2018-09-01 / Shorts

He's Got the Beat

State High’s drum major takes school spirit seriously.
Chris Rosenblum | Photo by Nabil K. Mark

This fall, Sam Oleynik will do more than keep the beat for the State College Area High School marching band.

He’ll keep everyone upbeat.

Oleynik is State High’s latest drum major, the field commander prominently bedecked in the special white uniform with the silver-topped staff, white gloves and furry hat. During football pregame and halftime shows, he’ll lead the band through its intricate steps and formations. Behind the scenes, he’s equally committed to building a harmonious relationship with his fellow musicians.

“I want them to pump me up as much as I pump them up,” the senior says. “I want them to be my Energizer batteries. I need them to power me up because I can’t direct them without their giving me something back. I’m trying to give them everything I’ve got so they can give everything they’ve got.”

At games and parades, he’ll be front and center guiding the ranks, but for the first time in the band’s history, he won’t be a solo act.

Director Paul Leskowicz has added two assistants, seniors Kristen Lenze and Megan Russell, who work closely with Oleynik. They help with conducting halftime shows, as well as the daily planning and management necessary for such a disciplined group.

With high hopes for the trio, Leskowicz was pleased to see an effective partnership develop during the first week of summer practice.

“It’s been a little bit of a turbo boost of student leadership that we’ve had,” he says. “It’s always been good, but we just made it a little bit better.”

There can be only one drum major, however, and that’s why Oleynik underwent a rigorous selection process that included a video interview, conducting audition, marching test and drum salute evaluation.

“We take it seriously,” Leskowicz says. “From the directors’ standpoint, we put a lot of trust in that student, so we want to make sure we’re doing our due diligence in choosing the right person because it makes a difference.”

Oleynik appreciates the responsibility resting on his uniform epaulets.

He arrives early to practices to prepare the field and lead the warm-up routine, and departs late after cleaning up and reviewing the day’s performances with the directors. If on the rare occasion he can’t answer a question about the music or drills, he’ll track down the information.

Most importantly, when the drums start pounding, his conducting becomes the glue keeping everybody together. It’s more than maintaining a steady tempo. In full view of all, he must be spirited and energetic — a little showmanship to go with the music.

“You have to be able to direct with positivity, along with seriousness and intensity, to keep it an overall good experience for the band and people listening,” he says.

Positivity, both on and off the field, is his goal for the year, and so far, he’s positive he made the right choice to step forward and help his peers step lively.

“I wanted to give back to the band, and this is definitely the best way I could give back right now,” he says. “This way is the best position I could be in to help everybody. I can boost everybody’s spirit.” •SCM

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