New drum major marching to his own beat

Barron Wallace
Barron Wallace

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jul 30, 2020) — After accomplishing his goal to become the drum major of the Kennesaw State University Marching Band, sophomore Barron Wallace has been working hard this summer to prepare for the shows to start.

Every weekday, Wallace can be found in his family’s back yard in Lilburn, practicing his craft. He conducts with a series of hand gestures and rehearses mace routines along to a variety of musical selections resonating through his earbuds, putting his all into each performance despite having no musicians actually following his lead.

“My back yard is not a football stadium, so it’s very different practicing in an environment where the band is not there,” Wallace said. “If I wasn’t doing this, though, I wouldn’t be doing what the people who chose me to be drum major are counting on me to do. I wouldn’t be living up to what I told them I would do.”

After being a drum major for two years in high school and playing trumpet in the marching band as a KSU freshman, Wallace set his sights on leading "The Marching Owls." He was chosen to be the 2020 drum major following a rigorous selection process last fall that included auditioning for the marching band’s leadership team and then in front of the entire band.

“I had it in my head that, when I got to college, I definitely wanted to go for drum major and see how far I could take it,” Wallace said. “I just didn’t expect it to happen this soon, as a sophomore. I will continue to audition and hopefully serve as drum major for as long as I am here at KSU.”

For now, Wallace is focused on his first year as drum major, conducting his one-man shows that often are watched by an audience of one. His father, Lance, frequently observes the backyard practices and has recorded several video clips, which his drum major son has shared on social media.

“My dad is not afraid to let me know when I mess up,” Wallace said with a laugh. “He will give me a look that says, ‘Hmm, need to keep working on that, don’t we?’ But it’s been great to have a small audience that I can practice on. I’d rather make my mistakes now in my back yard than in the stadium later on.”

Wallace hopes to have a larger audience this fall with performances at KSU football games. However, if things change given the current situation, Wallace said he will continue practicing with an eye on auditioning to be drum major again in 2021.

“The job of the drum major is to lead not only in music but in leadership and attitude, so staying positive certainly would be an expectation,” he said.

Being able to participate in marching band was a prerequisite as Wallace was deciding where to attend college because, he explained, “I was not interested in going somewhere and not being able to continue this part of my life that I love.” "The Marching Owls" are a side venture Wallace is passionate about as he pursues a media and entertainment degree from Kennesaw State.

“I really wanted to be a part of this awesome environment of growing, learning and then applying those skills to a higher level,” Wallace said. “Each drum major has sprinkled in their own ideas each year, so I can’t wait to see which of my ideas stick and how that incorporates into KSU tradition.”

– Paul Floeckher

Submitted photos; Video by David Johnson

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit