Two from Vicksburg will lead Mississippi State band|[08/27/2008]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jenkins in first year as drum major, Battalio in second

Mississippi State University’s Famous Maroon Band will boast a prominent Vicksburg beat this year, as River City natives Katie Jenkins and Michael Battalio lead the group as drum majors.

Battalio, in his second stint with the baton after being chosen last year, will be head drum major. Jenkins tried out for and won her spot in April. Both were drum majors in high school – Jenkins at Vicksburg High and Battalio at St. Aloysius.

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“They are both outstanding academic students and good musicians, both very dependable and mature in their decision making,” said Elva Kaye Lance, director of bands for Mississippi State. “We’re delighted to have them as drum majors.”

Rounding out the Famous Maroon’s four-man leadership crew will be senior Kristen Hampton, a Clinton native, and junior Jace McMullin of Griffith, Ind.

Calling it “an honor” to be named head drum major, Battalio said he’s enjoying the job of helping lead the other drum majors as well as the Famous Maroons.

“The band is the largest it’s been in quite a few years,” Battalio said. “We’ve got a real good group of musicians.”

Lance said this year’s band has 314 members, 18 of them from the River City.

“Vicksburg has had good representation in the band,” Lance said, “including probably 25 to 30 members last year. For one town to have that many – that’s huge. It’s a real testament to the preparation they receive at Vicksburg schools.”

Jenkins, the daughter of Jeffrey and Marlene Jenkins, admitted to some nervousness as she and the other drum majors have prepared for the band’s fall performances, but said, on the whole, she is “glad and honored” to have been chosen.

“There’s a lot more responsibility on me now than in high school, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Jenkins. “I’m really enjoying it. Our music is just great.”

The band plays several different types of songs and has three different halftime shows, she said, including a Michael Jackson-themed show with “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” “Beat It” and “Thriller”; a cartoon-themed show including music from “The Jetsons,” “Meet the Flintstones” and “The Simpsons”; and a patriotic show. The band also plays in the stands at football games to rev up the crowd.

The four drum majors share duties. Two take posts in the front and two in the back.

“To make things fair, we switch sides so we all have the chance to be on the front sideline as well as the back sideline,” Jenkins said. “Trading off sides benefits all of us because each side is different and has different responsibilities, and learning both sides helps us be more efficient.”

This will be Jenkins’ fourth year marching with the Famous Maroon Band, in which she has played clarinet. A senior biochemistry major, she also plays in the symphonic band during the spring concert season.

Last year, she was one of five clarinet squad leaders in the Maroon Band and went through two rounds of drum major tryouts. In the first round, she was required to demonstrate different marching tempos and styles, maintain a given tempo without help from a metronome and perform a minute-long routine to a piece of recorded music. The second round required her to conduct a score she had not seen, provide instruction to another student or staff member and participate in an interview with the band staff.

“She’s very organized and good to work with,” Battalio said of Jenkins. “We’ve known each other for a while in band and church. It’s good that we get to work together.”

Jenkins and Battalio are members of St. Michael Catholic Church and are active in the Catholic Student Association at Mississippi State. Battalio, the son of Joe and Donna Battalio, is a fifth-year broadcast meteorology major. He has already completed a minor in mathematics, and is working on additional minors in music, cello and communications, he said.

“We were delighted he was returning this year,” Lance said.

“Last year there was only one other drum major, so we helped each other out,” Battalio said. “That makes this year much easier.”

Jenkins, aside from school and band, works in the microbiology lab four hours a week and in the forest products lab, where she deals with DNA and tissue and soil samples. She is also mission trips and service coordinator for the Catholic Student Association and will be planning trips, “along the lines of Habitat for Humanity,” she said, for winter and spring breaks. She’ll plan service activities and projects around the Starkville area, and, in between, will find time to play intramural softball, flag football and ultimate frisbee.

“It might seem like I’m involved in a lot of things, but I enjoy all of it,” Jenkins said. “It keeps me happy, and it never gets boring.”

Once she gets her bachelor’s degree, Jenkins hopes to go on to graduate school at MSU and work toward a doctorate in microbiology. Her dream is to be a field agent for the Centers for Disease Control.