BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Maya Sternberg has been named Delicious Heights Highlander of the Week for being named Best Drum Major at the Atlantic Coast Championships in Hershey, Pennsylvania last weekend with a score of 19.6 out of 20 points. This is the first time since 1989 that a GL drum major has won this award. In recognition of this honor, Sternberg will have the opportunity to lead the Tournament of Bands All-Star Band in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

The Governor Livingston Highlander Marching Band took first place at the Tournament of Bands Region 10 Championships with a score of 92.7, earning awards for Highest Music Score and Best Visual Effect. The following weekend, the Highlander Band traveled to the Atlantic Coast Championships in Hershey and earned fifth place honors with its highest score of the season.

In her second year as drum major, Maya has grown tremendously and directs the ensemble with great skill, said Highlander Marching Band director Nicholas O'Sullivan. Sternberg has improved her score from 18/20 at the ACCs, which ranked 6th overall her junior year, to 19.6/20 which ranked first overall her senior year. "I am immensely proud of her growth and progress," said O'Sullivan.

Sign Up for E-News

The drum major position is selected through an audition process that happens every time a drum major graduates. "In June of my sophomore year, I applied to audition," said Sternberg. "I, along with the three other candidates, wrote an essay, had an interview with the band staff, and then conducted the concert band while they rehearsed graduation music." 

"Maya was selected as the candidate who most suited the needs of the band," said O'Sullivan. Once a drum major is selected, they hold the position until their graduation when a new drum major will be  selected.

The role of a drum major involves conducting the band at performances and rehearsals, assisting in fostering comradery and morale between all members, working with the band staff to achieve ensemble goals, and personifying the model characteristics of the band at all times. "Certainly, it is a challenging position as one has to be a peer to fellow students while leading them in a position of authority," said O'Sullivan. "Maya has done so with an incredible amount of positivity."

Below are comments from Maya regarding her past, present and future:

TAPinto: What were you first thoughts when you were named drum major?

Maya: Something along the lines of: "WOOOHOOOO!!!" I was SO excited to be named drum major, but I was very thankful that I had the summer to figure out how I would go about my position. Of course I was nervous, but knowing that I was doing more of what I loved helped me calm down about it. It also helped that I had so many friends in the band that I could work with as I shaped myself into a leader. 

TAPinto:: Describe how you were feeling the first time you put on your drum major uniform and led the band onto the field?

Maya: I was nervous, but incredibly excited. The fuzzbie (my "hat") was much more comfortable than I thought, but otherwise the uniform is pretty similar to the rest of the band's. Marching on to the field for the first time was pretty nerve-wracking though, I was so used to marching behind someone when going on for a performance. 

TAPinto: In addition to leading the Highlander Band in the public eye, what other responsibilities/duties are associated with this role?

Maya: Well of course my main job is to lead the band in rehearsal and on the field. However, as drum major, I keep relationships healthy between our band and the cheerleaders during football games, and with other bands whenever we see them perform. Along with the two honor guard members (Sam Mustacchi, Pipe Major, and Emily Redunski, color guard captain), I also represent the band during awards ceremonies at band competitions. Most importantly though, I act as a role model for the band. Being a student leader means that people are going to look up to you, and I try my best to be a solid role model for everyone in the band.

TAPinto: Do you know of any drum major traditions or secrets that you’re allowed to share with us?

Maya: Drum majors apparently get to name the special parts of our uniform! I decided to name the fuzzbie (my large "hat") Furzle, and kept the mace's (the stick thing that I carry) name as Ace from the previous Drum major, so that I can say that I'm putting Ace the Mace in the Mace Case. 

TAPinto: What does it personally mean to you that the Highlander band is so respected in the marching band world and our community as well?

Maya: To me, it means that we are getting the recognition that we deserve. We work 24+ hours a week to put together our field show, so it feels great when someone who saw us perform at Pageant (our home competition) or at a football game stops me to compliment the band. I've always considered us lucky that our community supports us, as I've heard that many other marching bands aren't as fortunate. 

TAPinto: What instrument did you play before becoming drum major?

Maya: I played the piccolo in the marching band, and flute in the concert band. I still play both instruments in concert band, so it's not like I'm missing out.

TAPinto: Why did you want to become drum major originally?

Maya: I honestly felt that I wanted to do something more. I love marching band so much, and I wanted to help in any way that I can; I felt that being the best drum major that I can be was the best way to help. Conducting also really interested me, and I already had plans to switch to mellophone if I didn't become drum major.

TAPinto: What has been the biggest challenge so far as drum major?

Maya: Learning to be a leader was definitely my biggest challenge. I knew, going in, that I was going to have to change some things about my actions now that all eyes were on me. Throughout the process, I taught myself to be more controlled, how to work with those that I don't necessarily like, and how to balance work and play.

TAPinto: What is your favorite trip or memory with the band as drum major?

Maya: I've only been on one trip so far as drum major, and that was when we all went to Virginia last spring break. We were set to perform on a retired battleship, but when we got to the location, it randomly started snowing and the winds were CRAZY. We performed anyways, and it was really cool to make music somewhere other than the field, the parking lot, or on a stage. However, nothing can beat our trip to Scotland, which was the summer between my freshman and sophomore year.

TAPinto: When you were younger, what made you first join band originally?

Maya: I just thought that marching band was the coolest thing. When they came to visit the concert band at Columbia during my 7th grade year, I was blown away by the music they did. I think what happened was that afterwards, I made a pact with a few of my other band friends that we would all join marching band together, and the rest is history.

TAPinto: What does being in band mean to you? Why is band important to you?

Maya: Being in band to me means doing what I love. Music is essentially the love of my life, and if I could do marching band for a living, I would do it in a heartbeat. The reason why I love it though, is because marching band seems to unify a lot of people that you wouldn't have met anywhere else. I would not have many of the friends I have now if I hadn't joined marching band, and the best part is that we're all crazy enough to think that marching in a back parking lot or on a field for 24+ hours a week is fun. Plus, the rush of performance is incredible; hearing the cheers after a great performance makes me feel better than anything else.

TAPinto: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as a student leader? What advice would you like to pass on to the next drum major?

Maya: I have received tons of advice over the past two years, but it is actually a lesson that I have learned that has helped me the most. As I was preparing myself for my first season, I had realized that I needed to be myself. I had spent hours upon hours researching and watching videos of previous drum majors (both in our band and in others), trying to learn from their mistakes, copying their styles, comparing them to myself. But that wasn't what was going to make me a good drum major. I had to learn what my own strengths and weaknesses are, and work with those, rather than work off of someone else. My conducting style ended up being more my own, and the way I handled things were also my own, making it much easier for me to lead the way I felt comfortable with. I really hope that the next drum major does the same. It is great to see what everyone else has done, but when it comes down to it, being comfortable with yourself as a leader has to come first.

TAPinto: What classes and teachers do you most enjoy at GL? 

Maya: I always enjoy the more hands-on classes here. I loved Fine Metalworking, Open Studio/AP Studio Art, band class, and AP music theory. However, I enjoy classes more when the teacher makes it fun, like Ms.Mendenhall does with my AP environmental science class.

TAPinto: What other activities at GL do you enjoy the most?

Maya: Stage crew/being a part of the Hilltop Players is a close second to marching band for me. Once the band season is over, I kick into theatre mode as set designer and leader of the stage crew. Those who know me know that when I'm not in the band room, I'm backstage.

TAPinto: What will you miss the most about GL?

Definitely the community in the arts department. The people that I've met through band, theatre, and art class are incredible, and I wouldn't have grown into the person I am without them. 

TAPinto: What are your college plans for next year and what do you want to study?

Maya: I haven't even applied yet, but I hope to attend either Pratt Institute or the Rhode Island School of Design and major in interior design. Once I get my bachelor's, I would like to move on to set design. I also plan on joining a nearby college or community band in order to keep music in my life.

TAPinto: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Maya: Simply enough, happy. I have no idea where I'll end up, so that's my main goal. However, my hopes right now are that I'll be working towards my dream job as a set designer for either Cirque du Soleil or Broadway.


Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Delicious Heights, a family restaurant with three locations; Berkeley Heights, Bedminster and Basking Ridge, where it is part of the Basking Ridge County Club operating a public restaurant with outdoor dining, and acting as the banquet caterer, boasting a facility with panoramic views of the sprawling golf course. Visit our website, for weekly specials including Happy Hour specials from 3-6pm and daily featured dinner and lunch specials. Delicious Heights....where our only limitations are yours!

Delicious Heights is located at 428 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. 908.464.3287; 285 Main Street in Bedminster. 908.234.1596; 185 Madisonville Road in Basking Ridge. 908.766.9499.