Oscoda High School Drum Major Sydney Lopez and Central Michigan University Drum Major Taylor Huitema salute the camera on Band Day.

OSCODA – An Oscoda High School (OHS) senior and an alumni turn leading bands into a family business.

Oscoda High School senior Sydney Lopez, 17, followed in her brother’s footsteps by becoming a drum major just like he did during his high school years. Taylor Huitema, 22, currently serves as drum major for the Central Michigan University (CMU) Chippewas Marching Band. While his sister, Lopez, leads the OHS Owls Marching Band in the same season relying on one another for their successes.

“I think watching my brother since I was tiny, I always looked up to him. His name was my first word. He’s just one of the best people I know,” said Lopez. “He looked so cool and, so I just wanted to be just like him.”

For the duo, their love of music began at young ages. For Huitema, music had always been a important part of his family. Since the age of five, Huitema would perform in musicals and listen to his father play the tuba; however, he didn’t actually pick up an instrument himself until sixth grade becoming a saxophone player.

Just like her brother, Lopez joined band in sixth grade and  started by playing the alto saxophone. It was in seventh grade when she tried her hand at the baritone saxophone and continued with band every year following.

With their mother being a music teacher, Huitema admits that she wanted both of them to join band for at least a year. During his time at OHS, Taylor played saxophone in the band from sixth through 10th grades. In 11th grade he served OHS as a co-drum major for the marching band and later became the senior drum major in his final year.

Similar to her brother, Lopez played the saxophone up until her sophomore year, auditioned to be a co-drum major in 11th grade and this year was voted to be the senior drum major by her fellow band members.

“Once I got in high school and I saw the other drum majors before me I thought I could do a lot of good for the band so I decided to pursue it,” said Lopez.

After graduation, Huitema went on to pursue music at CMU. It was there that he found the answer to the age old question, what do you want to be when you grow up? It was marching band and music that led Huitema to pursue a music education degree and desire to become a music teacher for middle and high school students. 

While at CMU, Huitema began playing the tuba, like his father, and served as the tuba section leader in 2016. For the last few years, Huitema has been the junior drum major and this season was chosen by his band director to lead the marching chips as the senior drum major.

Huitema said he thinks its the coolest thing that both him and his sister each get to lead their own band at the same time.

“I like to know that we can talk to each other and be able to bounce those ideas off of each other,” said Huitema.

Lopez said he is always reminding her to keep it fun.

“A really great opportunity I have is I can ask him for help and obstacles and he can always give an opinion and have an idea and I think he helps more than he realizes,” said Lopez. “It’s hard to keep it fun and keep people interested and he’s a really wonderful person to have on my side.”

Having led both a high school and university marching band, Huitema said he now knows that  the bands have some similarities, but primarily many differences. For starters, Huitema conducted around 60 people during half-time shows in high school. While at CMU, he’s in charge of 285 bodies, their movements and the success of the band. 

Additionally, instead of practicing one show for the entire season, the band works to perfect four to five and use them interchangeably. Also, the practice time and scheduling differs greatly. He said in high school there was one hour dedicated to marching, where in college the marchers spend hours daily perfecting the routine and have early call times on game day.

“I was surprised by how different they are,” said Huitema.

However, a constant in the two bands is the role of the drum major. According to Huitema, the drum major is responsible for leading the band onto the field blowing the whistle and conducting the band while running down the field in bright white pants and getting the band excited about the performance.

Lopez explained the change in perspective that she received in her transition from a band member to a band leader.

“When you are marching you get a completely different feel of the show. You think about your spot and what you have to do. You get to watch the whole show and see how everything fits together and how the whole group looks,” said Lopez. “It’s interesting to have both experiences.”

Lopez said when you’re part of the band you only have to worry about yourself and what your next move is, but as the drum major its your responsibility to know who is moving where next so the show can be a success. Being the drum major, Lopez said she feels an extreme sense of pride knowing she gets to represent the band and lead them out.

“I’m just incredibly proud of all the hard work each and every show. Band members work so hard throughout the season and I have all this love and appreciation for them. Seeing the audience applaud the band shows their appreciation. It’s an incredible feeling,” said Lopez.

One thing the duo could agree on is leading a band is a lot of work.

“Marching band is a tough thing to do,” said Huitema.

“I think that it is a lot of work like he said it takes a lot of work. It’s just wonderful experience and I think its a thing that everyone should try or something similar. Making music and having fun is a wonderful way to spend your time,” said Lopez.