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Meet the 2019-20 drum majors at Forsyth County high schools
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Forsyth Central High School drum major Sriikhar Vedurupaka leads the Bulldogs' marching band during a recent practice. - photo by Brian Paglia

When Alex Lackovic joined the Lambert High School marching band as a freshman, he wasn’t sure what a drum major did.

“By the end of the year, I was like, ‘Wow, they actually do a lot for the band,’” Lackovic said.

Indeed, drum majors are more than just the human metronomes towering over the band on Friday nights during the halftime of football games. They are arbiters, conductors, counselors and secretaries, a multi-faceted role that can set the tone for a performance — even a program.

As Forsyth County marching bands start making their debuts this fall, we talked with drum majors to find out what it takes to help make everything look and sound so smooth on Friday nights.

Why did you want to be a drum major?

Major Frank, Forsyth Central: “As a four-year member, I really understood the impact of how marching band has an effect on kids and helps them develop. As a senior, I really want to help push that so we can lead the next generation of marchers and make it stronger and stronger.”

Grayson Cho, West Forsyth: “My older sister was the drum major here for three years [from 2009-12]. That kind of gave me the idea being the younger competitive self I was; I just wanted to be better than her. But then once I got to band, I saw this position as my chance to change the band, help it get to where I envisioned it.”

What is the role of the drum major?

Hailey Anderson, South Forsyth: “I’d say it’s a leadership role more than anything. As much as you see us on the podiums conducting, most of our role is trying to get the band to where it needs to be at all times. … We have to know when every single instrument is playing and what part it is.”

Sidharth Chaudhary, Lambert: “We’re literally standing above everybody else, so I feel like we should be the example. The way we act influences how the band acts during practices.”

Senna DeFour, Forsyth Central: “It’s really important that whatever game face we have on, that is going to reflect on the rest of the band.”

What’s the hardest part of being a drum major?

Gabriella Kulway, North Forsyth: “The most challenging part is being a role model to influence others, because I don’t want to leave the wrong impression on the other band members.”

Madelyn Morales, Lambert: “Leaving your personal issues off the field. If you have had a horrible day and school was really stressful, just being able to completely change your mentality for rehearsal and show your band that, OK, we're going to be able to do this and grow today.”

Rishi Perumal, South Forsyth: “For me, it was overcoming the fact that you have to give direction now.”

Alex Norman, West Forsyth: “The hardest part for me was making the transition from the mellophone section to being drum major where you have all these other small little tasks to make sure the band will work.”

Sriikhar Vedurupaka, Forsyth Central: “The true challenge is that we have to be consistent … That’s something that will get better and better as the season goes on.”

What’s the best part of being a drum major?

Sarah Harding, West Forsyth: “I really like being able to see the [progress the band makes] at a wide spectrum. It’s really hard to see how much better [the band is] getting when you’re with the same six people standing in the same exact spot of the field. But being in front, seeing and hearing everything as it’s going on, it’s a whole different experience.”

Parth Garud, Denmark: “Everyone’s eyes are on you. You’re the one who’s going to start the show that’s going to represent who we are.”

Lindsay Day, Denmark: “There’s just this feeling of pride that’s completely unique to this experience, and I don’t think I’d ever experienced it with anything else.”

What’s the biggest misconception about drum majors or marching band in general?

Matthew Trinh, South Forsyth: “They just kind of see it as we push a button on the metronome and we stand up there and move our hands around. They don’t realize there’s a lot more to it until we mess up.”

Alex Lackovic, Lambert: “We do a lot more than just conduct with our hands.”

Abby Marks, North Forsyth: “One thing a lot of people get wrong about marching band is that we might not work as hard as students who are involved in sports. We rehearse long nights, weekends and work tirelessly to make the show what it is.”
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Denmark High School drum majors Lindsay Day (from left), Abhinav Iyer and Parth Garud. - photo by Brian Paglia
Denmark

Band director: Vincent Sneed

Drum majors: Lindsay Day, Soph.; Parth Garud, Jr.; Abhinav Iyer, Jr.

2019-20 show: “Life in the Big Easy,” which is exactly what it sounds like: a New Orleans-themed performance that will highlight the city's mix of cultures and also make viewers feel like there’s “magic in the air,” Iyer said.

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Forsyth Central High School drum majors Senna DuFour (from left), Sriikhar Vedurupaka and Major Frank. - photo by Brian Paglia
Forsyth Central

Band director: Tom Tucker and Dan Grass

Drum majors: Senna DeFour, Sr.; Major Frank, Sr.; Sriikhar Vedurupaka, Sr.

Show: “Twilight Zone.” Two actors go into a hotel where spooky stuff starts to happen. Will they make it out alive?

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Lambert High School drum majors Madelyn Morales (from left), Alex Lackovic, Sidharth Chaudhary and James Chalmers.
Lambert

Band director: Scott McCloy

Drum majors: James Chalmers, Jr.; Sidharth Chaudhary, Sr.; Alex Lackovic, Sr.; Madelyn Morales, Jr.

Show: “Vamp,” a vampire-themed performance. Theatrical elements include a queen vampire who “kills” members of the band.

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North Forsyth High School drum majors Gabriella Kulway and Abby Marks.
North Forsyth

Band director: Raymond Thomas

Drum majors: Gabriella Kulway, Abby Marks.

Show: “Volcano.” Expect lots of fun, upbeat music as the band enjoys some beach time on an island until the island turns out to be a volcano and it explodes on the field — literally.

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South Forsyth High School drum majors Hailey Anderson (left) and Rishi Perumal observe during a recent practice. Not pictured: Matthew Trinh. - photo by Brian Paglia
South Forsyth

Band director: Stephen Hendricks

Drum majors: Hailey Anderson, Sr.; Rishi Perumal, Soph.; Matthew Trinh, Sr.

Show: “Off The Chain,” the chain referring to chain reactions, which is reflected with music and movement sequences that escalate in difficulty for the band but also enjoyment for the viewer.

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West Forsyth High School drum majors Grayson Cho (from left), Alex Norman and Sarah Harding. - photo by Brian Paglia
West Forsyth

Band director: Josh Tyree

Drum majors: Grayson Cho, Sr.; Sarah Harding, Jr.; Alex Norman, Jr.

Show: “A Light in Darkness.” There’s a princess, a knight, a dragon — you can probably guess where this is going. There’s also music from “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” a popular action role-playing video game.