The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Titan Thunder Marching Band has its new student leader.
Brittney Harrison, a third-year choral music education major from Racine, has been selected as the new drum major heading into the marching band’s second season.
“Brittney has been a very enthusiastic member during our first season and is committed to making year two an unbelievable experience for our members and fans,” said Joe Scheivert, director of athletic bands at UW Oshkosh. “The tale of her ascent to the drum major position is certainly inspiring to those who may have doubted whether they could be successful in a college marching band and her time in this leadership role will really benefit her as a future educator.”
Harrison takes the drum major’s mace from Chandler Sumner-Gehrig, who stepped into the role for the Titan Thunder in its debut season. Sumner-Gehrig, a senior music education major from Wauwatosa, graduates this spring.
The drum major serves as the leader and chief student liaison connecting the band’s members and staff. They help with key components of the student experience, including preseason communication, band camp, social events, outreach and the annual banquet.
Musically, the drum major serves as the primary rehearsal and stands conductor and helps develop the routines for on-field performances.
As alluded to by Scheivert, Harrison’s path to drum major has been anything but typical. It was just last school year she began to play both flute and piccolo—the latter of which she picked up for the first time to fill in for a friend in UWO’s pep band, the Bolt Band, at a basketball game.
Though she laughs and says she only played three notes that day, she loved the experience and came back for more. By the end of the Bolt Band season she’d played about five games and Scheivert pitched the idea of her joining the marching band for its first season. She first laughed it off, then thought about how fun and valuable the experience could be and decided to go for it.
That’s about when her ascent began.
“It escalated pretty quickly,” Harrison remembers. Before long, not only was she in the band, she’d been selected as the piccolo section leader.
When the band season came to a close, she was urged by those around her to give drum major a shot. She asked a lot of questions and learned what it would mean and decided, if nothing else, the interview and tryout would be a good experience.
She was right.
“I just remember standing up there conducting (during the tryout) and I just couldn’t get the smile off my face because I was having so much fun and it was such a great opportunity to just be doing that. It was just fantastic,” she said. “And then I got a call from Dr. Scheivert later that night saying I was the drum major and I didn’t know what to say or do. My jaw kind of hit the floor but it hasn’t hit me yet I don’t think.”
There’s still plenty of time for her to process. Band camp for the Titan Thunder’s second year will begin in late summer, in time for the band to take the field for the football home opener. (The 2023 football schedule remains TBD.)
Those interested in joining the Titan Thunder for the season that begins with band camp in late summer and runs through fall can apply starting March 4.
“I’m just so excited for this whole adventure,” Harrison said. “I’m learning so many things I did not know about the band, from talking with Dr. Scheivert, from talking with Chandler, talking with anybody who’s been in marching band previous to their collegiate years—and I’m just so excited for this next year.”