Norfolk State’s first female drum major makes history

By KENDALL WARNER, the pilot from Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — At Norfolk State University, those who become drum majors for the Spartan “Legion” marching band could be considered royalty on campus.

Founded in 1975, the Legion has become one of the nation’s premier groups among historically black colleges and universities. The band’s faculty members interview selected Legion candidates for the roles of Mr. Spartan and Cap ‘N Soul to lead the team of approximately 250 musicians.

This year, senior Quiara Jackson is Cap ‘N Soul – and Norfolk State’s first female drum major.

“One of my main goals when I auditioned to be a drum major was to tell people that not only am I running for myself, but I’m running to inspire other women to take up these positions,” said she declared. “We need more women in these leadership positions.”

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She said it worked – several of the group’s section leaders are women.

Jackson had not chosen a band instrument until his freshman year at Freedom High School in Woodbridge. She was more of an orchestra and choir person, she said. But the new director of the school group was an alumni of the NSU group. Jackson visited the NSU campus and felt at home.

People often assume that women join a college band to be a dancer or to play an instrument like the flute, Jackson said. But she plays bassoon and saxophone.

She thought about taking a break from the group when she switched from nursing to sociology. But friends, including last year’s Mr. Spartan, encouraged her to take on the role of drum major.

One of the first times Jackson knew she was making an impact was when she got a call from her mom, Gicanda Suggs. For the family, Suggs had made Cap ‘N Soul shirts displaying Jackson’s photo and her Norfolk State premiership status. One day at the grocery store, a little girl ran up and pointed to Suggs’ shirt: “I know it!” I know her!” The child’s mother read the shirt and commented that Jackson was a first.

The little girl then said, “It will be me someday,” Jackson recalled. “And I was just like, ‘Oh my God, did she really say that?’ It’s real.”

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