Heartbeat of snare line


“Anything you can do, I can do better,” a slogan many women know too well. For World Famed Tiger Marching bandsman Ya’Lisha Gatewood, those words have become her prerogative

Gatewood, an 18-year-old Freshman is the only female on the snare line in the Grambling band. There has not been a female to take this role since 2005, which was Season of the Tiger star Eva Grooms.

Even though the barrier has been broken for female drummers, Gatewood still deals with being a female in a male-dominated area.

“Being a female percussionist was strenuous back in the ’80s,” said Edwin Thomas, assistant band director. “It was male oriented just like any other profession, but it’s more accepted now.”

Thomas said despite the challenges male drummers gave Grooms, Gatewood won’t have that problem because she can out-play every drummer in her class. 

“I was scared and nervous the first day with the drum line,” said Gatewood.  “I was there with all these guys and they looked like they can chop 10 times better than me. I was really intimidated.”

Gatewood, a native of Shreveport, attended Airline High School and was part of the drum section. Here at Grambling, she faces only a few struggles as a female drummer and voiced that she doesn’t want to be treated differently. 

“I came from a core-style marching band,” she said. “I made a big change to show-band style coming to Grambling. I’m a girly girl, so I have a hard time mean mugging during the games. I have to get ‘guyish’ when I perform.”

Gatewood said her love for music and the 2002 movie Drumline inspired her to become a percussionist. She’s played drums for eight years but is considered a P-1 in the band, meaning she knows all her melodic scales, sight-reads and reads music. 

“One thing is for sure, she can read music and is a very good musician,” said Thomas. “She has a great attitude and I never had a problem with her, and that’s good enough for me.” 

One concern the band directors had from the beginning was the size of her drum, and whether she needs a smaller one.

“She’s a little tiny thing,” said Thomas. “We’re working on getting her a smaller drum because her current drum is too heavy for her.”

Gatewood is adamant she doesn’t want a smaller drum. She refuses to be considered a weak link even though the drum caused her to cut her leg at the first pep rally of the season.

“To me, the drum is not that big for me,” she said. “This is only my second year playing snare drum. I don’t like being babied and being a girl at the same time.”

The early childhood development major says she enjoys playing for Dr. Larry Pannell, head band director. 

“I really like Dr. Pannell compared to my previous band director at my high school,” said Gatewood. “Dr. Pannell makes me feel happy that I came to Grambling, unlike my past director who tried to persuade me to attend a predominately white institution.”

Drum line members are fond of Gatewood as well, and appreciates her talents as a freshman.

“She’s a great asset to the section,” said Donathan Howard, third year bandsmen from Dallas. “If she keeps this up, she has the potential to become section leader and really make history.”