Your 2016 Woman Up Front: New MMB Drum Major Announced

Submitted by Bando Calrissian on April 24th, 2016 at 2:11 AM

For the first time since 2001, and the second time ever, the Michigan Marching Band has selected a woman drum major. McKenna Thayer, a senior alto saxophone from Hillsdale, Michigan, will be the Woman Up Front in 2016. 

Congratulations, McKenna!



April 24th, 2016 at 7:56 PM ^

I'm not offended either way. I agree with the OP's sentiment that it would be nice to live in a world one day where when a woman gets selected for a leadership position that it's not a press stopping event. That it would be as normal as a man getting selected for the same position. It's just that in this situation it would be news every year regardless of gender or race.


April 25th, 2016 at 4:58 AM ^

There was no outrage, so not sure where you got that from. Given the fact that she's the second female drum major ever, and the post clearly highlights that, was just stating that I look forward to the day when the gender of our drum major is no longer notable.

I apologize if my comment made it sound like I was upset about the OP.

rob f

April 24th, 2016 at 5:40 AM ^

Sax section!

(I primarily played tenor, but also did play some alto, soprano, and baritone sax (also occasionally the oboe and even a bit of trombone) back during high school marching, concert, and stage/jazz band.)

Mark McBoneski

April 24th, 2016 at 10:16 AM ^

Early in the winter semester, all band members trying out for drum major interview and try out in front of the band staff. Eventually, the number of candidates is reduced to three or four. Those remaining candidates audition in front of the entire band at the Spring Meeting. After all of the candidates have performed, the band members vote for the best one.

For the tryouts in front of the whole band, each candidate must demonstrate: the position of attention, vocal and whistle commands, all three marching styles, their pregame entrance routine, strutting, and twirling. The hatless backbend and twirling sections are "optional," but all band members know that a candidate won't be elected if he or she can't do them.


April 24th, 2016 at 10:49 AM ^

I know it's a different kind of whistling, but your mention of it reminded me of what my wife's grandmother told her when she was little and trying to learn how to whistle: "Whistling girls and crowing hens, always come to some bad end."  In looking up that saying, I found an even earlier version:"A whistling woman and a crowing hen are neither fit for God nor men."

 I can only imagine what her grandmother would think of a young woman strutting. 


April 24th, 2016 at 10:36 AM ^

Congrats to her!  Great news!


As far as the process goes, when I was there in the 90's the candidates tried out in front of the entire band.  So they did things like the strut and the back bend and baton twirling.   Then there was an interview portion and then we voted.  I don't think too much has changed since then but I'm sure a more recent member can comment.


April 24th, 2016 at 7:47 AM ^

OP: When the required abilities are considered, I'd expect that position to be ... gender-neutral these days, I guess. Any thoughts as to why they're mostly male?


April 24th, 2016 at 12:37 PM ^

Even the twirlers (and the cheerleaders) were all male.  As I heard it from one of the early bandspersons of the female persuasion, the powers that be (or had been) had very good reasons for defending the status quo: 

1.  Uniformity is paramount in look of a marching band.  Men wear pants, women wear skirts.  So obviously. 

2.  The Rose Parade is really long.  All that strutting for 5 miles would be too taxing for the ladies.  (To say nothing of carrying those heavy instruments at the same time)

3.  They'd have to build separate bathrooms.

I don't know how the bathroom issue was worked out, but apparently the other stuff was.