Classes begin Aug. 15 at Lake Highlands High, but the Wildcat Marching Band isn’t waiting for that. They’ve been rehearsing in the heat preparing for varsity football halftimes and readying for prestigious competitions around the metroplex.
Leading the group is Sheila Tume, LHHS’ Head Drum Major for 2019-20. Tume isn’t sure where she’ll go to college next year, but that’s about the only the thing she’s uncertain about. The future lawyer focused on protecting humanitarian rights is eyeing several renowned research universities where she can double major in political science and theology.
I tracked Tume down at practice, where she labored away with fellow band members perfecting field routines under the hot sun.
When did you first realize you loved music?
In elementary school, band was the big thing. Once everyone hits the sixth grade, they get the option of choosing band or orchestra and in my case, I was pretty much sold on signing up for band after hearing the junior high kids play “Crunch Time” and “Still Fly.” I’d always liked music, but I believe I fell in love with the euphonium once I hit eighth grade. It had been my third year of playing the euphonium and being in band – but only because my band director, Ms. Tinsley, would not let me quit. After listening to professional euphoniumists like David Childs and Demondrae Thurman, I started paying attention to the really small details that made music so much more than a couple of notes and rhythms plastered on to five black lines.
Do you enjoy your new post as drum major?
Conducting, probably one of the most gratifying things to do as a drum major, makes me feel as if I am connecting with the band on level that cannot be described. It’s a mixture of all the hard work, the intensity of the sound, and the look on every single performer’s face that gets me so engaged in the performance.
What is your style of leadership? What leaders do you admire?
It’s difficult for me to define what my style of leadership is because the way I lead in band is not the same way I lead when I’m in debate or mock trial. Nonetheless, I make an effort to create mini-leaders – regardless of the arena that I’m in. I am a sucker for what I love to call “non-verbal affirmations” because it instills ideas of self-worth and acceptance.
Having a strong footing in my self-worth stems from the works of women like Maya Angelou and Ava Duvernay. These two women have used their talents to highlight several of the societal issues that are often neglected in hot topic discussions and they have underscored a lot of values, such as integrity and resilience, in their pieces of art. I also look up to my band directors at LHHS – Mr. (Levi) Chavis, Mr. (Aaron) Singleton, Ms. (Sarah) Jones, and my former band director, Mr. (James) Rees. They’ve engendered a community of young adult leaders and they’ve continued to give us students the leeway to personalize the organization that we’re in.
Some people say band kids stick together. Is it true? Do you consider that a criticism, or is that one of the benefits of being a member?
Band kids don’t vocalize the idea of togetherness as much as one may think they would, but there is this general understanding within our school that we are always together – I mean, if allowed, we sit next to each other in our classes and we even have a designated table in the student center.
Some people (and by some people, I’m talking about my friends who aren’t in band) don’t understand why band kids are always together, but this introduces the idea of perspective. Those who are not in our band simply don’t know the amount of hours a week that we put into rehearsals and the amount of time that we spend with each other. From an outsider’s perspective, the bond that we have may come off as strange, but I try not to take it as criticism because 99.999% of the time, people don’t like what they don’t understand. As for my experience in the band, the group has served as a home base, as my support group, and I have made some of my closest friends in the organization. I couldn’t be more grateful to be part of something that is way bigger than myself.
The band begins practice at 7 am most days during the school year, and you’ve already started practicing during the hot summer. How tough is it to rehearse when you know other kids are off having fun?
Before summer band began, I was in Dallas for maybe a total of two weeks. I attended several Presbyterian youth workshops, conferences, and I even went on a mission trip. Since this is my fourth year of high school band, it’s become a no-brainer that I’d have to sacrifice a third of my summer to participate in the program. My first two years were hard, but for the past two years, I don’t even think about what other kids are doing because I’m having so much fun, myself.
The LHHS band is diverse in many ways. How does that shape the group?
Seeing a more diverse pool of kids is a pure representation of not only our school, but a world that is outside a lot of what we know and are used to. I believe that we’ve done an excellent job of accentuating values of respect and togetherness while filtering through all of our differences with music. If you surveyed our more than two hundred members, we would all agree that there are very apparent cultural differences that exist within the organization. However, I have never thought of that diversity as being a challenge. If anything it’s a gift, and as young adults we are so lucky to learn how to coexist in a safe space and create something beautiful in the meantime.
Besides varsity football halftimes, what competitions and other performances are you most excited about?
The Wylie Marching Invitational has always been my favorite competition and I’m super pumped that we’re going this year. We’re also competing at the US Bands Marching Contest on October 26th. This is a new competition so I’m not so sure what to expect, but I’ve always had a kick out of new things and I know that our band is ready to level up and take on a more difficult challenge.
Tume’s answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.