Drum Majors on Falling in Love With Conducting


Shannon McCance, Staff Writer

Against the sharp lights of the stadium, marching band drum majors Mason Rothenberger and Grace Nolasco stood facing opposite sides of the band. With the halftime shows finished for the season, they keep the marching band alive through pep band. Their voices reached to the back of the stands as they conducted songs, keeping each player in tempo. Mason and Grace were in sync, with each other and the band.
Their synchronization stretches beyond that football game as they both entered the world of music in a similar fashion. Their mothers individually encouraged them to join the class in sixth grade. After choosing their instruments, their love for music blossomed in the unique journeys they had within the class.
For Mason, the reason for picking the flute was simple: it didn’t have a reed to take care of. There weren’t any other instruments that swayed them away from the flute, even with the ability to play a second for jazz band. “I thought about trumpet for a while,” Mason said, “But flute was an easy choice.” As their music career advanced, Mason has learned the piccolo, the alto, and the bass flutes, while still mainly devoted to their initial choice six years ago.
Unlike Mason, Grace didn’t stick with the instrument that she chose in middle school. At that time, she “actually wasn’t very nterested in doing band.” Grace chose the oboe because it was the only instrument she could make a sound on. Later, when she was introduced to jazz band, she learned the saxophone because it was the easiest instrument to transition to from the oboe, as they are played similarly. Once she became hooked on her new instrument, she dropped the oboe to dedicate all of her energy to the saxophone. Grace has remained a saxophonist ever since.
Mason and Grace’s shared love of music developed throughout high school band, culminating in both of them becoming the leaders of their section, and the drum majors of the marching band.
So what does it mean to be a drum major? “As a drum major Grace and I lead the band in marching rehearsal drills during class, and during home games we conduct on the field the halftime show and in the stands pep band tunes,” Mason said. It is a role that requires someone to put themselves out there. Grace finds joy in that, as it enables her “to know a lot about all the sections in band.” Meeting new people as well as seeing the band come together are highlights of both of their times as a drum major.
Seeing other drum majors from afar in their freshman and sophomore years is what drew them to the idea. As Grace and Mason watched their former section leaders, they were both inspired to follow in their classmates’ footsteps. “In short I wanted to be them, they had so much confidence and for lack of a better word swagger. It was amazing,” Mason said.
Despite the cold, Mason and Grace stood with confidence and command at one of their final football games as they directed the pep band through cheery songs. Watching them express their love of music through conducting, it is easy to see how they are inspiring the new drum majors that will fill the empty podium next marching band season.