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Katie Elkin
Senior psychology and biology major, music minor
Drum major, flutist, Marching Tar Heel

My whole family is musical. My grandparents sang in choir, my mom sings in choir and plays the clarinet and piano, and my dad plays the guitar. I’ve been in handbell choir in church since like second grade. It’s always been a part of my life.

I initially got interested in band in fifth grade, when we were allowed to try out the head joints of the different instruments. I tried the clarinet, and it sounded like something was dying, so I tried the flute, and the band director said, ‘That was incredible,’ and I was like ‘Yay, I guess that’s what I’m doing!’ So I joined sixth grade band. My school district in Mooresville, N.C., was pretty well known for its band program. I was never good at sports, so being in marching band in high school gave me that team aspect.

We have four drum majors, all seniors. Half time and pre-game during football season are not quite as stressful to me because it’s something we can practice and we know what’s going to happen. What’s stressful to me is we each get assigned a quarter. In those instances, it’s just you leading the band. When we’re on defense, we play these musical shorts in between plays. You have to make sure you cut off before the ball is back in play, or the team could get penalized. We usually have one drum major who’s not on the podium who is watching the game and tells you what’s coming up next. It’s really good to have that support system.

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I enjoy practicing my flute, but I didn’t think I would enjoy dedicating the amount of time it takes to be a music major. I really liked biology in high school, and I also took AP psychology and loved it. I plan on going to graduate school eventually, and my original thought was I would teach high school biology. I’m now sort of thinking about counseling and maybe at a university level. I am a people person — I took the Myers-Briggs [personality test], and I’m 100 percent an extrovert.

Jeff Fuchs, director of University Bands, takes volunteer pep bands to the away games, prioritizing based on seniority and instrumentation. You get closer to people on those long bus rides. We went to Orlando for the Russell Athletic Bowl game last year and were on the bus together for about 13 hours.

Being part of the Marching Tar Heels does consume your life in the fall. We have practice on Tuesdays, Thursdays and on game days, Fridays and Saturdays. I’ve always heard that you make time for things that are important to you. I actually think it really helped me my freshman year. I had 17 hours my fall semester. It was a challenging and hard semester, but being in band forced me to determine what I needed to do during the week to study.

We have a home game the Friday after Thanksgiving this year, which can be really hard for out-of-state students. Part of being a band member is making a commitment to attending every home game. But Mr. Fuchs sent out an email recently that said, “If you can’t go home for Thanksgiving, my wife and I would love to have you over to our house for dinner. We only have one request: You have to send us the recipe for your favorite dish, so we can make it for you.”

The greatest benefit I’ve taken from my experience in marching band is a sense of family. I now am roommates with a girl I met my first day of band camp my freshman year. It’s given me some of my best friends at Carolina.

 

Photos courtesy of Katie Elkin.

Artists After Hours is an occasional feature in which we interview faculty, staff and students who pursue artistic avocations in areas not directly related to their day jobs and studies. Profiles are archived at our Carolina’s Human Heart website, celebratehumanities.unc.edu. Know someone we should feature? Send suggestions to college-news@unc.edu.

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