Friday, April 12, 2024

A 'major' commitment: MSU drum majors bend over backward for their team

February 15, 2024
<p>Michigan State University drum majors Tom McGovern and Lacy Jewell at Munn Practice Field on Feb. 11, 2024. One of the key tricks the drum majors put on at games is a back bend. </p>

Michigan State University drum majors Tom McGovern and Lacy Jewell at Munn Practice Field on Feb. 11, 2024. One of the key tricks the drum majors put on at games is a back bend.

Photo by Maya Kolton | The State News

The Michigan State Marching Band was formed in 1870 and 154 years later, the band functions just as strongly and united as it always has

Some may think that this is because of the director or conductor of the band and others may be surprised that it’s actually a student

It’s known that the drum major of the band is the leader; they are the commander. They are the teachers to those working their way up and they are part of the reason why the band moves the way they do and how they play like they play.

Being a drum major is hard work, and music education senior Lacy Jewell and nursing freshman Tom McGovern know very well the difficulties – and payoffs – of being in that very position. But through the time they’ve been in this position, they’ve embraced every aspect of their role

The process of becoming a drum major starts with an audition, and Jewell and McGovern just recently auditioned and were gifted with the approval of the position. Since becoming the drum majors, they have both been navigating the balance between work for the band and schoolwork.

“November was (the) time when we were all learning about (the) drum major process and auditioning,” McGovern said. “(There was) a lot of balancing with schoolwork and also continuing with the marching band, because we still had more shows to learn (at) that time. So for me, that typically looks like having my classes during the days and then after marching band, going and practicing the drum major routines.”

Jewell also added that being vulnerable, willing to learn from mistakes and listening to critiques are all crucial components to going through the process and becoming a drum major.


Michigan State University drum majors Tom McGovern and Lacy Jewell at Munn Practice Field on Feb. 11, 2024. During off-season they are not allowed to wear their hats and can only hold them.

To begin the day as a drum major, school comes to the forefront, especially when football season isn’t in full swing. Finding time can be difficult while juggling school, trying to find time to set up and go to meetings and other school-related activities. All of this takes place during the off-season

During the season, however, the days for Jewell and McGovern take an upswing and they are both constantly working and are dedicated to leading the marching band. From August to the end of football season, the band has multiple rehearsals per week usually from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. but will have two rehearsals in one day, generally at 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Amid this hard work blossoms another part of being the drum major: stepping up as the leader and teacher for so many members of the marching band. Being a teacher is a tough and important job that adds a lot to the table for a student drum major, Jewell said

“We definitely embrace it and we love it,” Jewell said. “We do it every single day, it's just a part of what we do. And we do it in formal settings when we're asked to teach. But we also find a lot of times to either pull aside freshmen who are struggling and be like, ‘Hey, let me find a way that works for you so you can be successful.’”


Michigan State University drum major Lacy Jewell at Munn Practice Field on Feb. 11, 2024. This will be Lacy's final year as a drum major for the marching band.

McGovern agreed and said that while leading others in various ways, he has learned to become a better teacher overall

“Sometimes for people, the way that we learn might not work for them,” McGovern said. “Us pulling them aside can often help because we can kind of work with each other to figure out what teaching style we can use to help the person learn the best they can. (Jewell and I) can help to balance each other out and teach those people the best that we can.”

Working on the same thing over and over again may seem repetitive to most people, but Jewell said that there are a few things that help her take a mental break after or between practices, a time to not focus on the marching band

“I love prioritizing some off-time during the week, like, I think making sure I find a couple (of) hours, I will be watching Netflix, absolutely,” Jewell said. “But the other side of that is the 300 people that are also in the band are also going through this schedule, too. So it's really nice to find time to get with those people; there's always an event going on. So getting to just get to know everybody … even if it's a meal between really long Monday night rehearsals.”

Aside from the mental breaks that Jewell and McGovern take, the two also have picked up hobbies in their free time. Jewell said that because she’s a music major, she likes to play percussion instruments and practice conducting—something she hopes to do “in the future as a teacher.”

McGovern said he likes to go “outside and enjoy the weather,” usually playing football or basketball with friends. He said he also likes to play and listen to music with friends.

“I've got a record player with a bunch of old records,” McGovern said. “I love listening to music and stuff like that.”

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Michigan State University drum major Tom McGovern at Munn Practice Field on Feb. 11, 2024. Tom served apart of the baritone section of the band and this will be his first year as drum major.

Both Jewell and McGovern exercise in their free time and exercise is a huge part of their lives, such as running and weightlifting. Drum majors are constantly active, both on the field and off; it’s a very physically demanding position. Jewell and McGovern said that they exercise enough to make sure they’re conditioned enough to lead the band.

But with all the exhaustive work— practice, exercising, maintaining good grades— comes game-day: the final reward. The marching band, with Jewell and McGovern in its lead, performs in front of over 70,000 people. After hundreds of hours of practice, it’s finally time for, what Jewell said, is a special and very cool moment moment, especially during the Michigan State vs. University of Michigan game.

“It's the coolest feeling in the world and going into this season, I probably would have told you I've never really gotten crazy nervous," Jewell said. "But (at) the start of the season, I was like, ‘Oh gosh, okay, this really is like 75,000 people.’ I got really emotional.”

McGovern, on the other hand, tries to remember the countless hours he’s put in, in order to make sure he stays focused during the performance and make sure he doesn’t get too nervous.

“I'm a little bit different on the field, I try to not feel the nerves as much as I can and I just try to stay focused in the moment,” McGovern said. “I like to think about how many hours I've put into this. It’s gonna go (all right), it's going to be fine.”


Michigan State University drum majors Tom McGovern and Lacy Jewell at Munn Practice Field on Feb. 11, 2024.

Drum majors have an unwavering commitment and dedication to their marching band, and Jewell and McGovern have proven themselves to be fit for the position. Both consistently work towards bettering themselves and all 300 members of the band, while improving their leadership and teaching skills

As the crowd roars during their performances, or people cheer while watching them rehearse, one thing is clear for the Michigan State Marching Band: Jewell and McGovern are the student leaders, they are the commanders and they are the teachers willing to help all 300 of the Spartans in the marching band.


Michigan State University drum majors Tom McGovern and Lacy Jewell at Munn Practice Field on Feb. 11, 2024.


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