They Will Rock You

Meet the Marching Band's trio of Drum Majors


photo by Somya Thakur

Somya Thakur, Staff Writer

If you’ve ever been to a North Allegheny football game on a Friday night, chances are you’ve seen Meg Rees, Lily Stromberg, and Ian Rampton conducting the marching band during halftime.  I had the opportunity to sit down with them before last Friday’s game.


How long have you been in the marching band, and what instrument or instruments did you play?

Meg: I’ve been in Marching Band for 4 years, and I play the clarinet.

Lily: I’ve been in Marching Band for 4 years, and I played the mellophone my freshman year and bass drum after that.

Ian: I’ve been in Marching Band since freshman year, and I play the trombone.

What made you want to become a Drum Major? Was there any specific Drum Major in NA’s history who inspired you?

Lily: ZEHRA! ZEHRA! That’s all. My mom was also a Drum Major of the North Allegheny Marching Band. 

Meg: Nancy. She really inspired me to become a Drum Major. I used to sit next to her in the pit for musical, and she would always talk about how much fun it was. I never really wanted to be a Drum Major at first, but I went to workshops and everything, and I thought it would be such a great opportunity to be a role model for everyone.

Ian: I’ve wanted to be a Drum Major since middle school, ever since I found out what a Drum Major was, and I’ve had two Drum Majors in the family, so I’ve been encouraged to be one. If I had Drum Major role models, it would be Tess Majewski and Sebastian Immonen. 

What was the most nerve-racking part about auditions?

Lily: Oh my. Trying not to poop myself.

Ian: I’d have to say the basics of being a Drum Major like conducting and commands were fine, but having a personal interview is the scariest thing ever. You have to talk about your insecurities, why you’re good for Drum Major and why you’d be bad for Drum Major.

Lily: They make you cry on purpose, I swear.

Ian: I think every one of us cried during our interview.

Meg: Everything about it is so scary because you’re so vulnerable. I mean, you’ve wanted this position for so long, and then you walk out that door and there’s nothing you can do at that point. It’s all up to the directors.

What is something you used to do as a normal band member that you feel like you can no longer do as a Drum Major? 

Meg: Have fun. No, I’m just kidding, but I think maybe goofing around is not really an option anymore. There’s so much responsibility that comes with being a Drum Major, so you can’t really mess around.

Lily: I used to run the trailer [loading and unloading instruments], but I can’t do that anymore and I feel bad because I never really taught anyone how to do it.  But I’m sure they’ll figure it out.

Ian: Yeah, I think goofing around during rehearsals. As Drum Major, you kind of have to be the cheerleader of the band, and you always have to keep the energy up.

Do you feel as connected to your section? Do you miss playing your instrument?

Meg: At times I do, but I really miss my old section. Still, I think I like being Drum Major more than being a clarinet player.

Lily: I really miss being on the drumline. I miss all of my friends because that’s where they all are. But I still get to do indoor, so that’s pretty tight.

Ian: I have never once missed playing trombone in the Marching Band. I did not like playing trombone, but I love my section and love talking to them.

What parade do you think will be your favorite to conduct this year?

Lily: DISNEY! 

Ian: Periodt. Disney would be the best.

Meg: Disney or the Pens victory parade, if they win this year. That was such a cool experience freshman year with all those people in the city.  It was insane to see people hanging out of those parking garages.

Lily: Hopefully we’ll get to do Halloween parades this year.

How do you feel about this year’s show of rock music? What is your dream theme?

Lily: It’s so good. I love rock music! But that’s just me.

Meg: I like it, but there are some things I would love to incorporate, like choreography. But it’s so much fun to conduct. I was really excited to hear that Queen was the opener.

Ian: I’m more of a U2/Coldplay guy, but I do love the show. We’ve got all types of rock and roll, the ballad type, the jazzy type with “Kashmir,” and so much more.

What’s your dream theme? 

Ian: Coldplay and that’s on periodt. Coldplay’s Super Bowl halftime show translated into such a great theme.

What is the best part of Friday nights with the Band?

Meg: Hanging out in the stands and getting so hyped up before the games or during them. Like last week with Canon Mac, what we did with them, the whole passing the wave from our Band to theirs was absolutely amazing. 

Ian: That was so cool.

Lily: I liked when we went to our first away game and I walked up and down and talked to all the freshmen.  It felt like all the freshmen from different sections were our freshmen.

Ian: I love being in the stands and talking to people.  I would just get excited to sit in the stands and talk to people. I mean, it gets deep in the stands.

What was the hardest thing to do in terms of training to become a Drum Major? 

Ian: Bruv…

Meg: Conducting takes so much out of your shoulders. After the first game, I went home and fell right asleep, and my shoulders, arms, and legs were on fire. Setting an example for everyone is pretty hard. You have to be able to connect to everyone in the Band. 

Ian: I agree. Conducting is really taxing on the arms, but being insecure and asking yourself, “What are people gonna think of me? Will they respect me? Will they actually listen to me?” That’s definitely an obstacle you have to overcome. And trust that, if you present the appearance that you know what you’re doing, people will listen.

Meg: It’s hard to find a balance between being fun and being serious so that you’re well respected.

What is the most annoying thing Band kids do that gets on your nerves?

Meg: Not listening, and playing after we cut them off. 

Ian: Playing meme songs — Saxophone Section, I’m looking at you. 

Lily: I like the meme songs; I actually don’t mind them! I gotta be honest, when people disrespect Evan J Brown, he’s my man, it gets on my last nerve because he really does care about this Band. 

What do you think of all the people you’ve interacted with in the Band who have graduated?

Meg: I think they’ve turned me into the person I am today. Without Nancy, I wouldn’t have tried out to be Drum Major. I feel like I’ve picked up so much from being in this position. I feel like I’m a better person and a better leader.

Ian: I think I definitely agree with that, I always looked up to upperclassmen and the Drum Majors, even as a junior. They definitely have shaped who I am today. 

Meg: When you’re a freshman, you look at the seniors and they’re something to be admired.

Ian: They’re like literal gods.

Lily: Actual gods.

Meg: It’s so weird to think that maybe some of the freshmen have those same feelings towards us.

Lily: My freshman year, we had some iffy times with our section leader, but then I went to indoor for the first time and became friends with Sawyer. He made me feel valid, and I knew then and there that I wanted to be able to make people feel valid even if they’re freshmen. I hated feeling like an idiot because I was 14 instead of 18.

How weird is it to be a senior now, looking back on your Band years?

Ian: It’s so weird. 

Lily: It’s absolutely crazy.

Meg: I mean, just looking back at our Rocky show, it feels like it was just yesterday, and we’ll make jokes about the show and no one will get them except us. It’s such a strange feeling.

Lily: Well, that and Halloween parades. I remember those.

Meg: It’s so crazy that we’re about to graduate.  It feels like we were freshmen not long ago.  This band is changing right in front of our eyes.

Ian: People say that your high school experience will go so fast, but when you’re a freshman, you’re like, “This sucks.  I’m gonna be stuck here the rest of my life.”  Looking back, I wish I could’ve savored it a little more. 

Any words of advice to future wanna-be Drum Majors? Tips or things to watch out for? 

Lily: Never let your ego get the best of you.

Meg: Yeah, that’s a big one.

Lily: And it’s not just with us but with every year of Drum Major tryouts.

Meg: Be nice to people. Don’t be rude — I think that’s the biggest thing. People during workshops are so nasty sometimes.  Just be content. If you don’t get Drum Major, it’s not the end of the world.  They’re going to pick whoever is best for the band. If it’s not you, then you should be happy because the Band is still going to succeed and you don’t have all that pressure.

Ian: I think definitely don’t be cocky. People who audition for Drum Major can be cocky,  especially me. But also don’t let your insecurities get the best of you because it’s on a pendulum. Even now, halfway through the season, I know people respect me, but I still think, “Do I want to make this announcement? Will people even care?”  

And finally, what do you hope to get out of this last season of Marching Band?

Lily: Well, I’m gonna play drums for a long time, but I hope to learn a lot from being Drum Major. Surprisingly, being in time has a lot to do with your eyeballs, and watching is actually super important.

Meg: I think this last season it’s super important for me to just get closer to all my friends.  This is the last season with them, so I want to have an amazing time.

Ian: I hope to learn a lot more about myself being a Drum Major — my strengths, my weaknesses, and how I can grow as a leader. I just hope to spend the last year learning about myself and being there with my friends.