- Associated Press - Monday, January 9, 2017

SMACKOVER, Ark. (AP) - When Smackover-Norphlet band director Tracy Walker injured his foot during a teaching conference, high school drum major Elizabeth Golden stepped up, took the director’s orders and got fellow Buckaroos ready for marching season.

“I got out (of the hospital) on the 24th and came to work on the 25th. I wasn’t supposed to though,” Walker said. “God has been good. I tell you it was an ordeal. I had never been in the hospital in my whole life. I had to stay a whole month.”

With the help of Elizabeth’s mother, Belinda, other band parents and one of Walker’s former students, Golden cleaned the band hall and concession stand, got measurements for uniforms, transported instruments and corralled the Buckaroo Band for summer practices, she said.

“Mr. Walker, he was in the hospital for all of August. I had to come up here during the summer and get the band hall ready for band camp,” she said. “I set everything up, got all their little folders together for those who were missing their music and I would go through the show with them.”

During an audition for the coveted position, Golden conducted to Southern Arkansas University band arrangement, kept time and answered a series of interview questions. It takes a lot of work to prepare a marching band show, she said.

It required the drum major to be an all-seeing, all-knowing presence in the band hall and at Buckaroo Stadium.

“You have to take a lot of time to go home and practice the music, memorize it, keep in step when you march and remember . your place in the band,” Golden said. “When the band director’s not there, you have to . pretty much run the band until he gets back.” This year, the band’s field show, “Jam the Boombox,” featured music from Cascada, Nico & Vinz, Adele and Chris Crockarell. Golden said that their performances have received high praise from band parents and community members.

“Their sound was much better. I’m so proud of them,” Golden said. “(Mr. Walker) made me learn a new instrument - baritone. I had a solo for ‘Hello’ and I’ve never played baritone before. He assigned it three days before the solo.”

Though they’ve always received support from community members, she said that the band has struggled to garner any achievement at Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association’s marching assessments, El Dorado News-Times (https://bit.ly/1NxEutk ) reported.

The ASBOA judges bands in categories like music and marching performance, on a scale from Superior (1) to Poor (5). Elite bands usually receive superior or excellent (2) awards from the association. “I know the band’s come from getting fours and stuff at competitions. (The band’s) getting threes and we’re working on twos now,” she said. “I’ve never seen them have so much excitement.”

Walker often uses SAU arrangements in his class and his “new feel” ignited the Buckaroos’ newfound passion for music, she said. Golden attributes that as well as a mutual respect for Walker to the improvement and excitement among fellow young musicians.

“He brings a new sound. He does things that you wouldn’t do like switching someone on an instrument and bringing in multiple solos instead of having just one,” she said. “Now, they’re like ‘Let’s do this.’ They actually try harder than what they’ve ever tried . I know that everyone has stepped up. There are people who have increased their range to get the music.”

Supervising fellow classmates is a challenge, she said, but she uses her experience to lead the SHS Buckaroo Band.

“Some of them are older (and) I’m one of the youngest in my grade. You just have to show them all the stuff that you know and say ‘Even though I’m your age or younger, I can still help you,” she said. “I just try to share my knowledge with them.”

The drum major offered advice to aspiring drum majors, even the person who may take her spot next semester.

“I know you have to take control of them but don’t be overbearing. Just have fun with them. Then, they’ll actually listen to you,” she said. “In times that you need to be serious, be serious . Make sure they know their music first.”

Golden has played the trumpet since joining the sixth grade beginner band and even contemplated becoming a music educator, she said. She has since settled on majoring in pre-dentistry and becoming a SAU Marching Mulerider after graduation.

She balances her involvement in band with her studies at Smackover High School to no avail. According to a previous News-Times report, Golden’s work with the band motivated SHS Principal Jan Henderson to nominate her for Student of the Month in November.

“I have no life now,” she said. “I just try my best.”

“I’m here today and we’ve been successful,” Walker said.

___

Information from: El Dorado News-Times, https://www.eldoradonews.com

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