Emily Toppen: Junior Drum Major

Drum major Emily Toppen shows her maturity as a leader despite her young age

“I was quite shocked, to be honest,” Toppen said. “I didn’t believe it for the first couple of days, and I’m still not really believing it. Being a drum major is something that I’ve always admired, and it’s one of those positions that you dream about when you are little, and now that I’ve gotten that position it’s a really nice feeling.”

Junior drum majors are few and far between for the Forest Hills Central Marching Band. For someone other than a senior to be conducting the rest of the players is a rarity not many classes get to see. However, for sophomore Emily Toppen, this is only the beginning of her differences as a drum major.

“The unusual situation of Emily is that it is not common for a person to have never been on the leadership team and become a drum major,” said Robert Ash, FHC band teacher and director. “Her leadership up to this point has been leading by example, but her audition showed her character and leadership abilities.”

To launch herself into this self-proclaimed unexpected position, Toppen joined other hopefuls in a three-day long audition for one of three drum major titles. These auditions tested a variety of skillsets which any drum major would have to display to be successful in leading the band.

“I was there for all parts of the audition: calling, conducting, and interviews,” said former drum major and class of 2015 graduate Hannah Peper. “I had input with the other drum majors in the selection of the best candidates.”

Now, the former saxophone player joins juniors Ben Whitlow and Tim Bennett as leaders of approximately 15% of the student body; strangely, leading some of those older than her. However, few can doubt the decision of the panel when they take a close look at Toppen.

“Emily is a fantastic musician,” Ash said. “She is conscientious of the music making process, and she is all in and all about growth and learning, which is exciting to see especially for her age. She shows maturity in everything that she does.

Peper agrees with Ash, citing Emily’s leadership despite her young age. Toppen is ready to accept the responsibilities of a leader. After spending two years in the band program, Toppen felt that her time had come to step up and own her place as an upperclassman and example, and hopes to do just that

“I hope to lead in a way that everyone will feel comfortable enough to come talk to me,” Toppen said. “I hope that people feel like we’re all on the same level, since when I was a freshman the drum majors were like some sorts of gods that I wasn’t allowed to speak to. I hope to lead in a direction that will help the band progress the most and grow, and I hope that people feel like they have a family to come to.”

With her own family in Whitlow and Bennett to support her, Toppen feels the three of them have already meshed and knows that the year will be amazing with her extraordinarily hard working friends by her side. Ash agrees, citing the three of them as ‘servant leaders’ who want to serve in a way that leads back to the band.

Although Toppen is young, nobody in the band program doubts her ability to take the Marching Band to a new level with her mature attitude and honed musical skills.

“Emily is very outgoing and personable, yet she can command attention when need be,” Peper said. “I know she can keep the Ranger Marching Band spirit alive and allow it to flourish.”

Preparing for the role of a lifetime, this extraordinary girl is ready for an extraordinary year. Although her position is uncommon, Toppen is ready to embrace all challenges coming her way and, along with Whitlow and Bennett, cannot wait to get the show on the road.

“I’m really excited to have such an amazing opportunity in being a drum major. I’m blessed in the fact that I get to work with such great people, and it will be an amazing experience.”