MSD Eagle Regiment’s Drum Majors conduct the marching band with synchrony

Follow the Leader. Drum Major Bella Wong conducts the marching band at rehearsals after school in the senior parking lot. The band rehearsed outside for four hours to ensure that they were prepared to perform in the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Follow the Leader. Drum Major Bella Wong conducts the marching band at rehearsals after school in the senior parking lot. The band rehearsed outside for four hours to ensure that they were prepared to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Caitlin Wong

The Eagle Regiment Drum Majors stand on the three elevated podiums conducting the marching band to create cohesion among the band students. In tune and playing in flawless synchrony, the band students create a mesmerizing melody that is largely credited to the skillful conducting.

Senior Bella Wong, junior Danielle Kokulyansky and sophomore Maya Ruzicka are the Drum Majors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Eagle Regiment. In their individual, unique ways, the students exemplify the characteristics required of Drum Majors.

Drum majors are the commanders of the band and therefore must have confidence, leadership, communication and conducting skills, as well as the ability to command respect from their peers. They must memorize their musical score as well as drill count structures. These skills are useful when performing in football games and pep rallies.

Drum Majors must demonstrate outstanding attendance and be willing to dedicate time to the band. They are also responsible for setting up the metronome for all rehearsals through the battery or percussion.

“They have to learn how to conduct the show and represent [the] feelings and emotions of the music and band,” band director Steve Rivero said.

Earning the title of Drum Major is not an easy task. Students interested in the position must fill out a leadership application, selecting Drum Major as their desired role. All candidates go through a Drum Major camp, where Rivero reviews their applications and measures their skills. Assistant band director Robert Rivero also helps during the camp.

In the time spent at Drum Major camp, all potential Drum Majors study the basics of conducting the marching band and learn about the responsibilities of a Drum Major. The audition process starts at the end of the camp, and all potential candidates conduct a routine in front of the entire marching band and band directors.

Leadership is strongly emphasized for all Drum Majors. As the commanders and conductors of the marching band, band members need to respect and listen to them. To highlight the authority of their position, the conductors stand on elevated podiums that allow them to be heard and seen by the entire band. They also dress in a more prominent uniform than the rest of the marching band members.

Wong, who is the Head Drum Major, first became interested in the marching band when she saw Westglades Middle School’s marching band at an open house event. Wong joined Westglades’s band as soon as she got the chance and has stayed with the band program through all of middle and high school.

“I was truly inspired watching them perform and knew from then on out that I was meant to be
in the band,” Wong said. “I could have never imagined what my life in band would eventually evolve to.”

Wong was a flutist for her first two years in the marching band. While she was, as she describes, a quiet student, she still aspired to be the commander of the band and set out to work on conducting skills. She took on the challenge as part of both an attempt at musical advancement and personal growth. In her junior year at MSD, she was elected as the assistant Drum Major.

This year, she became the Head Drum Major and led the marching band through their 2023 season and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

The two assistant Drum Majors, Kokulyansky and Ruzicka, have always loved marching bands and have long strived to become Drum Majors. On her 15 birthday, Kokulyansky was selected to do a warm-up drill for the MSD orchestra. It was her first time conducting and she has adored it ever since.

Coordinating Conductors. Junior Danielle Kokulyansky and sophomore Maya Ruzicka look over marching band formations. Both Kokulyansky and Ruzicka are Assistant Drum Majors of MSD’s Eagle Regiment and were selected for their leadership and dedication to marching band. (Caitlin Wong)

Kokulyansky appreciates the leadership it takes to be a Drum Major. With the ability to solve any problem that comes her way, Kokulyansky sacrifices much personal time for the band and attends every rehearsal and performance.

“If any issues ever arise, it is our responsibility to solve them,” Kokulyansky said. “It takes more than just good conducting to be a Drum Major.”

Ruzicka felt inspired watching previous Head Drum Major Kelly Taylor lead the band. For some time, Taylor was a mentor and the person who guided Ruzicka through the process of becoming a Drum Major.

“Hearing about her conducting and watching her really encouraged me to want to be a Drum Major,” Ruzicka said.

Ruzicka suffered a knee injury during marching season and, not wanting to risk hurting it even more, pursued becoming a Drum Major. On the podium, Drum Majors perform minimal physical movement in the bottom half of their bodies, whereas the rest of the band moves all around the field. Ruzicka fit the role, as she would only have to move her arms to conduct the marching band.

The Drum Majors play a huge role in the marching band. They guide the band through music and conducting, as well as through leadership and teamwork. Wong, Kokulyansky and Ruzicka are all the perfect fit for successful Drum Majors. Their undeniable love and care for the band is reflected in their conduct and everything they do for the MSD Eagle Regiment.

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About the Contributor
Caitlin Wong, Reporter
Caitlin Wong is a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She is a first year reporter. In her free time, she likes to dance, listen to music, clean, organize and go shopping.
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