The Chippewa Marching Band works hard to keep the spirit of Central Michigan University high at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, and drum major Julie Claveau is at the heart of that effort.
The Scottville senior is the fourth female drum major in the band’s 91-year history.
“The drum major role has been viewed as a strong male role because of the military history behind marching bands,” Claveau said. “It’s cool to have the band respond to my leadership not just because I’m female, but because of the relationships I have with them.”
Claveau has been in a leadership role within the marching band for two years prior to this as assistant drum major. She worked with Highland senior Corey Jahlas, who was head drum major for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Jahlas is proud of the work Claveau has done over the years, saying she was the best assistant drum major he could have hoped for.
“Julie is one of the most spirited, hardworking and talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” Jahlas said. “As the drum major of the Chippewa Marching Band, her passion for music and helping others is very apparent. I can’t wait to see the amazing things she does this year and next as head drum major.”
Claveau said she was inspired to try out for the drum major position after working with drum majors Jahlas and Dave Bechard, a 2011 CMU graduate from Riverview.
“Seeing how Dave and Corey worked with the band really pushed me to try out,” Claveau said. “I had been drum major at my high school for three years and I wanted to keep moving up.”
Keeping the spirit of CMU alive at games – as well as in the classroom – fills Claveau with a deep sense of pride for her school.
“The marching band gives me pride in my school,” Claveau said. “My academics give me some stability.”
James Batcheller, director of the Chippewa marching band, said he’s proud of the strides Claveau has made as drum major.
“She’s insanely good,” Batcheller said. “She’s another in a long line of fantastic drum majors. She’s taking this to a whole new level.”
Batcheller said the last female drum major was in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Lindsay Schwab led the band on the field for the two years. Before her, Heather Harraman had the helm in 2001 and 2002.
“Before (Schwab and Harraman), the most recent female drum major was Marion Town,” Batcheller said. “That was back in the 1930s.”
According to the band’s website, Town started as the first “exhibition twirler” in 1935. She then moved to “exhibition drum major” in 1936. In 1937, Town was “given equal billing with Burton Swope as drum major.”
There was a period from 1962-72 when women were not allowed in the band at all.
Batcheller said Norm Dietz, director of the band at that time, made the decision to move back to a strict, military-style band, but eventually changed his mind.
Claveau takes her leadership position seriously, as she is always working with the band to reach its goals.
“I don’t view (being drum major) as power. It’s an opportunity to work with the band,” she said. “Each year, we have a different goal. I work with the leadership group and the staff to achieve these goals.”
Claveau’s main goal this year is getting her fellow Chippewas fired up at every game.
“I’m looking forward to some football wins and cheering on the team,” Claveau said. “Also, making more relationships in the band, and of course, firing up the Chips.”