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Double time
Identical twins keep the beat for North band
Major Twins 3 es
Brooke, left, and Barbara VanKempen share a laugh in the band room. - photo by Emily Saunders
Fans of the North Forsyth High School Marching Raider Band may think they’re seeing double. And in a sense, they are.

While band uniforms are designed to make all members look similar, this year at North the drum majors look exactly alike.

Identical twins Barbara and Brooke VanKempen have led the band through a successful season this fall.

“They’re great young ladies,” said Raymond Thomas, North’s band director. “We’re real glad they’re members of the band and they’ve done a great job for us this year as drum majors.”

Juniors, the pair has been active with band since sixth grade, when they both entered the program at Liberty Middle School after moving to Forsyth County from Conyers.

“We’ve been singing together since we were little and just always have been into music,” said Brooke, the “younger” twin by two minutes.

Both twins play similar instruments. Barbara plays tuba and Brooke, the smaller baritone.

The twins have two brothers who are also “into music.”

Older brother James is a senior at North who plays trombone in the Raider band. He serves as band captain, the second highest rank — just under drum major — on the field.

Younger brother Josh, an eighth-grader at North Forsyth Middle, plays saxophone.

“We’re a musical family,” Barbara said. “Every time we have people over, the four of us give concerts.”

That musical talent continues on the marching field.

In both of North’s marching band competitions this year, the girls took high honors for their drum majoring abilities, placing first and second in their division and second and third overall.

“One of the judges at our first competition kept saying stuff about how good our unison was, that we had perfect unison,” said Barbara with a laugh. “It’s kind of a joke with some of the other band directors that it’s unfair because we’re always in unison.”

Beside always being in unison, that twin connection has other benefits.

“It’s easy to practice with her because we live together,” said Barbara, who also served as drum major last year with a different partner.

“It’s a whole different experience [with Brooke] because we’ve grown up together and we know each so well already. With someone else, you have to learn them.”

While they work well together, they’re not inseparable.

“We don’t sit together on the bus [traveling to away football games or competitions],”  Brooke said. “We always sit with other people.”

Sometimes looking exactly alike makes things difficult for the other band members and even their directors.

“A lot of the members just call us both ‘Brookebarbara’ because they can’t tell us apart,” Barbara said.

Thomas was initially among the confused.

“The first year, I had a hard time with telling them apart,”  he said. “If they weren’t sitting, holding their instruments, I didn’t know which one was which.

“But after their freshman year, I started to notice differences in the way they dress and they way they act.”

Thomas said he believes the girls’ connection has probably helped make them successful drum majors, but there are other more important factors.

“The twin thing probably does play into it, but both these girls are just very dedicated people,” he said. “I’ve never seen them argue or fight.
They work very well together and they genuinely like everybody.

“They both have a great attitude and work ethic, so the kids respect them.”

So will they continue as drum majors next year?

“We’ll definitely try out and would like to, but it all depends on what the directors want,” they said.

That probably won’t be a problem.

“They’re some of the most solid drum majors we’ve ever had,” Thomas said.