When a vacancy in the band’s highest student leadership position suddenly appears two weeks before the beginning of the season, the band director has to solve it – fast.
This was a real situation that Mark Lortz, director of the Stevenson University Marching Band, faced during the summer of 2017. After the original drum major left the position, Lortz immediately turned to trusted band member Karleigh Baldwin and asked if she could step up and fill the role. Now a senior, Baldwin has begun her second year as the band’s conductor.
Band has always been a part of her life. She first joined marching band in high school, in which she was the clarinet section leader, and continued to play the clarinet for the first two years of her Stevenson marching band experience.
As drum major, Baldwin can be found at football games and open houses conducting the over 120 students who comprise the marching band.
Baldwin’s role as drum major, however, reaches far beyond keeping tempo. She also acts as a channel of communication between the band directors and the band’s section leaders. For instance, if Lortz were to change a part of the music, Baldwin would be the first to know. She would then be responsible for relaying this information to the section leaders, who would pass it on to their individual sections in the band.
“One of my favorite things about marching band is helping people,” said Baldwin. From assisting students with their instruments to planning icebreakers for the newest members, Baldwin does a lot to help the band. Meghan Wrigley, baritone section leader, said that even when the sun is beating down during practice and everyone just wants to go home, Baldwin is “always very encouraging, saying, ‘come on guys, you got this!’ and providing positive reinforcement” to help everyone get through the heat.
Off the field, Baldwin is still just as willing to lend a helping hand.
“Karleigh is a really good friend,” said Keri Whitehaus, section leader for the marching band’s drum line. “She can tell when you’re having a bad day and will ask if you are okay… she is a really good person.” Wrigley, who has known Baldwin since their freshman year of high school, agreed. “Karleigh is always there for me and is very supportive as a friend,” she said.
Overall, Baldwin has grown a lot since she was first drum major.
“As a freshman, I could tell that she could get anxious and nervous about things, but now, she is completely in control,” Lortz said.
Additionally, Emma Cathy Smith, field commander, said, “Just watching her grow as drum major, and generally as a leader, has been really almost inspiring, in a way…knowing her [during] freshman year, she was kind of shy and quiet, but she’s really grown into herself through this position.”
Lortz said that the band members trust that Baldwin is going to do her job well, so they respect her. He added that when the marching band program started in 2011, there were no expectations or standards set for the drum major position; however, with Baldwin, Lortz said, there is an expectation of excellence which future drum majors will now have to carry on.
Upon graduation, Baldwin plans on attending graduate school to obtain her Ph.D. in microbiology while continuing to engage in service to her community. However, she said that she loves marching band and will always enjoy it, adding that the group will always be a big part of her life.