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Sister follows in brother's path as drum major

Sunday, August 26, 2007 | 8:35 p.m. CDT; updated 8:52 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Ella Edwards follows in the footsteps of her brother, Nate Edwards, as a drum major with the Hickman High School marching band. A drum major during his time at Hickman, Nate is now a drum major of Marching Mizzou, MU’s marching band.

Drum major Nate Edwards stands at the front of Marching Mizzou, shouting orders and directing musical changes with an elaborate twist of his hands. Three miles away, on the Hickman High School football field, his sister, Ella Edwards, is doing the exact same thing.

The children of Sheri and Chris Edwards, Nate and Ella both hold drum major positions at their respective schools for the 2007–08 school year.

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The two siblings have always been musically inclined, said Sheri Edwards, their mother. Even as children, it was clear that music and performing were their passions.

“When Nate was just an itty, bitty thing, he couldn’t even sit up, but he would rock back and forth to the beat,” Sheri Edwards said. “He could keep a perfect rhythm. Music always soothed them when they were upset. And Ella took 10 years of dance. Music was what she loved.

“They would always entertain me. They would dress up, put on clothes and perform for me. Ella would dance and Nate would be Nate. He would bring the comedy.”

Nate Edwards, 20, had a more specific dream than just to be in a band. Nate wanted to be in Marching Mizzou.

“I had gone to Mizzou games my whole life,” the junior political science major said. “I don’t remember anything about the first game I went to, but I do remember the band. It just looked so cool.”

Nate Edwards began playing the piano when he was 4 or 5 years old and ended up continuing his piano lessons until he was 15. Then the trombone took over his life.

While in elementary school, he attended a “Try Me Out” band night, where he got to try any instrument he wanted. He decided on the trombone and played it in an elementary school band concert at the end of that summer.

After several years of concert band, Nate Edwards began marching in eighth grade. By the time he got to high school, he had fallen in love with marching. In his senior year at Hickman High, Nate was selected drum major of the marching band, along with three other band members.

Most marching bands have two to four drum majors who direct from different positions. Nate Edwards directed from the front of the band on the right during the Hickman band performances.

Now Hickman High has another Edwards in the front on the right — 17-year-old Ella Edwards.

“Nathan did it,” Ella said, explaining why she tried out for drum major at Hickman. “That’s the main reason. He had fun with it. And it was another new thing for me to try out.”

Being a drum major isn’t the only musical thing Ella Edwards has tried out. She began with dance, then played the violin for 2 years in elementary school and went to the same “Try Me Out” band night her brother had attended three years previously.

“I think you tried every instrument that night,” Sheri Edwards said to her daughter. “We had to go to every station.”

Ella Edwards finally decided on the clarinet for her primary instrument. But that didn’t stop her from learning others. She volunteered to play the sousaphone, a type of tuba used in marching bands, during marching season last year.

“She was the best marcher in the sousaphone section,” her brother said. “But you really have to see her to imagine this. She is, like, five foot nothing, and the sousaphone weighed as much as she did.”

Ella Edwards plans to start college at Missouri State University next year, majoring in business and interior design. She plans to try out for the band there, and says she can eventually see herself following her brother’s footsteps again by trying out for drum major as well.

But for now, Ella and Nate Edwards are just happy to be a part of their respective drum major teams. The only problem their mom has is trying to go to all of their performances.

“I’m so proud of both of them for their determination and hard work,” Sheri Edwards said. “Both my kids have become leaders.”


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