While marching bands didn’t get to have the exciting opportunities they usually have this time of year, this fall was still the final season for seniors of the Lumberjack Marching Band (LMB). As their events were canceled and their season got pushed back, senior Jennifer John took charge as one of three drum majors for the band.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a drum major is the leader of a marching band. Along with her colleagues, Jennifer John will be in charge of directing and conducting the band.
After being in band since fifth grade, Jennifer John said working her way up to drum major was one of the best opportunities that could have happened to her. She said band was an instant love for her since her first day of being a band member.
She began her journey as a musician by playing the trumpet. Band was offered as an elective at her elementary school, and she said she decided to join because of the way the school advertised the program to the students.
“We had a night after school where you could come and try out a few instruments to see which one you might want to play,” Jennifer John said. “That was the moment I realized this was something I wanted to do. No one really knew how long I was going to stick with it, or even if I would like it.”
Throughout her years before coming to NAU, Jennifer John said she fell in love with playing the trumpet. The trumpet gave her the chance to play in a marching band, jazz band and a wind ensemble. When she began attending Maricopa High School, she said the band was made up of about 30 students.
By her senior year, the band had 80 members. As she advanced throughout high school, she moved her way up from just a part of the band to being a section leader. She said this experience taught her skills that would later help her be a leader in the LMB.
Jennifer John’s high school band director, Ivan Pour, said she was one of the most dedicated students in the band. Throughout her time there, she was a trumpet section leader and had a featured solo in their 2015 marching show.
“I am extremely proud of her,” Pour said. “Jenny was one of those students who sought out opportunities on her own. She made a huge contribution to our school’s band program.”
Pour said that although Jennifer John is not a music major, he has seen the impact music has had on her life. Similarly, her mother, Tracey John, said she is proud to see the way her daughter grew throughout her musical career.
She said she and her husband, Paul, were always supportive of the choices Jennifer John made when it came to playing in the band.
“We spent a lot of time driving her back and forth to practice, waiting for the train to cross the road and [having] sore backs from sitting on the bleachers to watch her performances,” Tracey John said. “We would always attend her concerts, and we were happy to do it all.”
As Jennifer John was finishing high school, she decided to attend NAU to major in history. Although she is not a music major, she said being a part of the LMB gave her an outlet for getting away from the stress of her schoolwork.
Being a member of the LMB also gave Jennifer John the chance to join Kappa Kappa Psi. According to its website, it is a co-ed fraternity with a leadership recognition society where the chief aim is to assist the Director of Bands in developing the enthusiasm that is required of being in the band. Jennifer John said being a part of the fraternity gave her many opportunities at NAU and will once she graduates as well.
Apart from Kappa Kappa Psi, Jennifer John said her experience in the LMB was unlike any other.
“I got to meet so many amazing people and play fun pieces,” Jennifer John said. “There’s something special about waking up at 7 a.m. on a crisp Saturday morning in the late fall and spending it rehearsing before a football game. Since the pandemic has put a pause on fall football, our Saturday morning practices have been something I missed a lot.”
According to an article from The Lumberjack, while the band was allowed to rehearse in person, it was socially distanced and the band had to get creative with rehearsals and ways to perform.
While Jennifer John spent her first year in the LMB without a leadership role, she decided to audition for section leader in her second year. That year, Jennifer John became section leader of the flute/piccolo section of the band.
When the band’s last season was ending, it was announced that none of the drum majors would be returning to the LMB. After debating about auditioning for months, Jennifer John said she waited until the very last day to audition for the position. She said taking risks and jumping out of her comfort zone are what encouraged her to audition for drum major.
When the new team of drum majors was announced, Jennifer John said she was in disbelief about the news. Despite this, she said she was very proud of her new role.
“There was no doubt in our minds that Jenny would one day be a drum major,” Tracey John said. “She perseveres when faced with a challenge, is a hard worker and is dedicated to the music and her team.”
Although this semester as drum major didn’t go as planned because of COVID-19, Jennifer John said having this chance gave her confidence and showed her a side of the band she wouldn’t have experienced without this position. It has been a strange semester because of the pandemic, but it has been amazing to watch everyone work together to make the most out of what we can do, she said.
Even though her time as a member of the LMB is wrapping up, Jennifer John said she will always be grateful for all the memories the LMB gave her.