BYU drum majors discuss paths leading to the podium

Drum majors lead the BYU Cougar Marching Band in the 2021 season. As the 2022 season is underway, drum majors note their own challenges found in this role. (Photo Courtesy of BYU Cougar Marching Band via Facebook)

As the football stadium filled in masses, the announcer welcomed over 200 musicians and their three leaders onto the field.

With multiple games under their belts, the BYU drum majors Haley Broadbent, Benjamin Updike and Emily Rogers have led astounding performances.

BYU’s marching band, having been established for more than a century, is essential to the atmosphere of BYU athletics, according to the Cougar Marching Band website. It captivates audiences of millions in person and over national television.

The Cougar Marching Band forms the letters in “BYU” during a pre-game performance at a football game. The band is essential to the atmosphere of BYU athletics. (Photo Courtesy of BYU Cougar Marching Band via Facebook)

“Coming into college, I was really nervous about some of my weaknesses,” Rogers said. “I’ve learned to acknowledge them and not only work toward turning them into strengths, but to find others that have that strength to rely on.”

Rogers said that worry of shortcomings affecting band performance has further led her to appreciate and grow closer to her fellow drum majors.

“It’s definitely challenging at times to remember all the things I’m supposed to do in front of others but in the end it’s worth it to be in front of the band making music,” Broadbent said.

The BYU Cougar Marching Band drum majors Haley Broadbent, Benjamin Updike and Emily Rogers smile after a long day of practice. Many days of preparation go into a marching band season. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Updike)

With piano lessons, singing in school choirs and learning other instruments of choice with her siblings, Rogers grew up learning. She said her musical family was one to sing whenever and wherever they went.

“We always sing at family gatherings, going on road trips, and even during something as simple as making dinner on a Thursday night,” Rogers said.

Benjamin Updike grew up with music throughout his life. His main instrument in band was the clarinet. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Updike)

In a similar manner, drum major Updike’s father was an all-state tenor in high school while his mother was a qualified pianist. 

“Growing up, I often sang with my family,” Updike shared. “It wasn’t until junior high that I gave band a shot. I loved music but wasn’t initially interested in joining choir, so I filled my schedule with band.”

For Broadbent, her musical family history goes back to her great-grandma, a virtuoso and music conductor. Her grandmother, inheriting this trait, involved herself in music education for the church, school and community. Her father and his siblings continued this trend, participating in bands and choirs.

“Naturally my sisters and I did the same,” Broadbent said. “There is always music in my house and I aspire to be that way in my own home someday. I like to believe that I received my great grandma’s gift for conducting and am using it in my position as a drum major.”

Recalling a spiritual experience Rogers had at the Rocky Mountain Invitational at age eight, she said she always wanted to be part of something to make people feel how she felt. Through music, she found power.

Encouraged to audition for the role by her high school drum majors, Rogers said, “Because of their confidence in me, I worked hard and I made it.” However, she said she found being a drum major negative in a lot of ways because of her perceived weaknesses.

After a year of marching with the clarinet, Rogers decided to pursue a drum major position within the BYU marching band and was accepted.

Updike said he originally did not want to try out for college marching band even though he loved his high school band experience. Updike’s mother, Mary Updike, said his sister Annie convinced him to send in an audition recording with her while he was ending his mission.

Though they were both accepted, at the end of the year, Mary Updike said Benjamin missed being on the podium. “He was determined to try out for drum major in the spring,” Mary Updike said. “He got the job and was standing on the podium again the next fall.”

Broadbent was in band her whole life and joining the marching band was the next step in her high school career.

“On my first day of band camp, the percussion and marching instructor appeared next to me, and without knowing or asking my name, told me they wanted me to try out for drum major,” she said.

Broadbent diligently worked to become the assistant drum major her junior year with the opportunity to be the head drum major taken away because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as marching band was canceled. College was her next chance to become a drum major.

“Haley was rather ambivalent about attending BYU when she was younger,” Tom Broadbent, her father, said. Upon learning BYU had a marching band, “Haley did a 180 and set her sights squarely on getting admitted to BYU and being in the band.”

Though the determined trio each became drum majors, they note of human nature’s imperfection. They said difficulties, failure and self-doubt are found on the field.

“One of the hardest things about being a drum major is that your mistakes are very visible. If you aren’t properly prepared, if you miss an entrance or give the band a wrong tempo, things can go awry very quickly,” Updike said.

Broadbent agreed, saying as a drum major, it can be challenging at times to remember everything they are supposed to.

“I have had some really rough days, but having the experience of watching a group of random individuals with various levels of experience into a balanced ensemble of true musicians is absolutely unmatched,” Rogers said.

The Cougar Marching Band, having been established for more than a century, is essential to the atmosphere of BYU athletics. It captivates audiences of millions in person and over national television. (Video from BYU Marching Band website)
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