Spotlight on Courtland Barker

It’s not easy being Courtland Barker. You try commanding 125 teenagers.  It takes leadership; it takes focus. It takes a drum major. LeFlore director of bands Michael Standifer Sr. says of the 17-year-old senior, “Courtland is my right-hand man.”

How do you do it?

It’s a challenge, but band members know we are a team. They understand and respect that. It’s also up to me to earn respect and exhibit leadership.

What are the qualifications for being a drum major?

He or she must be in good physical shape. I exercise daily, as does the band. We’ve been conditioning for Mardi Gras parades since December, running as many as nine laps around the football field daily. We are called upon to perform routines and play instruments while marching for miles. It takes strength. During a parade, if the band sees I’m tired, they will be, too. I can’t let that happen. 

The drum major must be focused, also. Sometimes we make changes in song selection, or routines, literally on the march. I always keep an eye on the crowd’s mood or any unexpected events. During Mardi Gras parades, for example, you must know how to entertain people during delays, like when a float breaks down or a horse goes crazy.

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How does one become a drum major?

You audition. Testing consists of an oral interview and skills test. The oral interview is most important and counts the most.

Do you have specific drum major training?

We had a summer basic training clinic, which first assistant Jevon Coleman, second assistant Derrick Smith and I attended. Former drum majors conduct classes on leadership skills, new routines and drills. We also have a lot of practice.

How do you communicate with 125 people marching behind you?

We rely on nonverbal communication a lot. I send signals through body movements. Parade watchers never notice; they think it’s dancing. For example, my left arm raised over my right shoulder during a routine tells the band we are turning right, and the opposite says to go left. I can also speak a command to the front row who passes it to the second row, and on down the line in seconds.

For the 2012 Mardi Gras parade schedule, check with our online calendar.

Emmett Burnett

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