Ashley Chestnut, a Kosciusko native and former drum major of the Big Red Band, hopes that old band traditions have been preserved.
Chestnut grew up with a large family and two younger brothers. As a child, she heard many stories about the Big Red Band, and these stories influenced her in her decision to join.
“My dad loved all types of music,” Chestnut recalled.
When she was a girl, she and her father would listen to jazz, rhythm and blues, and other music that influenced her to want to be a drummer for the band in the sixth grade.
“It’s something about a beat of a song that I love,” she said. “I might not like the lyrics but if I like the beat, I love the song.”
As a member of the band, Chestnut played the flute, and her brother played the tuba.
“The reason I wanted to get in the Big Red Band in the first place was because I would hear stories about all the fun they would have in high school and all the trips they got to go on,” she said.
Initially, Chestnut wasn't interested in music at all and just wanted to go on some trips and get out of school. Her first summer band camp and her freshman year of high school were the turning points in her appreciation of music.
As a student and as a child, Chestnut was shy, but being part of the band helped her open up more and create relationships that will last a lifetime.
One of Chestnut’s favorite parts of being in the band was learning the Lord’s Prayer.
According to her, before a football game performance or a marching band performance, the entire Big Red Band would huddle together and say the Lord’s Prayer.
“That’s how I first learned the Lord’s Prayer, as sad as that is to say,” she said. “I really hope this is a tradition that the Big Red Band is still following today. I just hope and wish they are keeping the traditions we had going like praying before we went on the field. And when we got done praying, we would all say, ‘Go Big Red!’ before and after the game.”
A big part of the Big Red Band's discipline and lessons came from band directors Kevin Bishop and Mickey Mangum, who showed band students how to become disciplined in band and in life, according to Chestnut.
As a result of the positive leaders and teachers she had, Chestnut knew she too wanted to be a leader.
Karen Cauthen inspired Chestnut to try out for the drum major position. Chestnut said Cauthen inspired her to be a drum major from her freshman to junior year.
Chestnut felt confident, and in her senior year, she tried out for drum major. In that leadership role, she began feeling comfortable performing in front of crowds. She was drum major in her senior year, 2000-2001.
During her senior year, Chestnut led the Big Red Band to Washington, D.C. She said she was excited to perform even though she felt nervous and was probably sweating bullets, she was excited to perform.
“I directed in front of the Lincoln Memorial,” she recalled. “It was so beautiful, and I could see the stretch of water and the capital in front as I conducted.”
This was Chestnut’s first time traveling and conducting the Big Red Band in Washington and it is one of her favorite memories.
At the end of her senior year of high school, Chestnut received the Skipworth award for being a great example of leadership to future members.
Chestnut hopes that these special traditions will live on through generations to come.
“I feel grateful that I was even a part of the Big Red Band,” she said, “and Mr. Bishop and Mr. Mangum taught me so much.”