The University of Virginia’s 300 member Cavalier Marching Band has announced its 2012-13 student leadership cadre and a Clarke County High School graduate’s name is at the top.
Former Clarke County Screamin’ Eagles drum major Stefani Bell of Boyce, Virginia was one of fifteen students who auditioned to be a Cavalier Marching Band drum major. Bell was selected as one of four new drum majors for the fall season. According to Dr. William Pease, Director of Bands, the fifteen drum major hopefuls interviewed individually and also were required to conduct the marching band during a rehearsal.
After members of the band and staff voted, Bell was selected as a drum major.
“I found out around 12 am on Thursday morning! There aren’t words to describe the rush of emotions from being both awarded a great honor, but also called to duty to serve,” Bell said. “And not to just give it a good effort, but to dedicate myself to the band and everyone in it with every fiber of my body. I have so much to learn, and I am very ready to take on the large responsibility of being part of the CMB leadership team. I am just one part of the leadership team, and every single person plays an integral part in our success as a band.”
Pease said that over 160 students applied for many different leadership positions with the band.
“Student leadership is a large part of the CMB’s vision and direction,” Pease said. “I feel our students here at the University can develop many different types of communication and understanding in these roles. Student leadership – Drum Major, Section Leader, Drill Instructor, Librarians, Equipment, Gameday, office staff, Uniforms, Recruiting, Banquet, Attendance and Audio Visual – is the backbone of our band.
Pease described the Cavalier Marching Band drum major position as similar to being the quarterback on the football team.
“The drum major is the field conductor,” Pease said. ”All of our drum majors have to be outstanding musicians, represent UVA with Class, strong academically, and be willing to give themselves to the members in the band.”
Pease says that the CMB drum major job carries a lot of responsibility and the drum major candidates undergo a rigorous selection process, a fact attested to by Bell.
“I expect them to be at the top of their game all of the time. You cannot have a weak attitude or be scared to fail. Drum majors are going to make mistakes. It is more about how you handle the mistake and learn from it. Many people are depending on the drum major to be prepared and lead by example.”
“Fifteen students applied to be drum major,” Bell said. “We all met with the three current drum majors and three band directors one night and discussed why we each wanted to be drum major, as well as listening to the current drum majors answer questions and tell us about their experience. We were then called to individually read from a leadership guidebook in front of the group so the directors could see how we handled being put in front of a group on the spot. After everyone read, the directors and drum majors went into three separate rooms where they prepared tasks and questions for us. We all individually cycled through the three rooms and had four minutes to make a large enough impression to have them ask us to the next round. They asked us questions like ‘What do you think the main duties of a drum major are?’ and had us do simple conducting patterns, sing intervals, and match pitches.”
Bell learned a few weeks later she had been selected as one of nine candidates to move on to the next and final round of drum major auditions.
“Everyone in CMB was invited to come play in the band or just watch the auditions,” Bell said. “Each of us got up in front of the UVA Concert band and conducted three short tunes that are played alot during football games and one longer piece that we had performed during a halftime show.”
Bell said that she spent hours preparing for the audition which included asking her peers to critique her as she conducted to CMB recordings. The intensive practice sessions ultimately paid off
“I am so grateful to everyone who helped and supported me throughout the process,” Bell said. “I was the fourth candidate to conduct the band, and the feeling of climbing up on the podium and looking out over the band was incredible – and insanely intimidating. I tried to channel my nerves and adrenaline into positive energy. I wanted my true personality to shine through to the band, and I was very happy with the way my audition went. I had a blast, and it took a few minutes after finishing for my hands to stop shaking from the adrenaline.”
CMB Director Pease said that he is as pleased as Bell is with the final drum major selections.
“I have four great drum majors for next year,” Pease said. “However, I have 225 returners that I think are all great. They are my kids and I love them all the same. Stefani has made a very positive impression on me in such a short time. She was a transfer from the University of Florida Band. She has ‘It’. If you know someone that has ‘it’ then you know what I mean about Bell. If I could bottle ‘it’ I would be a rich man. “I feel that I have the best band students in all of college football. But I’m sure Dave at Tech, Scott at JMU, Alex at ODU all feel the same way about their students.”
“Look at a picture of Stefani Bell and what do you see?,” Pease continued “Energy, Pride, Intelligence, Passion and Love. She represents both her family at home and her band family to the highest degree of respect. I look forward to working with Stef for the next two years. Wahoo Wah, Go Hoos!”
Bell, a member of UVA’s Class of 2014 and pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in Italian Studies, attributes much of her drum major selection to training she received in the Clarke County Public Schools.
“I’m so proud to say I am a product of Clarke County and specifically a product of the Clarke County Band program,” Bell said. “Since I picked up the trombone at Boyce Elementary ten years ago, music has continued to shape my life and make me the person that I am. I’m in my element when I’m in band. The people I make music with continue to become my closest and dearest friends. I really can’t put into words the respect and gratitude I feel for Mark Curry and Greg Abell for creating a program that was the spark that ignited my musical career, or the way my experiences with band and music have taught me life lessons and brought me to people and places I would have never otherwise known. But therein lies the beauty. Where words fail, music speaks.”
The University of Virginia Cavalier’s Fall 2012 football schedule can be viewed at www.virginiasports.com. Home games in Charlottesville offer an excellent opportunity to see Stephani Bell and the Cavalier Marching Band perform.