When I introduce myself and tell people I’m the drum
major for the USC Band, the usual response goes something like this …
“Huh?” Then I get to explain exactly what it is that the drum major
does, which isn’t always easy.
As a Trojan fan (or at least a follower of college sports),
you probably know the drum major better as “Tommy Trojan” or
“the guy that stabs the field during pre-game.” But Tommy Trojan
(as we all know) is a statue in the middle of campus, and there’s a lot
that goes in behind the scenes before a drum major gets to stab the field.
Auditions for drum major are held at the end of the spring
semester each year behind Heritage Hall. The band votes for the best candidate
based off of their marching, conducting (with the Trojan sword) and an
inspirational speech. I tried out alongside two of my close friends, with whom
I spent months preparing for the audition. After putting in so much time
and effort, it was an accomplishment just getting up there.
As USC drum major, I have the same leadership
responsibilities as band leaders from other schools—keeping the band in
line, yelling out commands and conducting fight songs. The biggest
responsibility for me, though, is to keep the band’s spirit and morale
up, because that’s what sets us apart from the rest of the pack.
A close friend told me before the year about the two most
important jobs for the drum major. The first is obvious, the pre-game routine
when I will get the opportunity to stab the field and get the Coliseum ready
for game time. The second is less obvious, though: leading the band through
band camp the week before classes even begin.
Band camp is the single most important milestone on the way to
a great season. Our one-week camp is by far the hardest thing we do, and
it’s the glue that brings each new year’s edition of the Trojan
Marching Band together. We sweat and toil together on the field and in the
rehearsal hall for ten hours a day. It’s where Trojans learn to work
hard. It’s where we perfect the band sound and style. And it’s
where freshmen become Trojans. And as drum major, it’s my job to keep the
band’s spirit up and maintain the drive of the group. As an individual,
it’s easy to get worn out after a long day in the sun, but the Trojan
Marching Band never gets tired.
Now, as the band continues to prepare for the home opener
against Ohio State, my job is to keep the band moving in the right direction.
Band camp is just the beginning—it’s when the band steps out of the
tunnel into the Coliseum that the real fun begins.
— Ed Carden
Photos: Ed leads the Trojan Marching Band at last week’s Virginia game. Credits: Geoff Burke / US Press Wire (top) and Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images.