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Midvale Journal

First drum major in decades reflects on experience leading band

Aug 03, 2022 07:40PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High’s marching band returned this past year after about a 40-year absence, although initial steps were taken to introduce the parade band two years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The band followed the direction of senior Zoe Welch, who was selected as drum major.

“I was asked if I’d want to conduct and I said, ‘Sure,’” she said recalling there was no hesitation. “I was really excited. When I was a freshman, I decided I really wanted to be band president, but when he (band director Austin Hilla) brought up drum major, I was like, ‘Nobody's done that recently,’ and it just seemed like way too much fun to pass up.”

In her first days as drum major last summer, Welch joined band members, learning how to march. Their practices were split between marching on the field and in the new fieldhouse.

“I learned how to march so I could teach people and help them,” she said. “Marching is hard. You have to be conscious of like every single muscle for like 10 minutes straight. When you're doing a whole show, in the hot beaming sun, it’s just so hard.”

Then, with Midvale Middle band teacher Wyatt Giles, who served as Hillcrest’s assistant band director, she learned how to conduct.

“I spent about three hours with him. He was the drum major for the marching band when he was at the U(niversity of Utah),” Welch said. “He taught me how to do it, how to have the cut-offs, and we went over some of the halftime shows together.”

She conducted the band at Hillcrest High’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new building.

“That was my first time directing the band in front of other people,” Welch remembered. “It was exciting and super nerve-wracking because there's all these people staring at me, like, ‘Who is this student doing this?’ But it was cool to be able to do it and be a part of the historic event.”

Welch also directed the band at home football games and then, because of the rise of COVID-19 cases, the band was restricted to just one boys and one girls basketball game.

“At times, I missed playing my sax, but conducting was really kind of fun. I would sing the song while they would play it, but I would miss out on songs we had learned in previous years. I'd be like, ‘Oh, I miss playing that,’” she said. “I think our last show at the final home football game, we played the full set and the band watched and trusted me and that was our best performance. People don't talk about how much you have to trust each other when it comes to music. It was a lesson for the band and for me because I'm leading them, but I'm also friends with them. They had to trust me enough to be able to do this and when they did, it was sweet.”

Welch, who graduated in May, had been a leader in the school’s musical council, serving three years.

“I think it's super cool that the marching band is back, but I feel more people will be aware of it when they take the field in the fall,” she said. “It was a cool experience, and especially, as a female, to be the first returning drum major. I’m not sure it was a thing when Hillcrest had a marching band years ago.”