How joining Queen’s Bands changed my university experience for the better

Why being part of the largest student-run marching band in Canada is incomparable

Paige was initially hesitant to join Queen's Bands, but the experience has positively shaped her university career.

During my first year at Queen’s, I was relatively uninvolved. I was a part of Queen’s Dance Club so I could continue to dance as I had in high school, and went to socials with my residence floor. Otherwise, I mostly hung out with my close group of friends. I spent most of the year in my bedroom, wanting to do more. 

Come my second year, I knew I wanted to be more involved on campus but I didn’t know what clubs or organizations to join. As an ArtSci orientation leader, or Gael, I had the opportunity that September to revisit Queen’s in the Park and the Sidewalk Sale, orientation events promoting recruitment for clubs on campus. I had the chance to talk to representatives of different student organizations with more confidence than I’d ever had as a first-year student. 

At the time, one of my closest friends was a cheerleader with Queen’s Bands, and he suggested that I join the club and play an instrument. I was interested, but initially hesitant.

I played trumpet in high school but hadn’t performed on the same level as I assumed other Queen’s students had. I also knew I’d be rusty if I tried to pick it up again. But after grabbing dinner with that same friend one night, he suggested we go to the information session “So, you wanna be in Queen’s Bands?” to see if I liked the atmosphere. 

I nervously sat through the information session feeling a little overwhelmed. The Bands’ executive standing in front of me seemed so passionate, and I didn’t think I’d ever love it as much as they did. 

The Bands’ executive standing in front of me seemed so passionate, and I didn’t think I’d ever love it as much as they did.

I spent the first two nights of their audition period in my room, wondering whether or not I should try out. On the last day of auditions, I finally opened the Google Doc to see if there was any room left for me that night. I almost hoped there wouldn’t be an open slot so I could at least say I had checked, but there was space. I put my name down to audition for the Brass Band and Highland Dance. 

At both auditions, I had some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I could tell right away that the people involved in Queen’s Bands were kind, the questions they asked were the perfect level of silly, and I felt comfortable with them the minute I walked in the room. 

During my Brass audition, a member of another section of Queen’s Bands asked me if I was interested in trying out for Drum Corps. If so, he could conduct my audition on the spot. I was confused as to why he thought I’d be a fit for the drums, but agreed to do it. 

In my audition, he had me wrap some strange mallets around my fingers and spin them a little too close to my face for comfort. When I finished and left the room, I was nervous, but excited to see the list of successful applicants they were posting the following day. 

The next morning, I tried to play it cool as I walked up to the doors of Grant Hall to see the final list of new members. I scanned over the Brass Band and Highland Dance list and was disappointed to see I hadn’t been placed in either section. Just as I was about to turn away, out of the corner of my eye, I saw “Paige James—Tenor Drum” under the Drum Corps list.

Over the next few days, I experienced a variety of emotions—my excitement over my acceptance into Queen’s Bands quickly mixed with the stress around the busy schedule that came with it. With my first marching practice that same night, drum practice the following day, and our first home football game only two days after that, I felt overwhelmed. 

Despite my initial misgivings, I quickly made friends in Drum Corps and connected with members of other sections who I shared mutual friends with. The community of Queen’s Bands immediately made me feel like I had a family and place on campus. Words can’t describe the pride I felt every time we marched onto the field at Richardson Stadium during halftime, or the joy I felt seeing all the smiling faces at Christmas parades. 

Words can’t describe the pride I felt every time we marched onto the field at Richardson Stadium during halftime, or the joy I felt seeing all the smiling faces at Christmas parades. 

In my first year in Bands, I also had the opportunity to attend the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade. After an 11-hour bus ride to Boston and two nights in a hotel, I felt even more at home with my fellow bandmates. 

Towards the end of my first year as Tenor Drum, I decided to run for Drum Sergeant, which is the section head of the Drum Corps. I was lucky enough to get the position. 

My experience on the executive team throughout my second year with Queen’s Bands expanded my circle of friends, allowing me to meet and work with people from other sections of the team. It also gave me the privilege of selecting new members for the section. The three new members I chose have since turned into some of my best friends. 

The first, a charismatic Scottish exchange student, quickly bonded with nearly everyone in the band. Even though he returned to Scotland after his Study Abroad, we still talk about him all the time. As for the other two students, I’ve had the opportunity to watch them grow into amazing role models for all of this year’s new recruits. 

Currently, I’m a member of the Bands’ Operations and Finance team (also called a Band Manager) and a Quartermaster. Although both of these positions consume all of my spare time, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Whenever we’re doing recruiting events for Bands, we always tell prospective members that joining Queen’s Bands is the easiest way to make 100 new friends overnight. Although this may be a slight exaggeration, there’s no denying the strong sense of community the team fosters.

The leadership opportunities I’ve held in Bands have also been some of my most valuable experiences during my time at Queen’s. Knowing I’m now a part of the legacy that is the largest student-run marching band in Canada is incomparable. 

I’ll always look at my time in Bands fondly. As I head into my third year with the organization, I’m once again looking forward to meeting more Bands alumni at Homecoming. Listening to their stories is one of my favourite parts of the day.

I look forward to one day returning for my own Homecoming, and sharing the stories about my time in Queen’s Bands with its future members. 

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