For any marching band, it all begins with the drum line. St. Amant High School’s band took a big step toward getting whole Wednesday when it received a loan of drums from Northwestern State University.
The university provided St. Amant, which is in Ascenion Parish near Gonzales, with nine snare drums, four sets of tenor drums (six drums each) and five bass drums that would have been sent to state surplus.
“I can’t put into words what this gesture from Northwestern means,” said St. Amant Director of Bands Craig Millet. “The first thing the band does is rally around the drum section. What starts things is the drum cadences. That is what gets the band pumped up.”
Northwestern State Director of Bands Dr. Jeffrey Mathews was closely following news of the flooding that devastated much of southeast and south central Louisiana. He immediately began contacting band directors to offer help.
“When something like that happens, everyone wants to do something,” said Mathews. “I called one band director in the area who told me what happened at St. Amant and we went from there.”
Once Mathews identified the need and how NSU could help, he worked with university and state officials to complete all required paperwork.
St. Amant High was closed after the recent floods. Students began classes Monday on a half-day platoon schedule at nearby Dutchtown High. Millet said about 90 percent of the band students had their instruments stored in the school’s band room. He is hoping to gather enough instruments to allow the band to perform at next Friday’s football home opener.
“I saw the students for the first time Monday and they are very resilient,” said Millet, who has been at St. Amant for 27 years. “They can’t wait to get back to play and practice. Our community has suffered but humanity has not because of the willingness of people to help.”
The donation was also meaningful to Spirit of Northwestern Marching Band member Madison Mayers, a 2016 graduate of St. Amant, where she was the band’s drum major last year.
“It is heartwarming that my new school (Northwestern) loves my former school (St. Amant) and wants to help,” said Mayers, a freshman biology major from St. Amant. “It was so great of Dr. Mathews to make the offer of percussion equipment to St. Amant.”
Mayers’ family had four feet of water in their home. They are staying with friends as they start the rebuilding process.
“I’m glad I have been able to focus on classes and band for the last couple of weeks,” said Mayers. “I know it will be very emotional for me when I go home.”
From the left: Graduate Assistant Donald Myers, Northwestern State Director of Bands Dr. Jeffrey Mathews, St. Amant Director of Bands Craig Millet. NSU band member and St. Amant alumna Madison Mayers and Northwestern State Assistant Director of Bands Oliver Molina.