E.E. Smith High School
Meet Ja'Brell Calhoun
“Magnificent Leader of the E.E. Smith Magnificent Marching Machine”
It takes a special student to be a drum major in a high school marching band. Drum majors must be meticulous, dedicated and above all, a strong leader who demands high standards from his or her peers. And when your marching band is one of the top in the country, those expectations are tenfold.
Ja’Brell Calhoun, a senior at E.E. Smith High School, stepped up to the task to serve as drum major of the E.E. Smith Magnificent Marching Machine during a school year like no other. He refused to let the pandemic stop the marching band from flourishing.
While school was still taking place virtually, Ja’Brell, along with Band Director Roosevelt Pratt, figured out ways to engage with members virtually and keep the band together. In fact, Ja’Brell has been the “go-to guy” when staff members have had concerns about other students. When one student was struggling academically, Ja’Brell arranged for another student to give him academic support. When other students weren’t attending virtual classes, Ja’Brell was the one who would track down the students and help them get caught up.
During a school year marked by cancellations and disappointment, thankfully, Ja’Brell got an opportunity to do what he loves and lead his fellow band members on the field. Cool Friday fall evenings are normally when the Magnificent Marching Machine shines, but this year, the band marched during the 2021 spring football season.
“It was amazing to serve my senior year as drum major,” Ja’Brell said. “Even though I didn’t get the full effect of being a drum major for a whole year, I still got the chance to lead the MMM. It’s so exciting when you see that high stepping band performing good songs.”
A natural leader, Ja’Brell made the most of his high school years and was a part of multiple student organizations, including the Student Government Association, True Men, National Honor Society, Smith 16 and the Golden Singers.
“My favorite one was band because it taught me life lessons to get ready for the real world,” Ja’Brell explained. “Because of my commitment to the band, I made sure to stay focused and stay out of trouble and to keep a legacy going, understanding the band program is bigger than just me.”
As Ja’Brell graduates from high school, his hope is that he has inspired others to keep going, work hard, always be prepared and manage their time wisely—lessons he learned from Mr. Pratt and other teachers in Cumberland County Schools.
He is ready for life after high school, thanks to teachers who have taught him not only what he needs to know for college, but also so much about life itself.
Ja’Brell will attend North Carolina A&T State University where he will major in business and entrepreneurship. He hopes to march in A&T’s Blue and Gold Marching Machine, one of the premier marching bands in the nation, and join the Cold Steel Drummers, which is the percussion section of the band.