The First of More to Come: N.C. A&T’s First Female Drum Major

Photo+Courtesy+of+Kellye+Hall.

Photo Courtesy of Kellye Hall.

Lela Whitener, Contributor

N.C. A&T Alum Kellye Hall was the first female drum major for the Blue and Gold Marching Machine.

Born in Rochester, New York, and later moved to Soul City, North Carolina, Hall was exposed to N.C. A&T’s marching band through her family and knew that someday, she would join. She even began playing the saxophone in sixth grade. 

“I chose N.C. A&T because my parents and three of my uncles went there,” Hall said. “My dad and one of my uncles were in the band and we had season tickets to football games growing up, so I always wanted to be part of the Blue and Gold Marching Machine.”

Dreams aside, becoming the first female drum major came with obstacles and hurdles Hall had to overcome. Despite not knowing that she would be the first female drum major at her university, she didn’t fully realize that female drum majors were highly uncommon at that time. 

“The challenge I faced in being the first female drum major is that Dr. Hodge initially said there would never be a female drum major as long as he was the band director,” Hall said. “That’s a whole long story in itself. Glory to God, he changed his mind less than a year later, unbeknownst to me.” 

She continues, “He threw me out there with the other three guys the first afternoon of band camp. Dr. Ruff, who was the assistant band director at the time, took me out the back of the band with the rest of the saxophone section, literally dragged me to the front of the band, and said, “Give my drum majors some competition.” From that day forward, I was a drum major. I didn’t get any pushback from anyone in the band because they respected me and supported that decision.”

She says she drew her inspiration from the legendary Anthony Criss, a drum major at A&T for multiple years. After watching a performance of his, she knew at that moment she wanted to follow in his footsteps and to be like him.  

“During N.C. A&T Homecoming in 1993, he came onto the field in a helicopter,” Hall said. “I got a chance to meet him one summer when I was at A&T for a band camp for middle and high schoolers. When he saw me dance, he instantly became my mentor and would let me come onto the track with him at football games. Some band members knew me before I actually got to A&T because of that. One of the greatest moments ever was when he saw me as a drum major at band camp. His reaction was priceless. I was just so happy he was proud of my accomplishment. I love marching with him in the alumni band to this day!”

As a natural-born performer, Hall’s love of dancing accompanied by the boost of energy she received through the crowd response made it one of the best times of her life. Even after she graduated from N.C. A&T, the weight of her success still didn’t hit her until she noticed other universities sprouting their first female drum majors as well.

“It dawned on me that I had the privilege of being one of a select few that were chosen to lead HBCU bands as a whole,” Hall said. “When I did find out I was the first female drum major at A&T the year I was chosen, I did understand that if I sucked, people would say, “this girl sucks.” I knew if that was the case, other women wouldn’t be chosen, so I just made sure I did the absolute best job I could do.”

Hall’s advice for young women that want to become drum majors is that they have to be better than the young men they’re competing against to even be considered for the position. 

“At this point, they have to be better than me, because unfortunately for them, they’ll always be compared to me simply because I’m still around and people know of me because of social media and GHOE,” Hall said. “They have to first believe in themselves and their ability, and they can’t let the fact that there have only been two females in A&T drum major history make them doubt they can be the third.”

To keep up with Hall via social media, you can visit her Instagram and Twitter pages.