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“From 'Drumline' to the First White Drum Major"

by Russell M. Meador, IV 

Elizabeth City State University, ’16 

Bachelor of Arts in Music 


My Story

Entering my senior year of high school, I was unsure about what I wanted to do after graduation. As an aspiring musician, college never struck my interest. However, as I approached high school graduation, my sentiments on college were transformed by the movie, Drumline. The fictitious film about HBCU band culture captivated me, and from that point on, attending an HBCU became my goal. Music has always been a huge part of my life and seeing that movie inspired me to follow my dreams of becoming a musician and refine my talents at an HBCU. Entering Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) as a White student, I knew I was entering a predominately Black college, and it did not bother me one bit. As a young child, I was taught that people should not judge each other by the color of their skin. Moreover, I felt at home on campus and enjoyed the diversity of thought shared in the classroom.  


  Living on “the yard” was the coolest experience. I met many of my classmates, who were all very nice to me. Most of my classmates were intrigued by my background and frequently asked, “Why would I, as a White male, attend a historically, Black university?" My response was the same every time: “Drumline.” Surprisingly, everyone thought it was the coolest answer. Musically, I also grew. My high school band had only twenty musicians and focused exclusively on “Corps Style” versus “Traditional” approaches. Contrarily, ECSU’s band had over a hundred and fifty members and infused a wide variety of musical styles. 

When I joined the marching band during my sophomore year, I was immediately welcomed into the family. The band director, Dr. Tomisha Brock, was the most energetic, loving, and caring band director I have experienced. She gave me a marching band scholarship that almost cut my tuition in half and did a great job of making us perform the best that we could. Everyone talked about how amazing the "Marching Sound of Class" sounded at performances. As my sophomore year in the band concluded, I began to really pay attention to the drum majors. I admired how awesome they looked when we were on the field. At that moment, I aspired to become a drum major at ECSU. 


As the drum major auditions approached at the end of my sophomore year, and after careful thought, I decided to audition. Word quickly spread on campus that a “White guy” was trying out for drum major, and surprisingly again, I had all the support on campus. My peers wanted me to be one of the very few White males to become a drum major at ECSU. During the drum major audition, which was open to the student body to watch, I was pumped to put on a show in front of my peers. When I stepped on stage and performed my routine, the whole crowd cheered my name. I still get goosebumps about my audition performance. However, I missed the cut by one point on the grade sheet, and consequently, could not be drum major that year. After the drum majors were announced, Dr. Brock applauded my bravery and encouraged me to audition again next year. 


  When the time for auditions rolled around again, I tried out once more for my senior year. I was again one point shy. However, an interesting turn of events happened during my senior year. One of the drum majors could not perform anymore, and Dr. Brock personally asked me to assume his role. Ecstatic, I honestly thought I was going to faint when she asked me. My heart could not have been any happier. When the announcement was made that I would be a drum major for the rest of the semester, everyone was so happy for me. The support from my classmates kept me going strong.


  Looking back at my years at ECSU, I had the best four years of my life. It is amazing how one movie, song, or event can motivate you to chase something you care about. I have no regrets about the university I chose and would do anything to relive those four years again. I would not trade those four years for anything. Viking Pride, Viking Pride, Viking Pride!



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