The band kid
Chelsea Monroe is a proud member of The Thunder of the East marching band. Alexa Strudler /// The Spectrum
With her backpack in hand, hair tied in a bun, and a navy blue fraternity shirt, she walks through the UB's halls with confidence.
Chelsea Monroe is an assistant drum major for The Thunder of The East Marching Band.
Monroe, a fifth-year senior communication and French major, is the leader of UB's band. She waves her hand in the air at football and basketball games instructing the band to do one simple thing: "have fun and be the best they can be."
Monroe became involved in the world of music at the age of nine. She began by playing the flute and progressively dabbled into other instruments as she grew up. Music became Monroe's "thing." Her family and friends started calling her "The Band Kid."
Today she wears that title with pride.
"When I'm on the field conducting, I really don't feel anything because I'm focused on the goal: give the audience the best show we can," Monroe said. "But once the show is over it's one of those moments that I can't help but smile. I love what I do and it's one of the best feelings."
In high school, Monroe got involved with other hobbies such as softball, but it was the marching band that really spoke to her. It was on this band that she met her band director, who became the inspiration and trigger for her love for competitive marching bands.
"He pushed us to be the best we can be," Monroe said.
This love led her to exclusively apply to colleges with marching bands. She knew her life after high school couldn't exclude being part of a marching band. Thunder of the East prevailed in her pool of college options and became her first choice.
She traveled from Arizona to be a part of the Thunder of the East.
Before joining the band, Monroe attended band camp. UB's band camp included 10-day camp for band members to practice together and play music. Band camp was where Chelsea met her soon-to-be band members, who she would later be leading into the field.
"It was hard opening up and welcoming UB as my new life," Monroe said. "The band helped in [making new friends]."
When she started out at UB, she played the piccolo. After advancing her skills, she learned to play the mellophone, which is the marching version of the French horn. From there, she gained knowledge of music and marching, as well as a family away from home.
"I've enjoyed myself and I can't picture myself doing anything else at UB," Monroe said.
Since the marching band here is larger than the one at Monroe's high school, she is constantly gaining more experience - more than she could ever ask for, she said.
Her third year at UB, though she was still young and relatively new to college marching band, Monroe took on the challenge of auditioning for drum major. The students auditioning were given a piece of music and were evaluated on how well they were able to instruct and lead the members of the band.
She was unsuccessful.
That didn't put her down. The next year, though, she knew what to expect.
She auditioned again her fourth year and achieved her goal: the title of drum major.
This is one of her biggest accomplishments in college, according to Monroe, and she loves being such an essential part of the band.
"[Band] has made me who I am today," Monroe said. "Seeing the many years of hard work in band pay off is a great accomplishment."
Monroe's daily duties of being a drum major include supporting the section leaders, choosing the music the band will play and helping the band members on game day tune their instruments. She is in charge of over 100 band members, including other section leaders.
Throughout the past two years, she has learned to not only be a leader, but a friend to the members of the band as well. According to Monroe, leadership means being able to adjust to any situation and being a friend, not just a dictator.
"Over time you get a better understanding of how everyone responds to messages and passing it on to their section members," Monroe said. "It's really hard at first not knowing how people work together, but then you realize that person A responds better to B and you adjust."
Monroe's leadership extends beyond the Thunder of the East. She also holds the title of vice president of service in the co-ed fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi.
Kappa Kappa Psi aims to develop and support the leadership and enthusiasm that is a major part of being in a collegiate marching band. This fraternity also supports the growth of the Thunder of the East. Her brother, Michelle Skillman, who is also a member of the band, describes Monroe as "a really good leader."
"She does more than what is really required of her to do because she really values the band and I find myself wanting to try just a bit harder whenever I see how much she's doing," Skillman said.
Monroe looks forward to taking on her final year at UB as drum major. Though she's saddened by the reality of graduating in May and leaving the band behind, Monroe said this is the close of a chapter in order for a new one to begin. After graduation, she hopes to stay in the Buffalo area to remain close to her friends and family.
Her music career will not end at UB, she said. She hopes to stay involved with music in community bands and one day hopes to inspire her children to join band as well.
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