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  1. #1
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    What makes a good Drum Major?

    I follow Braemar Media on Facebook tinyurl.com/5b753ejz because they so often post videos of Pipe Bands and I've been an addict since I was a pre-schooler. Gottahave my daily 'fix'!

    One of my fascinations is the Drum Majors. I love the flashy flourishes of, for example, D.M. Bill Barclay tinyurl.com/2z7sckcc , who I read is from New Zealand. I also love it when there is a toddler beginning to learn the trade by accompanying the DM on the march. Good for them, and for their mentors! The future may indeed be in good hands.

    But the question for DMs here (I'm sure we have two or three!) and for the pipe band members they command, is "What makes a good Drum Major?" Is it indeed those flashy flourishes which the public so enjoys, or is it a clarity of command for the sake of the band, or something else that hasn't struck me yet? Are some flourishes better than others? What is the best combination for these? How do Drum Majors learn their important task?

    Hoping for a fulsome and educational discussion on this, as so often happens on XMarks.
    Rev'd Father Bill White: Retired Parish Priest & Elementary Headmaster, lover of God, people (most of them!) dogs, joy, humour & clarity. Legion Padre, theologian, teacher, philosopher, linguist, traditionalist, bon-vivant, encourager of hearts & souls & a firm believer in dignity, decency, & duty. A proud Canadian Sinclair.

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  3. #2
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    Bill, as a member of a parade police pipe band, it's not so much the flourishing that matters to me. It's getting firm, strong direction from the drum major. When we're on parade, our
    DM makes sure he knows what's happening and he passes that on to us. He's a big man with a lot of command presence, having been a police officer, fireman, and Brigade Sergeant Major in the army reserves. He's also a great human being and a lot of fun.
    "Touch not the cat bot a glove."

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  5. #3
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    Macman, I had rather thought that would be at least one of the responses. Thank you.
    Rev'd Father Bill White: Retired Parish Priest & Elementary Headmaster, lover of God, people (most of them!) dogs, joy, humour & clarity. Legion Padre, theologian, teacher, philosopher, linguist, traditionalist, bon-vivant, encourager of hearts & souls & a firm believer in dignity, decency, & duty. A proud Canadian Sinclair.

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  7. #4
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    The fancy flourishes are for the spectacle/show. If a Drum Major is doing the fancy spins and twirls, his/her command of the basics for providing direction to the band behind him/her had best be exceptional. Otherwise, it's 'all show, no substance' and they might find themselves out of the Drum Major role in short order.

    In my opinion, providing very clear and consistent direction is a must. (i.e., Use the same signal the same way at the same time, EVERY time.)

    The Louisville Pipe Band (LPB), as a primarily competition band, doesn't make use of a Drum Major. When in parades, the Pipe Major (front right corner as you're standing in the ranks, front left when you're facing the band head-on) is the one to call the tune start/stop. Having been in massed bands on the fields at Games, though, the better Drum Majors gave clear directions well before the march-on (e.g., "When I do THIS, stop moving forward and march in place", etc.). They also discussed the tunes that were going to be played - sometimes even getting in touch with the bands expected to be present beforehand to be sure they had particular tunes in their repertoire.

    They would also negotiate with the games officials to get the bands on/off the field in a short span of time. Competing bands in particular don't want to be stuck out in the sun/heat for the half hour or more of 'opening remarks' at noon when band competitions start at 1 PM. It takes a good hour to get a band warmed up/tuned up for a competition.

    A thorough knowledge of the tunes to be played - and how to direct them - is essential for any musical conductor. As Pipe Sergeant to the LPB, I would occasionally have to lead the band in rehearsals, on occasion in public performances (especially the small-group paid performances), and once or twice I led the band in competition as well. I found it's a very different thing to PLAY a set of tunes than it is to CONDUCT those tunes. Fortunately, there were several experienced players in the pipe & drum lines and folks were very tolerant as I was figuring things out.



    As to how they learn, I'm not 100% certain. I know there are some piping and drumming schools (i.e. 'summer camps') that offer DM classes. There are also DM competitions at some pipe band competitions. That depends in large part on the event organizers (there is a significant cost involved in running any competition that is almost prohibitive).
    John

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  9. #5
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    An excellent, practical, and thorough answer. Anything to add, folks?
    Rev'd Father Bill White: Retired Parish Priest & Elementary Headmaster, lover of God, people (most of them!) dogs, joy, humour & clarity. Legion Padre, theologian, teacher, philosopher, linguist, traditionalist, bon-vivant, encourager of hearts & souls & a firm believer in dignity, decency, & duty. A proud Canadian Sinclair.

  10. #6
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    I'd like to add only one thing. It is always heartening to see a true master at work!

    Dave

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  12. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Father Bill View Post
    One of my fascinations is the Drum Majors. I love the flashy flourishes...
    One thing to be aware of is the divide between Regimental Drum Majors and the sort of drum majors that are seen with High School bands in the USA, for example.

    Here. Look for the fancy flourishes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOuhLIqj_vU

    Local lad made good Jason Paguio, several time World Drum Major Champion, is the finest example of the US school style flourishing Drum Major.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8KitT9UIcs

    I do believe at Drum Major competitions Regimental DMs compete in a separate category from the flourishing DMs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Father Bill View Post
    But the question for DMs here and for the pipe band members they command, is "What makes a good Drum Major?"
    From the perspective of someone who has spent over 40 years regularly competing in Pipe Band contests at Highland Games I will say that for me what makes a good Drum Major isn't the things you mentioned, but their quality as human beings.

    We are blessed here to have a group of Drum Majors who are the finest gentlemen and gentlewomen you would ever have the privilege of knowing. They not only take their craft seriously but also know that they are the Public Face, the Ambassadors, of the Pipe Band community. To a man and to a woman they are dignified, thoughtful, and kind to all. In spite of all eyes being on them, or perhaps because of it, they are humble, self-effacing, quick with a joke and with a dram. You won't find big egos and power-trips with them.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 29th March 21 at 06:29 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  14. #8
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    Yes, I've noted a pleasing formality with the Regimental DMs that is quite different from the showy civilian style, and I respect, appreciate, and enjoy that regimental formality. I particularly appreciate and respect your comments about personal qualities. Not showy, but never upsetting either.
    Rev'd Father Bill White: Retired Parish Priest & Elementary Headmaster, lover of God, people (most of them!) dogs, joy, humour & clarity. Legion Padre, theologian, teacher, philosopher, linguist, traditionalist, bon-vivant, encourager of hearts & souls & a firm believer in dignity, decency, & duty. A proud Canadian Sinclair.

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  16. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    One thing to be aware of is the divide between Regimental Drum Majors and the sort of drum majors that are seen with High School bands in the USA, for example.

    Here. Look for the fancy flourishes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOuhLIqj_vU

    Local lad made good Jason Paguio, several time World Drum Major Champion, is the finest example of the US school style flourishing Drum Major.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8KitT9UIcs

    I do believe at Drum Major competitions Regimental DMs compete in a separate category from the flourishing DMs.



    From the perspective of someone who has spent over 40 years regularly competing in Pipe Band contests at Highland Games I will say that for me what makes a good Drum Major isn't the things you mentioned, but their quality as human beings.

    We are blessed here to have a group of Drum Majors who are the finest gentlemen and gentlewomen you would ever have the privilege of knowing. They not only take their craft seriously but also know that they are the Public Face, the Ambassadors, of the Pipe Band community. To a man and to a woman they are dignified, thoughtful, and kind to all. In spite of all eyes being on them, or perhaps because of it, they are humble, self-effacing, quick with a joke and with a dram. You won't find big egos and power-trips with them.
    I agree 100%. Our local games has separate categories for flourishing and non. Jason is a joy to watch, and he's a very nice young man as well. My wife and I had a chance to talk to him for quite a while when he was here for our games.
    "Touch not the cat bot a glove."

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  18. #10
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    In order of importance PM No. 1, PS No.2, DM No.3. I was always told "make no mistake about it PM is always in control" . That should stir the pot.
    Piping Is Life!....The rest doesn't matter.

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