Humans of UWL: Audrey Karcher and Kamilah Gobran

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Screaming Eagles Marching Band drum majors. From left to right: Audrey Karcher, Kamilah Gobran and James Koeberl.

Sam White, Arts and Entertainment Reporter

Seniors Audrey Karcher and Kamilah Gobran are both majoring in instrumental and general music education and are the graduating drum majors for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Screaming Eagles Marching Band (SEMB).

They were both involved in marching band in high school and decided to pursue it in college. For Karcher, she specifically wanted to go to a college with a marching band. She said it was a way to meet people as a freshman, and she enjoyed the culture and comradery of the band. 

“You’re just sitting there like a scared freshman, and it’s the first time interacting with college kids, and you’re just learning. I was like oh my gosh, I found my people,” said Karcher.

Gobran transferred to UWL and joined SEMB as a sophomore. “It was everything that I had been missing, it was so much fun and I was like, ‘yep this was the right thing to do,’” they explained. 

After their first year in marching band, both Karcher and Gobran wanted to step into a leadership position. They became section leaders, which are student leaders of specific instrumental sections of the band such as clarinets, flutes, and trombones. Karcher was a clarinet section leader for two years and Gobran was the tenor drum section leader for one year. After their time as section leaders, the two applied to be drum majors. 

In order to be selected as a drum major, they filled out an application explaining why they wanted the role, and what they would bring to the band; then they had to do a conducting audition where they conducted three songs in front of the entire marching band. After that, there is an interview process, and finally it goes to a vote, with the band members themselves selecting their drum majors for the year.

“I think Dr. Fisher [the SEMB director] does have kind of a say on it as well because she will be working with the drum majors closely, and if she really decided that the band was making a poor choice, she could step in, but I don’t know if that has ever happened.” said Gobran. 

As a drum major, they get to run warm-ups, rehearsals and select the music for the season. “One of my favorite things this year was I got to run warm-ups in the morning, and so I got to do fun things to get people pumped for the rest of rehearsal,” said Karcher.

A photograph of Kamilah Gobran, James Koeberl, Audrey Karcher and Dr. Tammy Fisher with University of Wisconsin system President Tommy Thompson
SEMB drum majors (Kamilah Gobran, James Koeberl, Audrey Karcher) and director Dr. Tammy Fisher with University of Wisconsin system President Tommy Thompson.

UWL junior James Koeberl was the third drum major during the fall 2021 season and worked with Gobran and Karcher throughout the year. Gobran said that they really love the teamwork between the three drum majors. “It’s good to know that there are two other people who are standing up there waving their arms with you. If you screw something up they’re always there to help you out… we all have each other’s backs,” they said.

Both Karcher and Gobran said that some of their favorite memories came from hanging out with band members outside of rehearsal. “During band camp, you’re rehearsing from 8 am to 9 pm and then you hang out at people’s houses until 1 am, like you–you really gotta want to be there.” said Gobran. 

The marching band had a low number of returning sophomores after last year when the pandemic made it difficult to bond with everyone. This year the drum majors decided their main goal was to make the band fun again and focus on creating team comradery. 

“We’ve started doing different things and bringing back little traditions we used to do so that we can kind of grow that culture back,” said Karcher.

Gobran said, “I overheard a girl talking to her section and saying  ‘last year was horrible but this year, we’re all a family’ and I was like ‘that’s it we did it.’” 

“Even though I have so much to do with school and classes, marching band is still the one thing that makes me happy and I’m so happy to be there every day. I know I’m busy but it’s doing something that I love, so it doesn’t feel like work,” said Karcher. 

After graduation, both Karcher and Gobran plan to get a job teaching music. Karcher hopes to work with younger kids, teaching elementary school music, while Gobran hopes to work with high schoolers. They both have valued their time in the marching band, and are excited to see the new group of leaders take their place.

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