Today’s student feature guest blog is from Annette Kukunas! Annette has attended the Music for All Summer Symposium for a few years now, but was part of the inaugural class of the Bands of America Drum Major Institute last year! We are so thankful that Annette shared her thoughts about the experience with us and allowed us to share those thoughts with all of you!


My name is Annette Kukunas. Last fall, I entered my senior year and second year as sole drum major of my high school band in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had attended the Summer Symposium the year before and really had a positively life-changing experience. The minute I left camp I knew I wanted to come back the next year. During the year after my first Summer Symposium, I heard that the MFA camp would have a new drum major training curriculum. It was a difficult decision to put my faith in something that was completely new. Using what I had learned, I decided to have an open mind and take a chance with DMI. I was anxious about what the new camp would bring.

One of the first days at camp for Leadership Weekend last summer I saw Scott Lang at breakfast and stopped to say hello. He introduced me to Bobby Lambert, the Drum Major Institute coordinator, and made me feel more comfortable. Bobby explained that things would be a little different this year, but I responded confidently that I was interested in learning new things in new ways. However, looking back on this, I know that wasn’t exactly truthful. I felt fairly confident in my leadership skills and my conducting, as I had spent two previous years conducting and in a leadership position. I was expecting to review most of what I already knew and maybe learn a few new tips.
At the first session of DMI, I knew I was completely wrong. We started conducting immediately (something I LOVED) and I was amazed by the talent of the staff before us. I could tell that this week would be something I would not forget. I thank Bobby and the rest of the DMI staff for starting new traditions and letting us be apart of that. Every veteran I talked to, except for one, agreed that we enjoyed what and how we learned this year more than last. Everyone else agreed it was hard to imagine a better camp.

photo 7AnnetteSaluteCROPPEDOn the first day I also noticed the necklaces that the staff and SWAGs wore. I couldn’t help but wonder what they symbolized. When they were handed out to the squad leaders, I couldn’t be more excited. The necklaces reminded me of something drum corps members wear and how connected they all are. I know that wherever I may be, if I ever see an arrow, it will remind me of the amazing week I had at DMI, and every person I meet that wears a similar necklace will have shared this week with me and is a part of our family. I can’t put into words what I think every time I catch a glimpse of the piece of metal around my neck.
DMI has changed my outlook on so many things. I have not only become a better drum major, but more importantly, I have become a better person. I want to thank Bobby and the Drum Major Institute staff for providing 385 high school students with a positively life-changing experience that will not be forgotten. There are so many things I have taken back to my band. We now have a new tradition for training for our next drum major and we’ll be sending them to the Bands of America Drum Major Institute. Hopefully in the next year or two, I will also be attending as a SWAG and will get to join in from a different perspective.
I am so confident that someday DMI will be revered by drum majors across the country and that the 386 students in the inaugural class will be envied for being able to create of the traditions that will still be present. Thank you for demanding excellence from every single one of us. I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer to such a large group of virtual strangers. It’s crazy to think that in only a week, Bobby and the DMI staff transformed us into such amazing people.
One Core. One Family.
Annette Kukunas
BOA Drum Major Institute 2013
Yellow 4, Squad 1