She’s marching to the beat of her own drum!
Brianna Jarvis is making history as the first Black female drum major at Auburn University (AU), Auburn University reports.
Jarvis was a music education major at Reeltown High School in Alabama. That was where she first became interested in attending AU, seeing the cultural impact of the school, which was just 30 minutes away. The university’s membership in the Southeastern Conference draws thousands every year to see the games and watch the band play.
“I can’t wait to hear a full capacity crowd,” Jarvis said in a statement. “With this past season being so limited because of COVID, just getting the chance to practice on the field with other people has been great. The thing I’m most excited for is pregame. The mace routine is something we’ve been working really hard on.”
Her high school band director, Tyler Strickland, was an Auburn alumnus and served as Jarvis’ mentor when it came time to prepare her for college. He helped her complete her applications and prepare for AU Marching Band auditions. As a first-generation college student navigating unfamiliar territory, trying to attend a huge school, she was grateful for all the help she could get.
“My graduating class was smaller than the trumpet section at Auburn, and that was really intimidating knowing there was going to be more people trying out for the marching band than I had even really been exposed to. Band is something that I was wanting to participate in, but it was very much an imposter syndrome situation,” Jarvis said.
That all changed when Jarvis got to her first day of band camp. The instant camaraderie made her feel right at home, surprising since Jarvis says she’s a proud introvert.
“Everybody talks about the family aspect of Auburn, and it was my very first taste of it, and it felt so genuine. That was something that I wanted to continue to be a part of, and it was something that I wanted to do for others as they came in,” Jarvis said.
Last season, she became trumpet section leader just two years after joining the band. It was a former drum major, T.J. Tinnin, that convinced Jarvis to try out for to be a drum major.
“It was that one person saying, ‘Hey, I think you fit the job really well,’ that made me think, ‘Oh really,’” she said.
She then began studying, attending a drum major clinic, and scoping out the audition process. When it was her turn, she executed seamlessly. She passed each round with flying colors, even when she had to observe a random football play and choose a band piece that corresponded on the fly.
“Some of the songs I knew would depend on the play, but I had to study. I didn’t think it was as complicated as what I had been thinking sitting in the stand reacting to what (former drum majors) called up,” Jarvis admitted.
It all paid off, Jarvis being selected as the 2021-2022 drum major.
Tinnin said he knew if Jarvis got the role, it would be a historical one, but that wasn’t why he encouraged her to try out.
“[She is] so much more than that. I encouraged Brianna because I saw great potential in her. Not only did she possess the leadership ability, but she is also a caring, hardworking, and overall genuine person,” he said.
Corey Spurlin, associate director of bands at Auburn, echoed those sentiments, saying, “She is a talented musician and teacher with unwavering character and commitment. She is the type of student and leader that inspires others to give their best effort on and off the field. As our program transitions back to normal operations, we are extremely fortunate to have Brianna as one of the top student leaders of our band.”
In addition to her role at Auburn, Jarvis also has performed with the Concert Band, Basketball Pep Band, AU Singers, Jazz Band, and Trumpet Ensemble. She also served as an undergrad instructor for the AU Music Project, worked as a United Sound mentor, and is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary band fraternity.
While her new role won’t be easy, adjusting to post-pandemic life for the marching band, Jarvis is more than equipped to handle the job and excited to get started. She will lead the Marching Band into the Jordan-Hare Stadium when the football team plays their first game against Akron on September 4th.
Photo Courtesy of Auburn University/Jonah Enfinger