george fonseca

A major leap in leadership

When band students are asked what their favorite part of Marching Band is, they’ll probably enthusiastically speak about the bond created between members on late Tuesday night field show rehearsals. They might rave about their passion for music. Or about how band has become their home away from home.

For sophomore George Fonseca, it’s —

“All of the above. Everything.”

Fonseca is one of four drum majors, which are the leaders of Marching Band. As a drum major, he is responsible for conducting during field shows, keeping the marchers in rhythm and ensuring the marchers hit their dots (spots where marchers have to stop or change direction). 

“Not only are you leading the band, but you’re also a performer. You’re there to perform for the people and display a lot of showmanship,” Fonseca said. “There’s also a lot of leadership skills involved.”

To be considered for drum major, Fonseca auditioned for a panel of judges consisting of directors Katie Takahashi and Corey Wicks, a drill coordinator, a visual coordinator and the 2018-2019 senior drum majors on the last day of his freshman year. To prepare, he trained with alumnus Chris Yang, practicing conducting, parade techniques and marching skills. 

“In that week of training, he really gave me that mentality of ‘You’re just as capable as anyone else in that room.’ That’s what really helped me get into that mindset and really focus on auditioning. I had that mentality throughout [my audition],” Fonseca said.

The judges scored each category (conducting, parade and marching) and further evaluated candidates by considering their personality and leadership qualities. After meeting and discussing the candidates, the judges announced that Fonseca had been chosen to be one of the upcoming school year’s drum majors.

“When they announced it, I was in shock. I got all red. I was speechless because there were so many good candidates in the room,” Fonseca said. “Deep down, sometimes you contemplate whether you have a shot or not. I tried really hard throughout freshman year, but I didn’t think I could go straight to being drum major.”

But Fonseca’s journey to becoming the youngest drum major in recent years did not start in his freshman year. He began playing the alto saxophone in fifth grade and, as a result, fell in love with jazz music. 

“[I just loved] that jazz feeling. It feels really laid back and really nice,” Fonseca said. “Personally, I’m not good at singing. But, with music, I get to sing through my instrument. I get to express my personality and my style and what I’m feeling through my instrument.”

His passion for jazz continues to this day, informing both the decisions he makes as a drum major as well as his overall musicianship.

“Jazz and classical music — they’re two different things because of the way you play things. One is swing, and the other is more straight. But something that I felt is that I’ve been grooving to [the Marching Band pieces] and feeling the songs more. Hearing those rhythms just helps me become a better musician,” Fonseca said.

Fonseca’s first official performance as a drum major came on one of the biggest days of the school year — Branding Iron. In preparation, Fonseca and the other drum majors analyzed the number of counts, crescendos, diminuendos and cutoffs of each set. Then, they practiced the conducting at home and memorized each movement.

“When you’re performing in front of so many people, you finally get to show off all the hard work that the band has done. That feeling where the whole community comes together — it’s the best feeling honestly because you get to entertain others,” Fonseca said. “Something that I tell everybody as we walk out onto the field is, ‘Do the best you can do. At the same time, have fun because you’re not going to have this experience so many years from now. This is the one time you can have this.’”

Being drum major has not only made Fonseca a better musician but also inspired him to become a more confident leader and person.

“When you march, you want to be confident and when you’re confident, you can apply that leadership not only to band but also to your school life, to your home life, to anything around you, and that’s what makes you grow as a person,” Fonseca said.

Despite the speed at which Fonseca has advanced through the ranks of Marching Band, he continuously praises those around him and acknowledges everything he still needs to learn. 

“I try to stay down to earth and stay humble because, at the end of the day, you started from the bottom and worked your way up,” Fonseca said. “Being in band, it’s totally for the people. It’s a hobby and a passion. You just love doing it. It’s just part of you.” 

By Sarah Aie, Online editor-in-chief
Photo by Tristan Gonzalez