Pride of the Mountains Summer Symposium Inspires Band Students

Recently, a marching arts clinic took place on the campus of Western Carolina University where over a hundred nearby band students were taught, trained, and educated all about music and leadership while participating in WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Summer Symposium event.

One might wonder why it is important to teach band students about leadership, and let alone why it is necessary to host a huge clinic during the summer time. The answer to these questions can be seen through the continuous positive feedback reported from both the students and staff of Summer Symposium.

Among the students who attended the symposium this year were several marching band drum majors, many of which had not ever been drum majors before.

“I wanted to come to Symposium this year because this will be my first year as drum major. I went hoping to learn what I needed to lead the band,” said newcomer Ethan Henry from C.A. Erwin High School. “In this experience, I learned that, and more.”

“This is going to be my first year as a drum major and there was sooo much that I had no idea how to do like conducting,” said first time Drum Major from Reynolds High School, Andrea Langefield. “It is kind of a tradition for Reynolds Drum Majors to go to Summer Symposium so I gladly carried on the tradition and it helped me tremendously.”

Regardless of different positions in the band, all symposium students show up with one goal in mind, to learn all that they can.

“I learned so much at this camp it was crazy. My conducting got so much better because of this camp,” said first time Assistant Drum Major Abby Evans. “I also learned about leadership and how to ask certain things and critique people.”

“Symposium is highly effective,” said returning Symposium counselor and Music Education major Kris Bence. “It really helps the kids get deep into what makes a good leader and drum major and it is important for them all to see that it is not all about the spotlight that they are rightfully given.”

The Students learned about leadership through a variety of different communication and leadership games. Students were assigned to groups in which they would bond while they played several games together. The games were meant to help them analyze the way they communicate and to think outside the box rather than sticking to what they know, according to Bence.

“My favorite part [of Symposium] was my group,” said Evans. “Our group experience was great because we did activities that ended up relating back to teamwork.”

“I presented [students] with games that challenged their leadership and communication skills so that we could later sit down and talk about what worked and what didn’t,” explained Bence. “That way they could learn from the situation and take it back with them when they begin their season.”
“The activities were incredibly entertaining and in the end they all had a good motive and point that was explained to us,” said Langefield.

“As a counselor, I was there as a guide and an example for the young musicians. They really need something to look at as an example and I tried my best to be that for them,” said Bence.

I really enjoyed how informal yet structured Symposium was,” said first time Drum Major from Reynolds High School, Andrea Langefield. “I didn’t feel ‘suffocated’ or overwhelmed with information.”

Symposium is about the whole picture of the band, and how the camp helps [students] grow vastly into very mature people and it is truly a valuable tool for them to have, according to Bence.

Henry plans to return next year and he wants all of the leaders of his band to attend as well. “I think anyone in a leadership position in a band should come to this camp,” said Henry. “You learn how to effectively communicate with others.”

“It is my opinion that every school should send at least one student to Summer Symposium, said Langefield. “It would give every band a strong backbone from which they could build on to maximize their season.”

“When you find people who are just like you and love doing the things you love, you become best friends, said Evans.” “You realize why you love being a leader and drum major. We all learned so much.”

Symposium is expected to continue the program next summer and is sure to be another great success while still impacting the lives of band students everywhere.