Leading the way
BHS grad selected as Kansas’ band drum major
Curtis Thomas won't easily forget Tuesday.
The 2003 Baldwin High School graduate led the International Lions Parade in Denver as the Kansas Lions International Band drum major.
"This is probably the pinnacle of my music career," he said.
More than 750 bands from across the world marched in the parade, and the Kansas Lions International Band was chosen by the Lions International president to lead the way.
"We have a very strong tradition in Lions Band," Thomas said. "Our band is regarded as one of the best marching bands in the world."
Which is one of the reasons he said it was an honor to be chosen as the band's drum major.
Thomas, who has played trombone with the Kansas Lions International Band for three years before becoming drum major this year, is the second drum major from Baldwin to be chosen to lead the Kansas band. Scott Bowles, a 2001 BHS graduate, was also a drum major.
Thomas, who was drum major his junior year in high school and head drum major his senior year, was selected to be drum major by the band's instructors. He said it's a distinction that requires a lot of commitment.
"It's my responsibility to get the band to the level they need to be at. It takes hours of practice," he said. "It's an enormous responsibility."
But the hours of practice had to be packed into just a few days. The band members met in Wichita Saturday to begin practicing for Tuesday's parade. The band members left for Denver Sunday, and only had Monday to put the finishing touches on their performance.
"We have limited practice compared to bands we face," he said. "We have four days of practice total when most bands we compete against practice all year long."
The hundreds of bands that march in the parade are judged by professional drum corps instructors on musicality and marching style. Thomas said the Kansas band had a lot to live up to this year.
"We have never placed below fourth in the past 10 years," he said.
Thomas said he was looking forward to leading the parade, saluting the judges as the band marched past and showing how hard the band worked.
"I still get chills when I realize how far the band's gone in four short days of practice," he said.
Thomas and the Kansas Lions International Band will remain in Colorado through Sunday, performing in a Fourth of July concert Friday with several other bands at Pike's Peak.
This year's Lions Band performances won't mark the end of Thomas' music career. He plans to major in instrumental music education and minor in vocal music education at Pittsburg State University beginning in the fall.
"I want to share the joy of music with others," he said.