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Norfolk State’s First Female Drum Major Makes History

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — At Norfolk State University, those who become drum majors for the Spartan “Legion” Marching Band might be considered royalty on campus.

Founded in 1975, the Legion has become one of the country’s premier bands among historically Black colleges and universities. Band faculty members interview select candidates from the Legion for the Mr. Spartan and Cap ‘N Soul roles to lead the team of about 250 musicians.

This year, senior Quiara Jackson is Cap ‘N Soul — and Norfolk State’s first female drum major.

“One of my main focuses when I was auditioning to be a drum major, I was telling people not only am I running for myself, I’m running to inspire other women to take on these positions,” she said. “We need more women in these leadership positions.”

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She said it’s working — several of the band’s section leaders are women.

Jackson had not picked up a band instrument until her junior year at Freedom High School in Woodbridge. She was more of an orchestra and choir person, she said. But the school’s new band director happened to be an NSU band alumnus. Jackson visited NSU’s campus and felt at home.

People often assume that women join a college band to be a dancer, or to play an instrument like the flute, Jackson said. But she plays bassoon and saxophone.

She thought of taking a break from the band when she switched her major from nursing to sociology. But friends, including last year’s Mr. Spartan, encouraged her to go for the drum major role.

One of the first times Jackson knew she was making an impact came when she received a call from her mother, Gicanda Suggs. For the family, Suggs had made Cap ‘N Soul shirts displaying Jackson’s picture and status as a first at Norfolk State. One day at the grocery, a little girl ran up and pointed to Suggs’ shirt: “I know her! I know her!” The child’s mother read the shirt and commented on Jackson’s being a first.

The little girl then said, “That’s gonna be me one day,” Jackson recalled. “And I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, she really said that?’ This is real.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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