The George N. Parks Drum Major Academy students were hard at work today. I decided to spend part of the afternoon observing what they were up to so I headed over to Burris School.

DMA is for any band member who wishes to improve and develop his or her leadership, communication, conducting and marching skills and become a stronger asset to his or her band program. Students learn marching fundamentals, command basics, teaching techniques, conducting patterns, how to command the block, and baton and mace technique.

I started outside Burris School and watched instructor Frederick Omega Pye work on marching fundamentals with a group of students. They were working on stationary drill movements when I arrived, but rather than just emphasizing the movements themselves, Pye stressed leadership skills as well.

“You have to look like you’re leading so people will follow you,” Pye said. He encouraged the students as he instructed and corrected them.

Pye is a senior staff member, celebrating his 28th season with the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy. In his biography, he says “it is with a heavy heart that I continue on with George’s mission – to develop the finest student Drum Majors across the country.”

A second group of Drum Major Academy students walked up the path to head into the Burris School for an indoor session. I followed to watch Chris Cansler’s session with the students. Cansler is the Director of Bands and Fine Arts Department Chair at Guyer High School in Denton, Texas.

In this session, students had the opportunity to improve their conducting by observing video of themselves. Students were given tips on how to improve their form and style during this evaluation.

I heard Cansler say “Starred Thought, 90% of your conducting problems can be corrected by beginning with and maintaining the appropriate starting position.” Sadly, we lost George Parks unexpectedly within the past year. His students, staff and colleagues know that his “Starred Thoughts” were, and still are, important parts of his teachings – too important to be lost with his passing. It was nice to hear his staff carrying on this tradition.

As I watched students soaking up the instruction and thoughts on how to improve, it was overwhelmingly clear to me that even in George’s absence the Drum Major Academy will continue to thrive due to the heart and dedication he inspired in his staff.