- Associated Press - Saturday, December 23, 2017

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) - Excitement abounded when the Lewis Cass Marching Kings won the state title at the Indiana State School Music Association at Lucas Oil Stadium last month.

But perhaps few people were as animated as Bob Gray, grandfather of Cass drum major Luke Hammond.

“Everybody around me knew I was there when they announced that Western was second,” Gray said laughing. “Even everyone within 20 rows knew I was there.”

Hammond went one step further, saying that Gray’s reaction was one of the most memorable parts of that ISSMA trophy presentation ceremony.

“That’s the one thing I remember, what’s engraved in my mind is when the drum majors have to go up front,” he said. “I looked straight up, and the first row in the second level was all of them (family), and he (grandfather) was right there. Then when they called Western second, he jumped up, jumped over the rail and threw his hat.”

At that same time standing a few feet away was Criscinda Hall, Hammond’s mother, crying and cheering with the rest of the parents along the sidelines.

A few minutes earlier, Hall had prayed with her son and gave him one last pep talk before he climbed the podium to direct the band in a 13-minute ode to Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.”

“I just said, ‘you’ve got this. You had a good warm-up. Take a deep breath,’” Hall said, reflecting on that day.

Then there was Hammond himself, who said he actually didn’t even know Lewis Cass won the title at first.

“They said runner-up was Western, and I was thinking Walton,” he said. “I think that’s what made it so rewarding was that I was expecting it, but at the same time, I wasn’t. Whether they called us first, second, third, fourth or fifth, I know we did the best job we could have done.”

And while that day was uniquely special for Gray, Hall and Hammond, it wasn’t particularly unexpected.

After all, marching band has been in the family’s bloodline since the mid-1960s, when Gray first became a drum major for the Preble Shawnee Marching Arrows of Camden, Ohio.

“We had a military style band with ranks and everything,” Gray said. “We marched 64 on the field, and we had majorettes and things of that nature.”

And even though Gray’s school wasn’t very large, the band program was relatively strong, he remembered, even filling up an entire trophy case.

“I remember this thing called the Bradford Pumpkin Festival,” he said. “It was the first first-place trophy we’d ever gotten. When we got back to town, we had our uniforms on, and we marched up and down the streets as people came out and congratulated us.”

Years later, Gray would instill that same love of music in his own children - including Hall.

“Knowing my dad was a drum major, that was a big deal,” she said. “Music was always a big deal. I started playing piano when I was 8, and I just fell in love with the music.”

Hall played the clarinet in the marching band, but she said she eventually wanted to be in charge of the entire unit. So when opportunity knocked at the door, Hall said she answered and became a drum major herself in her junior year of high school at Lewis Cass.

Now one might think with a grandfather and mother who were both drum majors, Hammond would automatically just follow suit. But that wasn’t exactly the case, he said.

Though he grew up playing music - just like Gray and Hall - the thought of leading the Marching Kings was not forefront in his mind when he was younger, Hammond said.

“When I was in junior high, high school band wasn’t going to be a thing,” he said. “I decided I had done it for so long, and I was just unsure about it.”

But then came the chance to march with the high school band during the Veterans Day parade through downtown Logansport. Hammond was in eighth grade then, and he said he decided that day to stick with the marching band for good.

A year later, Hammond began closely watching Lewis Cass‘ drum major Mason Winegardner and how he directed the band.

“I didn’t know what a drum major was,” he said. “And I saw him conducting and leading the band, and I just thought that I wanted to do that. So I got that in my head, and it just developed into this obsession that all I wanted in my high school career was to be the drum major.”

And that’s just what happened.

Hammond officially became drum major of the Marching Kings in his junior year of high school, just like his grandfather and mother before him. And though he is the third generation to hold that title, Hammond said he never felt pressure to become one.

“It was something that I developed in my own head,” he said. “I think we’re all blessed with leadership capabilities. To be honest, we’re not good followers.”

But even when Hammond made the decision to ultimately become a drum major, Hall and Gray were still hesitant.

“I’ll say this. He was shyer in his younger years,” Hall said. “He was different than me, and he was more bashful and would listen to other people and lean on other people more.”

Then somewhere over the past couple years, Hall said her son developed a completely new set of leadership skills.

“I think he really is becoming who he is a person, and I think it’s neat to watch,” Hall said. “The band definitely changed him.”

In fact, Gray said Hammond is even the best drum major among the three of them, particularly because of his leadership capabilities. That quality is what Gray said is often needed most in the role.

“If you’re going to be a leader, you have to lead all of the time,” he said, “even behind the scenes. And we talked to him about leadership qualities and what it means for people to respect you. It’s one thing to say you’re a leader, but it’s another thing to have people respect you enough for them to allow you to be their leader.”

And that leadership doesn’t just show up one day, Gray continued. It’s molded and finessed over time, and it takes countless hours of preparation, as was the case with the band’s “Starry Night” routine.

Luke memorized every facet of the program,” Gray said. “He knew everybody’s part. He memorized that music, and we heard it for hours. When he was taking a shower in the morning, we could hear the music playing through the door. At night when he was supposed to be in bed, we could hear the music playing through his bedroom door.”

Hall estimates the three of them practiced nearly every day after receiving the music last summer, even standing in front of a sliding glass door so they could see their reflections in the glass. Hall and Hammond waving their arms emphatically to the music, Gray on the other side providing the occasional constructive criticism.

And perhaps that’s what made the ISSMA win so rewarding for the three of them. Because they have all stood in each other’s shoes, they were able to share that unique experience.

So how far will this drum major DNA go? None of them really know at the moment, although Hammond joked that he doesn’t know if he even wants kids. After he graduates from Lewis Cass next spring, Hammond plans on attending Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where he said he will likely explore options other than band.

But there is one thing the three of them will always agree on. Being a drum major has shaped a large part of their lives, and they said they owe a lot to the position.

“When I took on the full responsibility of what it means to be a leader in any facet of life,” Gray said, “when I took on true leadership and the well-being of those underneath me, I think that helped me care more for people and where their circumstances are. That’s helped me through my entire life, and that’s what I learned from being a drum major.”

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Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com


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