How to Become Drum Major: 4 tips for a better Drum Major audition

Drum Major Academy Conducting.

Drum Major Academy Conducting.

Wondering how to become your school or ensemble’s Drum Major? Here are 4 of the most important lessons you need for a better Drum Major audition.

1. The audition has already begun.

Parade Band in Washington DC.

Being a DM isn’t about being impressive at the actual audition. There is a consideration of your cumulative contribution to the band.

Do you regularly set a good example for your peers? Are you always willing to help when needed? Is your reputation one of kindness and effort? It starts there.

For upperclassmen & vets

For 2 and 3-year veterans auditioning for the drum major job, think back on your first few years. Were you positive, enthusiastic, and respectful? If not, you should start looking for ways to make up for it.

For new members

If you’re a first-year member, chances are that you can’t audition yet anyway. Most ensembles want a little more experience from their drum majors than just one year on the field.


If you’re still brand new to the band, that means you have more opportunity to set a great track record for yourself. Maintain your positivity and professionalism now to help your chances later.

2. Work on your communication skills.


Most audition processes involve an interview, and the truth is that the answers are only half of what we band directors are looking for.

They usually hear a lot of similar answers. What sets one candidate apart from another is the way the answer is delivered.

It’s not what, it’s how

Is there confidence and sincerity? Speak directly, make eye contact, and when you’re done, put a period on the statement instead of a question mark.

These things are hard even for many adults. Be prepared for some discomfort when learning to change the way you talk to people.

Watch for other examples

But notice the difference between how your teachers look and sound when they talk to the class vs. when they’re speaking to a student one-on-one.

Model your communication after the teacher’s public speaking mode. Chances are they’re pretty good at it already.

3. Real talk: you may not get the job the first time.

Sad Puppy.

Most bands have more than one drum major (depending on their size, anyway). But even still, there aren’t very many spots to go around.

So the math says that most people who want to be drum major just won’t get it. At least not at first.

Everything is an opportunity

Think of it as an opportunity to be a leader before you ever get a title. Support the DM and work as hard as you can to help the band get better.

That plus a positive attitude will go a long way toward showing that you have the maturity it takes to do the job when you audition again in the future.

Never fail, never learn

There are tons of inspirational quotes out there about how failure is not an option, or “all I do is win.”

But the truth is that failure is a lot more common than success. Seriously. Count them as they happen to you.

But that’s ok. Failure isn’t bad unless you let it slow you down.

Don’t just fail. Learn. Grow. Improve. Try again.

4. It all comes down to this…

The time is now!

Earn it early.

You should be doing the things to prove that you are the best person for the job before you ever get the gig.

Once you do, you will have to continue to prove it, but the experience is one you will be sure to find rewarding.

It’s never too early.

These are things that will prove it are positive attitude, tremendous work ethic, a willingness to help your peers and outstanding musicianship.

If you put keep that goal in mind and you put in the effort months or years ahead of time, you’ll be setting yourself up for later success with your Drum Major audition.

5. Bonus! Come to DMA 😃

DMA Group Selfie 2016.

This is sorta what we do, ya know? AND, most people don’t know this… you don’t actually have to be your school’s drum major to attend DMA!

In fact, we hear from lots and lots and LOTS of band directors who tell us they wish their whole band could attend DMA.

The leadership training we give out works for everybody—no matter what your role in band is.

Don’t believe it? Try it. You’ll wonder why you ever waited so long.

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