(This is a re-post from an article I wrote for the DMA Educational Corner)

There is one starred thought above all the others that will dictate whether or not a drum major is successful. It is something that one must remind his/herself of on a daily basis. It is something one must constantly remember throughout a rehearsal, including the time spent off the field before and after a rehearsal. And the most successful drum major will not just remember it but will “live it” outside of band and incorporate it into their entire life. The starred thought is: “The band is my mirror.”

Let’s take a closer look at this starred thought. Translated literally it means that the band is an exact replication of the drum major. If the drum major is happy, the band is happy. If the drum major is impatient, the band is impatient. If the drum major is excited, the band will be excited.

Of course, the reality of every situation is that the entire band will not always be able to emulate the drum major—every person has outside events that affect their life. Just because the drum major is excited does not mean that every band member will portray the same level of excitement. A band member could have just experienced a very difficult day and simply cannot be energized about anything at that time. The key here is the person in question might have an easier time in rehearsal because others around him/her are excited. Perhaps they will even be able to put away their troubles for a time and enjoy band.

The other important point to remember is that the band will imitate you but at a lesser degree. If you are a 10 on the 1-10 Excitement Scale the band will be about an 8. The more consistent you are about being excited the higher the band will score on their scale, BUT they will always be slightly below you. Inversely, if you are a 5 on the 1-10 Excitement Scale, the band will be around a 2 or perhaps as low as a 1. The reason for this can be found when examining a Xeroxed copy of a photograph. The original is crisp and clear, while the copy is less defined and even blurry in places. The copy will always pale in comparison to the original and negative traits will be magnified!

Broken down to its simplest form, the starred thought is all about your attitude. If you are having a “bad day” then the band will be less responsive to you. Your peers will lose interest in rehearsal, and any progress you had made in gaining your peer’s respect will be lost. And to make matters worse their level of respect will be less than when you first started the job! So if you’re having a “bad day” the band can never, ever know.

A former student of mine had the most positive attitude I have ever encountered. He was a drum major in high school and a vet of the DMA program. Whenever I would see him on campus he ALWAYS had a smile on his face and ALWAYS had something good to say. In the 2 years he was in my band he NEVER had a “bad day.” Many members of the band thought it was all an act when in reality, it WAS reality and his peers in his section knew that it was true and sincere. If there was ever a person who always found the proverbial silver lining in every situation it was this young man. His final 2 years of college did not afford him the opportunity to continue with band. His major required him to take classes that directly conflicted with rehearsal time. It was a loss for him, but a greater loss for the band. One day another university professor whom I had never met approached me on the street and asked if I remembered this young man. I said I most certainly did! This professor then went on and on about how he was one of the most unique students he had ever encountered because he had never met anyone who had such a sincerely positive outlook on life.

“The band is my mirror” has much more to do with how you approach and live life day to day than it has to do with band. Let this starred thought take shape while you are a drum major and may it guide you through a productive and successful life.