Southridge drum major carries on family legacy

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldOctober 5, 2012 

Being a drum major in a band isn't all about wearing a fancy uniform and carrying a big stick in parades.

Graham Bourque, drum major for Kennewick's Southridge High School Marching Band, coordinates twice weekly practices, pays close attention during football games so he can get the band to pump out a quick tune during lulls, and mediates conflicts among band members.

But, it's all worth it.

"You hear the audience's reaction and you're waving your arms and you just think, 'This is awesome,'" the 17-year-old senior said. He and Anna Smith, 18, are the co-drum majors.

Graham is the third of his siblings to serve as a drum major at Southridge, the finale in his family's musical legacy at the school.

Graham's mother, Deb Bourque, said she can't take too much of the credit for her children's musical abilities. She links her children's talents to the rescue of a $200 upright piano from the social room of a curling club in their native Nova Scotia, Canada, and bringing it with her when the family moved to the Tri-Cities.

"It was the smartest thing I ever did," she said.

Graham and his two older sisters, Ainsley and Chelsea, who graduated in 2007 and 2010, respectively, all took piano lessons before moving on to other instruments -- the girls to violin and Graham to cello. Eventually, though, all of them got into drums and then marching band.

Drum major was something each child sought, Bourque said, but she said she was surprised when Graham said he, too, wanted the position. Bourque said she'd seen her daughters, who also took advanced courses and pursued other interests, run themselves ragged with such a busy schedule.

Graham said the job isn't always easy. The drum major is equivalent to a team captain, so he has to be an authority figure when dealing with problems or making sure band members have their music and marching cadences down, but he also has to be open to his bandmates' thoughts and ideas. He also was aware he'd be following in his sisters' successful footsteps.

"I was a little concerned there might be a standard, but I figured I'd just make my own standard," he said.

Graham leads impromptu performances during lunch hour and band members down the halls, allowing students they pass to try their hand at the drums he's playing.

Marching bands are a common sight at high school football games, but Graham also has brought the band in to play for some sports that don't always get as much attention. The band played at one of the last swim meets for the Southridge girls team.

Anna says Graham has brought his own flavor to the band's performances. She and Graham are working on a competition performance that involves adaptations of club music and the two of them wearing specially designed costumes.

"He actually designed the outfits we're going to wear," Anna said, adding she didn't want to reveal what they were yet.

In addition to all his work with the marching band, Graham takes a few advanced placement courses. He plays cello in orchestral band and is the drummer for the school's jazz band. He is a triple jumper on the track team and can be found in the Southridge weight room most days after class. He has a part-time job as a youth gymnastics instructor and plays bass guitar at his church.

Principal Steve Biehn, who has been an administrator at Southridge for 15 years, said he's known Graham, his sisters and family for years. He said Graham's become a good role model.

"It's really been neat to watch him emerge as a leader," he said.

-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com

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