Wednesday 17 September 2008

College Essay #1 about leadership, because colleges eat that up.

I had been called "a leader" before, but I never really felt like one. Teachers, coaches, and other adults love to throw that word around. I had been an officer for countless school clubs: Spanish club, Band Council, Chorus Council, Literary Club, and so on, but the term "leadership" never had a clear definition to me.

As drum major of the marching band, I have an endless list of responsibilities. Go find the flutes; make copies of this music; get the band formed in their marching block; start music warm-ups; find a drumstick. Even after conducting the band through warm-ups by myself, I still wasn't sure I felt like a leader. Everyone was watching me for the beat, I was telling them exactly what to do... but to me, that didn't feel like leading.

It was a few months ago, during warm-ups, when I saw some saxophone rookies struggling. Seeing my former section lacking the focus and confidence to succeed sparked something in me - perhaps leadership. Quickly, I ran over to them, and gave them a pep talk. "Stand up straight, chin up. Try not to wobble when you mark time. Play out, even if the notes are wrong. March as if a judge is criticizing your every move."

As I said it, I was worried I had become too much of a "bad cop". This is, I believe, the challenge of being a leader; you have to find a nice middle ground. If I yelled at the band whenever they made a mistake, they would never listen. Alternatively, letting too many mistakes go would not motivate the band, and they would not improve. With this in mind, I flashed them a kind smile, hoping they wouldn't have ill feelings towards me.

Judging by their performance afterwards, they were not at all bothered by my criticism; in fact, it was almost as if they wanted it. I found myself on a bit of a flaw-correcting spree that evening - reminding them to practice discipline, challenging the winds to improve their posture, even scolding a few young, chatty clarinets. To my surprise, no one disliked me for it. A certain focus spread across the band, and the rehearsal that night was fantastic. Surely our success was not completely my doing, but I had realized that I have a real power and influence in the band. I already knew that so many of them looked up to me; I didn't realize that using this power and influence was nothing to be afraid of. When I had finally stopped second-guessing myself, I was able to contribute to the band in a huge way; this, after all, is the reason I became Drum Major. Five years of this activity had given me a sense of pride, work ethic, determination, discipline, and a love of music. As Drum Major, it's my responsibility to make sure every member of the group has this same experience, and can find all of these qualities, in the activity I love so much. Hopefully, I can spead that passion to the young members of the band; Maybe, years from now, those rookies can hand down that passion, that determination, to kids I will never even meet.

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