male domain. I am now acclaimed as a great snare drum player.