Three in One

Meet this year’s Marching Band Drum Majors — Erik Bloomquist, Abby Witherell, and Sara Weller.


photo by Maddie Harris

2021 Drum Majors Sara Weller, Erik Bloomquist, and Abby Witherel are rockin’ and rollin’ into Marching Band season.

Maddie Harris, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The bell rings Friday afternoon at 2:15, and students eagerly head for the NASH doors to begin their weekend. However, seniors Erik Bloomquist, Abby Witherell, and Sara Weller have different plans. They race down to the costume room, suit up in their uniforms, and head out to the field to lead the North Allegheny marching band. They are the 2021-2022 school year’s Drum Majors.

What instrument/ instruments did you play during your time in the Marching Band?

Erik: I played alto saxophone in the band, and I still do play it in my solo during the halftime show.

Abby: Like Erik, I was a part of the alto saxophone section.

Sara: I played the mellophone for the last three years.

What or who inspired/ drove you to try out for the Drum Major Position?

Erik: I really just wanted the experience of conducting the band and taking on a larger role than before. I didn’t really have a past drum major who I aspired to be like.

Abby:  I knew one of the past drum majors through my sister and looked up to her. She made the position seem like a dream (it is!), and that it made her incredibly happy. I wanted to experience that for myself. 

Sara: A couple of people influenced me to try out for drum major, but first was Tess Majewski, one of the drum majors from when I was in eighth grade. She came into the cafeteria on eighth grade band night where we were waiting, stood on a table, and blew her whistle to tell us directions. That seemed like a really cool place to be so for the eighth-grade night I watched her and solidified my desire to be a drum major. 

How long did the audition take? Did you feel confident in your chances?

Erik:  The actual audition takes around 10-15 minutes- Abby was actually my partner in the audition. Once mine was over, I felt pretty confident that I would be selected because I thought that I answered their interview questions well.

Abby: The entire process takes months since all of the candidates participate in workshops over the course of our off-season months. As June grows closer, the workshops take place more frequently, all the way up until audition day. The long-awaited day was on a Friday afternoon right after school. I was anticipating the nerves all day. I was one of the last candidates to have my audition, so I could hear all of the feedback from the others. I waited for a couple of hours just to have my 10 minutes with the panel. Coming out of it, I definitely doubted myself… Everyone was so talented.

Sara:  I kept swinging drastically between “there’s no way they can’t give it to me” and “there’s no reason they should give it to me”.    

What was the most difficult part of the auditions?

Erik:  The most difficult part for me was definitely following commands because I had to march with a broken big toe.

Abby: For me, the interview portion was the most difficult. I prepared myself for a multitude of questions the panel of directors and judges could have asked me, but I ended up having to slim down my thoughts into simpler answers. I had so much that I wanted to say to them! I felt confident with calling commands, marching, and conducting–you can never fully prepare though.

Sara: The interview as well; the directors and current drum majors get to be really intimidating and can ask whatever they want. You just have to come up with a concise answer and deal with the what-ifs later.

Describe the feeling of being selected; the moment you found out

Erik: It was very exciting- I actually had people texting me congratulating me before I saw the list for myself. I really wanted to go to Patron to celebrate.

Abby: I remember sitting on the couch with my dad when I found out. I think I showed him the leadership list on my phone and he said something like, “What am I supposed to be looking for?”, so I had to point out where my name was listed under. A bunch of people had texted to say congrats but I didn’t know what for until I checked. The rush of adrenaline I felt when seeing my name on something important was a little scary, because I knew there was a lot that needed to be done.

Sara: I was on facetime with one of my friends waiting for the list when it came out, and seeing my name under drum major was absolutely surreal. I just remember huge amounts of joy and pride filling in me, and I almost started crying. I didn’t know if it was real. Shortly after I ended up on a call with two of my biggest inspirations for becoming a drum major, and they were really proud of me. I almost cried again knowing I grew up and made them proud.

How has your experience in the Band changed from a normal member to a Drum Major?   

Erik: We definitely take on much more responsibility than normal members, but we get some benefits in return. We’re expected to know all of the music inside and out, have solid conducting fundamentals, and gain the respect of our peers. We’re also held more accountable for our errors. It’s much harder to cover up mistakes when everything you do is being watched by 200 plus people.

Abby: I feel more connected to the directors as well, and I [feel I] have more of a voice when it comes to making decisions for the band. 

Sara: I get to know more things! Drum majors tend to be the communication between the directors and the band, so we get to know the schedule first, and hear how each director’s thought process works. 

Do you feel like you’re less attached to the band or more attached now that you’re a 


Erik: I feel much more attached to the band. It’s such a great experience to watch the halftime show improve week to week from a viewer’s perspective. When you’re in the band, you can really only tell if you did your job correctly. As Drum Majors, we get to watch the holistic growth and improvement of the band.

Abby: A lot more attached!! As a drum major, you aren’t limited to just interacting with your section all the time. I get the opportunity to meet and socialize with the entire band, including the auxiliaries. Being on the podium gives you an overview of everyone…you can face the band while they’re performing instead of facing the audience. I love exchanging smiles and having little dance parties with different people throughout rehearsals and before shows. It’s the best feeling.

Sara: I feel slightly less attached, but not in a negative way. Past drum majors have told me about “drum major island” where your responsibilities don’t allow you to be a true band member, but you’re still a part of the band. I like knowing more people, coming from a small section it was hard to meet the underclassmen.

Which game/ event are you most excited to conduct this year?

Erik: I was most looking forward to conducting at 8th Grade Band Night because I wanted the band to perform well for prospective members. There were over 140 8th graders in attendance, and the band could really benefit from a large freshman class next year. I also remember how much my 8th-grade night meant to me, and I wanted to replicate that for the current 8th graders.

Abby:  I was really looking forward to marching parades downtown and going on a trip to Disney World, but, as we all have probably experienced at least a few times, Covid.

Sara: Probably the Halloween parades. The whole band dresses up in costumes, and we do a parade in Bloomfield with a really excited crowd. [We] then perform at the trick or trot race the following Saturday before splitting up and parading through neighborhoods in the district. 

Do you ever wish you could watch the game from the Student Section?

Erik: I did watch last year’s WPIAL championship from the student section since the band did not go to that game, and I will say that both sections have their pros and cons. Sitting with the band is definitely more enjoyable and high-energy, but the student section cares about the football team’s performance much more. We also get to sit much closer to the game. I actually caught a tipped pass at the first home game. Most people in the band are just there to talk with their friends and play music; the student section is much more engaged with the game

Abby: Oh, all the time. They seem like they’re having so much fun over there. But then again, the band’s front row seats (literally) are something I would never give up. All of the action is right in front of our faces–which is sometimes dangerous (have you ever been whacked in the stomach by a football??). I won’t lie. I did consider trying out for the cheer team or dance team my freshman and sophomore years, but I’m really grateful that I decided to stick with the band.

Sara: Not particularly, I feel like it’s counterintuitive, but I don’t like crowds. The student section from a distance seems like a really fun time but can also seem overwhelming. I love how excited they get for the game and seeing them support the football team, but I don’t think I would enjoy being with them.

How does it feel to be participating in your last NA Marching season?

Erik: It feels really nostalgic, especially at times like 8th Grade Band Night. I am in disbelief that my 8th-grade night was over 4 years ago! It also feels sort of weird to think of the Drum Majors from my freshman year and realize that I’m in their position now.

Abby: It hits harder than you think. I sometimes find myself realizing that I already went through my last high school band camp, experienced a night recruiting the 8th graders for the last time, and I’ll be one of the seniors on senior band night. This time next year I will be out in the world somewhere living it up, and the NA marching band will continue on without all of us. Kind of sad, I know, but sweet. 

Sara: Until being asked this question, I never really thought about it. It’s really surreal to know that being in this band has been my dream since sixth grade and my last year is halfway over. I have loved every single moment of this season, and I choose to just focus on that, not the fact that it’s the last.

If you had to give a piece of advice to future drum majors, what would it be?

Erik: Don’t try to be anyone else. As a Drum Major, people will always try to compare you to past Drum Majors and fit you into the mold. Be yourself and don’t feel pressure to be like those who came before you!

Abby: Relax. Being a drum major is hyped up to be this super anxiety-inducing, high-maintenance job, but at most times it isn’t. Just have fun with it, be kind to everyone no matter what happens, and stay true to who you are.

Sara: Take a breath and trust the directors. Things may be chaotic, but they will only get worse if you lose your head in the process. The directors have been doing this for a while, and they want the best for you. You need to trust their instincts to do your job. You’ll have a great time, just remember you’re technically a rookie again.