When the stream of boys in blue takes the field before a home football game, or spells out script Cats at halftime, a pair of young men in white makes sure the group is at its best.
The drum majors for the Saint Ignatius Wildcat Marching Band are more than just talented musicians—they’re respected members of the student body tasked with leading a group comprising 100 of their peers.
For the 2017-2018 school year, Brian Karim ’18 and Grant Gottschalk ’19 are serving as Senior and Junior Drum Majors.
“I want to make sure that the band has a positive outlook on band itself,” Karim says. “To make sure they don’t look at band as a chore. It’s a time to get away from the schoolwork and have fun playing music.”
Karim is a seasoned alto sax and tenor sax player, and performs in the Steel Drum Ensemble. He is beginning his second go-around as a drum major, having served as Junior Drum Major last year.
Selection for the role involves a serious process that asks for a two-year commitment from the honoree. Applicants complete a questionnaire, interview with Band Director Mr. Dan Hamlin and the current drum majors, and also conduct “The Star-spangled Banner” and Saint Ignatius alma mater with the band.
Gottschalk has taught himself how to play guitar, the ukulele and piano. Taking on this leadership role meant less time playing the instrument he has developed great skill playing since the fourth grade: the trumpet.
“I was First Trumpet in our group,” he says. “I really enjoy playing it. It was really hard to say I don’t get to play at all senior year.”
In addition to the sacrifices and time commitment being a drum major requires, Karim and Gottschalk both were required to attend a week-long summer training at Ohio Wesleyan University. The George N. Parks Drum Major Academy brings together high school students from around the country together to educate and prepare the latest generation of drum majors for the big role they undertake.
“It was very weird at first because I knew one person,” Gottschalk says. “But everyone there is doing the same thing that you are, so it’s very easy to strike up a conversation.”
Karim describes his role as Senior Drum Major as “the icing on the cake” of each band performance, with a little showmanship and helping the group keep a steady tempo. One of the biggest lessons he has learned from his position is that, “Leadership isn’t necessarily a power you just get. It’s earned. I’m careful to make sure that I’m still one of their peers.”
Both drum majors are deeply interested in music, with resumes that include the jazz, steel drum, pit and liturgical ensembles that run out of the Fine Arts Department. Beyond that, each is involved in service and other extracurricular programs.
As Karim looks toward college, where he plans to study chemical engineering, Chicago’s Northwestern University is one of his top choices. He hopes to continue his participation in marching band, and the Big Ten school has a proud one. Northwestern might make a good fit for Karim. He’s already spent four years as a Marching Wildcat. Why not four more?
Karim and Gottschalk Fast Facts
Began Playing First Instrument?
Karim: 6th grade (alto sax)
Gottschalk: 4th grade (trumpet)
Karim: Mr. Hamlin
Gottschalk: Mr. Vilinsky
Karim: AP Chemistry with Mr. Hawkins
Gottschalk: English II with Ms. Miranda
Favorite Cafeteria Food?
Karim: Riche burgers
Gottschalk: Asian stir fry
Scariest Place on Campus?
Karim: The Principal’s Office
Gottschalk: Hallway behind Senior Lounge and Bookstore
Nicest Person on Campus?
Karim: Caleb Palagyi ‘18
Gottschalk: Riley Seikel ‘19
Who Inspires You?
Gottschalk: Brennan McNamara (Life Teen Camp Cove Crest leader)
First Choice College?
Karim: Northwestern University
Gottschalk: Georgetown University
Blue or Gold?