Music teacher Sandy Rogers won't ever forget how shocked she was three decades ago to be told she would be her high school's drum major, in an era when few females received that distinction.
Her daughter, Bellingham High School senior-to-be Tessa Rogers, went her mom one better when Tessa was stunned to receive All-America Drum Major honors.
The award, capping a July camp in Oregon where she earned other honors from the national United Spirit Association, earned Tessa a trip to London. She will lead an honor band at the traditional London New Year's Day Parade, one of the world's largest such events.
Sandy, who teaches band and choir at Meridian Middle School, and husband Larry live in Sudden Valley with Tessa, a straight-A student who takes AP and Running Start classes. She plans to study chemical engineering in college.
Question: Tessa, why were so surprised to be named an All-American?
Tessa: When I attended the United Spirit Association camp, I fulfilled my goals of earning a "superior" plaque and a medal. I didn't even know they gave All-America honors, because when I attended the same camp last year, they didn't give that award. It turns out the judges give it only when they feel it is deserved in any given camp around the country.
Q: What was the feeling like?
Tessa: What made being named All-America so special is that you have to earn it, since they don't always give the honor.
Q: So you're set for college, right?
Tessa: Actually, this will be my last year as a drum major. I'm also a percussionist at BHS. I specialize in marimba and I'm planning to play on the drum line in college while I study to become a chemical engineer. I'm considering St. Olaf in Minnesota and the University of California at Davis.
Q: How long had you wanted to be a drum major?
Tessa: I was inspired by Mom's stories (Sandy served at Grants Pass High in Oregon). I started thinking about it in eighth grade. I won the audition (for assistant drum major, which goes to a junior). But unexpected circumstances led to my becoming head drum major last year, before I expected, since drum majors are almost always seniors.
Q: How nerve-wracking was it to be thrown into drum major duties as a rookie junior?
Tessa: I was freaking out. Our band could tell I was nervous, since I had just become a drum major. But I made sure I was calm enough, and our band was amazing with encouragement and positive feedback.
Q: What makes being a drum major special for you?
Tessa: I've always wanted to have a positive impact on the band and with the new band director (Matthew Kenagy) we got when I was a freshman, I wanted to help keep our band like a family. Drum major is an influential position. You learn so much about leadership. And I love that cape!
Q: Is it unusual for a girl to be named drum major?
Tessa: It's traditionally been a male-dominated duty, but more girls are becoming interested. At BHS, my assistant this school year, Summer Zerbst, will be the fourth girl in a row in that position.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.