Other stories filed under Around Campus
Finding her tempo
Junior Allison Durocher takes on her first year as drum major
October 16, 2019
She makes her way over to the podium, finds her place and waits. This is it. For the next few minutes, she carries an important task: keeping the band in time.
Under the bright lights of the stadium, she is certain she belongs here. Despite how much pressure she feels and how shaky her hands might be due to nervousness, this is her place.
Here, under the stadium lights, she gets the chance to be a leader, to make music, to be a part of something bigger than herself. Taking a deep breath in, she looks around at her fellow drum majors, lifts her hands up and begins conducting.
For junior drum major Allison Durocher, her experience with music began in the sixth grade when she made the decision to play the flute. From the moment her next-door neighbor showed her the glistening woodwind instrument for the first time, she was absolutely fascinated, eager to be a part of the band. After concluding her three years of band at Huffines Middle School, she decided to continue to pursue music in high school. She found a sense of comfort and knowingness, knowing that with high school band came the promise of new and exciting opportunities.
“I knew band was going to be good for me and it would be something I was already familiar with,” Allison said. “It was something I was passionate about and I knew I would make friends.”
It didn’t take long after being a part of the high school band for her to become interested in leadership. The lengthy intervals of time spent in band only intensified her love for music. Her mother, Jill Durocher, recalls Allison’s first experiences as a leader and the ways in which her time in band has shaped her and ultimately led to her current role as a drum major.
“I would have to say, I started seeing it in seventh grade,” Jill said. “Being first chair in the flute section was when it started. That was a big deal back then and she was consistent in keeping first chair. I believe leadership opened up Allison’s eyes to what is out there and that she can do anything she puts her heart into.”
Although it wasn’t always her intention to become a drum major, Allison’s directors were quick to realize her potential. Recognizing her talent and drive, her directors took all these qualities into consideration and ultimately selected her as one of the four drum majors for this year.
“She showed a lot of leadership potential during her freshman and sophomore years,” band director Christopher Agwu said. “She works really hard. She’s very diligent in how she works and she has a lot of talent. She also works really hard to make sure she stays where she is. She did a lot of things we saw that demonstrated her potential to be a good leader, so that’s why we chose her.”
Despite the fact that band has brought her an abundance of struggles and exhaustion, Allison has found valuable lessons originate from the challenges that come with being a leader. Allison remembers a time when she contemplated quitting after playing the same etudes for months.
“After advancing to area last year, I felt a lot of pressure being put on me to advance to state,” Allison said. “After auditions were over, every day in band was a struggle for me. I felt burnt out and I had no motivation. It was really weird for me because I was always eager to improve.”
However, even through this rough patch, her passion for music never faded. Allison’s adoration for the flute helped her find her place in band once again. Having remembered her true reason for being in band, she pushed herself until she found her motivation to play again.
“Although I couldn’t find joy in music then, I always knew my passion for it wasn’t completely gone,” Allison said. “Over time, with support from my friends, band directors and lesson teacher, I started to find myself working harder and harder to get back to where I was.”
Through her high school career, the directors pushed her forward, encouraging her to believe in herself and move past the mental blocks and self-doubt. Now, with her position as a drum major, they recognize how much she has grown since freshman year, as well as her newly found confidence.
“I feel like she’s more confident as a person,” Christopher said. “She’s more willing to step out of her comfort zone and do what she needs to do to get the job done.”
Allison’s schedule is packed as she invests the majority of her time in band. The demanding nature of being a drum major in addition to the overall stressful culture of being a high school student is evident to Jill. For this reason, she is determined to make her home a safe space where her daughter can grow and feel support through the difficult days.
“I try to reflect back to when I was her age as much as I can now that I’m a mom and try to have empathy on what she is feeling if it’s a bad day,” Jill said. “I try to look at the positive side of things and remind her tomorrow is another day.”
Each day in band is new for Allison. Each day also means endless expectations. Still, she embraces every challenge and is always willing to step up and be better than the day before. She knows the downfalls are small prices to pay for the incomparable sense of pride and never-ending joy she feels at the end of every performance.
“The progress you see with the people around you, it’s really cool to see because when you’re in the band and you’re marching, you don’t really see the improvement,” Allison said. “From an outside view, you hear every single repetition. You’re listening and you’re watching. It’s just really cool to see all the improvement. That’s the best thing.”