9 Drum Major Audition Tips
Nervous about your drum major audition? I’ve been there. It can be pretty intimidating. I auditioned for drum major in high school and for drum corps. I have failed auditions and passed them. I was drum major for 3 years and I administered drum major interviews as a drum major and as a staff member.
These are my best tips for the drum major interview room.
1 – Talk to your band director
Find some time to have a conversation with your band director about auditioning for drum major and what it takes to earn a spot.
Ask them what they think the roles and responsibilities of the drum major are. You should have put some serious thought into this yourself before asking so you can have a conversation about it.
The fact that you took the initiative to ask about the audition process and what the expectations are will set you apart from others right away.
2 – Prepare for the interview
The interview is potentially the most nerve racking part of the entire audition. And it could be the most critical. For drum corps auditions, it is almost always the most important factor in being selected.
Prepare by asking your band director what the questions will be. They might just tell you exactly what they are going to ask. If not, try asking the previous drum majors. They will probably want to help you out and give you and idea of what their interview was like.
Finally, go over these common drum major interview questions and answers and come up with answers of your own. If you take the time to go through those questions, you will be thoroughly prepared.
3 – Practice! Practice! Practice!
I know, I know. But really. Don’t just practice to get your conducting patterns right. Practice beyond the point of just getting them right. Make it second nature.
When you walk into the room, you want muscle memory on your side in case you get nervous. On top of that, the best way to not be nervous is the confidence boost that comes from being prepared.
4 – Don’t fidget
Fidgeting shows discomfort. If you can keep still and calm during a nerve racking interview and conducting audition, it is a great signal to the interviewer that you work well under pressure and will do well handling the pressures of being a drum major.
5 – It’s ok to pause before you answer interview questions
Take your time in the interview. When you are asked a question, it is always acceptable to take several moments, even a couple minutes to think of a response. Rambling when you don’t know what to say can be a big mistake. Taking a long pause to think before you speak shows maturity.
6 – Avoid saying “I don’t know” during the interview
The phrase “I don’t know” does not instill very much confidence in the interviewer. They will not expect you to have all the answers but they will expect you to do your best to provide them with some insight even if it is an incomplete answer. If you are really stumped, ask clarifying questions. This shows you are engaged and have a willingness to talk through issues until they are resolved, a valuable quality for a drum major.
7 – Avoid saying “um” or “like” during the interview
If you have a habit of using um or like, just remember to slow down when you are in the interview and to think through what you are going to say before you speak.
8 – Keep your composure during the interview
The interviewer may challenge your answers and fire back with follow up questions. Don’t let that rattle you. Approach the interview as if you and the interviewer are on the same team. Because you are!
They are hoping to find a candidate that understands the role and is comfortable executing it. And you are trying to show them exactly that. Your interests are aligned. So if they question your answers further, take it as an opportunity to work toward the common goal of showing you are a great candidate for drum major rather than feeling attacked.
9 – Ask Your Current Drum Majors for Help
The quickest way to get up to speed on conducting is to ask the current drum majors at your school for help.
Hopefully they will take the time to teach you everything they know. Ask them to demonstrate their conducting style and ask them if you have to use that style or if you have the freedom to use your own style if you are head drum major.
Take note of how they change their style when they are conducting at slow, moderate, and very fast tempos. Take note of how they do cut offs at different tempos as well. It might be helpful to ask them, “can I see how you would do that at 60bpm?”, for example.
If they are willing to help you out, try to take advantage of the resource ask ask all you can because they know better than anyone else (other than your band director) what it takes to become drum major at your school.
At the end of the day, it’s just a conversation. So just be yourself, be authentic, and have a conversation with the interviewer.
If you are looking for more in depth guidance on how to win a drum major spot, make sure to check out Drum Major Auditions: A Complete Guide and if you are looking for a free online video course on everything there is about being a drum major check out Drum Major Essentials.
P.S. I probably broke every rule in the book when it comes to drum major auditions. I was a nervous, fidgeting mess. I mumbled when I spoke. But over time, I kept coming back and I got better. I hope that unlike me, you can learn the easy way. Good luck on your drum major auditions!