They wear purple tie-dyed shirts with STAFF written across the back in big letters — John Buskirk, Sierra McMartin, Brett Royer and Molly Beier — the award-winning drum majors for this year’s Payson High School marching band.
The shirts help band members identify them as the youth leadership of the band during band camp. They function as the right hand of band director Daria Mason, setting the tempo in marches and on the field of competition.
Already they have distinguished themselves by winning top honors at a drum major camp against larger more competitive California schools in San Diego this summer.
“They have four days of intense training in conditioning, equipment like maces and batons and leadership,” said Mason.
Mason chooses to take the Payson students to a California camp rather than an Arizona camp for two reasons. First, her mother-in-law lives nearby and allows the students to stay at her house saving on lodging costs. Second, the drum majors from California have an intensity and focus not as apparent in Arizona drum majors.
Mason can see the results.
“I see skill level changes,” said Mason. “I see them gel as a team.”
Described as the “ultimate team activity,” members of a marching band must not only play their parts musically and synchronize their movements with the musicians on either side — they must also remain aware of the movements of the entire formation. The band this year has no worries about teamwork with the four award-winning drum majors.
Each Payson drum major won an award at the state drum major camp. Camp staff even invited the two seniors to join as camp leaders after they graduate.
“I was so excited,” said McMartin one of the two senior drum majors. She hopes to work at the summer camp between college semesters.
McMartin has a bubbly personality evident from the moment she starts speaking coupled with effusive hand movements that won her the spirit declaration from camp staff. She also received a “leader in action” award, along with fellow drum major Royer.
“On the first day, the others noticed I knew what to do and they all said, ‘Follow her,’” said McMartin.
Besides the leadership award, Royer impressed the judges with his use of the mace, winning in at the superior and excellent levels. He knows all the different types of equipment: regular mace, military, American and Scottish.
“It’s how you beat time,” he said showing off the various arm movements associated with the different styles of mace.
The actual mace staff has differences as well. Royer pulls out his personal equipment describing it simply as a mace, a staff entwined with ropes dyed the Payson High School colors, topped off by a bulb of metal.
“Military mace is a salute, (regular) mace is much more fluid,” said Royer.
Royer prepared incoming sophomore drum major Beier for her tryout. He did a good job, for she now holds the position as the youngest drum major on the team.
“My dad was a drum major in high school,” said Beier. “I’ve been always interested in trying out.”
On her first year, Beier has already brought home an excellent in her grade evaluation and a superior in conducting from the camp.
But the top honor went to John Buskirk.
“He was the top conductor out of the 50 or so California conductors,” said Mason.
Buskirk was picked out of the top three finalists. Mason said throughout the camp, the judges winnowed down the competitors until the final day when the final three competed in front of an audience at the awards ceremony.
Both Mason and McMartin cried when Buskirk won the top honor.
“It’s a good feeling to know you’re that good,” said Buskirk.