Auburn University senior Brianna Jarvis has just made history as the first Black female drum major in the school’s 165-year history, Auburn University reported.
Alongside DeZayveon Dickerson, Ryan Griffin and Parker Mercier, she will lead the 380-member marching band, many of them participating in pregame festivities for the first time since COVID-19.
Her debut will be at their first game on Sept. 4 against Akron.
Jarvis, a first-generation college student, took over as trumpet section leader last season. She attended nearby Reeltown High School, about 30 minutes away, and was drawn to the SEC football school, where people come from all over the world to watch the games.
“I went to a really small high school, and college was something that I really wanted for myself, but Auburn seemed a little far-fetched,” Jarvis said. “My band director went above and beyond trying to find opportunities for me trying to make things work.
Jarvis first picked up an instrument at 10 years old, following in the footsteps of her mother.
“I was a really shy kid,” Jarvis said. “At that age and after watching several Friday night halftime shows, I realized that the trumpets were the instruments that got really cool melodic lines and a lot of solos, and I was a little bit of an overachiever. So, I wanted to try and push myself out of my comfort zone, and here we are.”
At Reeltown, she was selected to the all-state band her senior year.
“I always knew she could do it, and I get chill bumps when talking about it,” Tyler Strickland, her high school band director and alumnus of Auburn’s band, said. “She’s always been so motivated and self-driven, it really didn’t take much on my part except encouragement. She is a fantastic person, leader and musician, and there’s nobody better to be Auburn’s first female African American drum major than Brianna.”
Jarvis added that her mother was honest with her in letting her know that the only way she’d be able to attend college was with scholarships.
With college on her mind and Auburn seeming like a stretch, she worked hard to earn the necessary scholarships for her to attend college. According to the university press release, she is the recipient of the Achievement Scholarship, Ever to Conquer Scholarship, Robert W. Harris Memorial Endowed Scholarship, Annie Laura Newell Memorial Endowed Scholarship and the Provost’s Leadership Undergraduate Scholarship. She also has received the Board of Trustees Scholarship, James W. and Elaine B. Lester Endowed Scholarship and the AU Marching Band Scholarship.
After securing her spot at the university and then on the band, becoming a drum major was not on her radar. It wasn’t until then-drum major T.J. Tinnin encouraged her to pursue the position that she decided to sign up and undergo the weeklong auditions.
“I encouraged Brianna because I saw great potential in her,” Tinnin told Opelika-Auburn News. “Not only did she possess the leadership ability, but she is also a caring, hardworking and overall genuine person.”
Recently, Jarvis has gained another mentor in Jeffrey Rowser, the first Black drum major at Auburn University and in the history of the SEC. Rowser was a drum major from 1978 to 1980.
“She’s going to be simply outstanding,” Rowser said. “Obviously, she showed some skill sets long before she became a drum major because of the trumpet leadership role she had. Her musicianship is so top-shelf, and she communicates so beautifully.”
When she’s not on the field, Jarvis also uses her skills in the Jazz Band, is a mentor for United Sound and is currently Miss East Alabama 2021.
Jarvis said she hopes to be a resource to younger girls looking to be in her position.
“With my particular background and story, I would hope more people that relate can find comfort in being able to reach out to somebody who has more common ground with them than some of the other people who have been in the position in the past,” she said.
“I hope that common ground would help make them more comfortable auditioning and continuing to participate in band. I hope in the same way it also will help encourage Black families to continue to support their children’s participation and success in the arts,” she added.
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