Female Leadership in Marching Band

Girl power in marching band is at an all-time high with PHUHS’s first all-girl snare line.

photo courtesy of Emily Birkhimer (‘23)

photo courtesy of Emily Birkhimer (‘23)

For years PHUHS percussion, specifically, the snare line has been led by men. This year for the first time the snare line, although only made up of two people, is all female. Catalina Velasco (‘23) is this year’s center snare, and Courtney Stewart (‘25) is the percussion section leader and drum captain.


Snare drums in the marching band keep the beat for the entire band. No matter where, on the field or in the stands, the audience is always able to hear the snare. The snare drum produces a loud sharp sound when hit with the drumstick. This type of drum has been around since the 19th century and has historically been used in military bands. The snare drum is used in almost every professional or college marching bands as it is loud, noticeable, and essential to support the rest of the instruments.


“When I was little I went to my older brother’s middle school band concert and saw this kid playing the drums and thought it was the coolest thing ever,” said Stewart.


However, the majority of the time you will see a man behind the drum. In marching band, a lot of the time directors will push for boys to play heavier instruments such as tubas and percussion. The girls will be pushed to play lighter instruments such as the flute or clarinet. Although this isn’t true for every person these stereotypes based on one’s gender continue to show up in many high school and college marching bands. 


“A lot of girls think drums are meant for guys, which that’s not the case, drums are for everyone,” said Stewart. 


“I would say that certain louder instruments like trumpets, tubas, and drum lines are primarily male-dominated because they are just the most out there instruments. It just kind of reflects how we see gender in society just normally. Also, a lot of the time tubas and stuff are larger and heavier instruments that are geared toward men,” said Velasco. 


More and more students are stepping out and trying new instruments, breaking the stereotypes. Velasco played woodwind in her middle school band but switched over to percussion her freshman year.


“Both my dad and my brother played percussion in marching band but I started in middle school playing flute. I decided to play percussion because I wanted to be heard,” said Velasco.


This year PHU’s baseline, a part of the percussion section, is all boys. For some of the audience or even members of the band, seeing and hearing girls on the snares is different. The girls behind these instruments are aware that people might notice this difference, and hope something good can come out of it.


“I really want to take the advantage to inspire girls and let them know it is so cool for girls to play drums,” said Stewart.


“Professionally I don’t see myself represented in college bands, I’ll always look for the girls and there’s usually only one or two. I’m not saying every band is like that but I would like to see more girls on the drum line and I am happy to be a part of that,” said Velasco


Both professionally and in amateur marching bands, female representation lacks in the percussion section. Representation matters and so it is important that younger girls know anything is possible, even playing the heavier instruments.