Betsy Band’s drum major signs with Western Carolina

Published 12:01 am Saturday, April 18, 2015

Star Photo/Brandon Hicks Elizabethton High School Drum Major Hannah Manuel

After leading the Elizabethton High School band for the past two years, Hannah Manuel is letting her lifelong love of music lead her to the next phase of her life.

Manuel has been a drum major for the EHS Betsy Band for the past two years and has been a member of the band for the past seven, starting at T.A. Dugger Junior High School. In addition to the marching band, Manuel is also a part of the concert and jazz bands.

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When she graduates, Manuel will attend Western Carolina University and become a member of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band.

“I’ve always loved music,” Manuel said. “I just knew it was something I wanted to do.”

In fact, Manuel showed so much promise as a band member she was the first to sign with a college on a band scholarship from EHS.

“She is the first that has signed on with a college solely for band,” EHS Band Director Perry Elliott said.

Manuel’s trip down the musical path started with family influence from her cousin, Bridgette Jeter. When Manuel was younger, her cousin was also in the Betsy Band and was also a drum major. It sparked the interest in Manuel to be a part of the group as well.

“I kept telling my mom I want to do to that,” she recalled. “When I started in middle school, I joined the band and I have loved it ever since. It is like a family. Everyone has the same goal and you can all depend on each other. It is great.”

During her time with the Betsy Band, Manuel, who plays the trumpet, has collected many memories, honors and titles along the way. Since she started in the high school band four years ago, the band has won two state championships and Manuel was named the first-place drum major in the state during last year’s state championship. She also broke a school record with her score as drum major during that contest.

“It was kind of unrealistic when it happened,” Manuel said. “After a while, it set in that I had sort of made history. My score was a 99. The highest you can get is a 100. Before that, the record was a 98.6.”

It is the memories that she has made that will stick with Manuel. The highlights of her time in the band include two trips to Disney World to march in two separate parades: the Spectra Magic Light parade and the Festival of Fantasy parade.

“Going to Disney with the band was super fun,” Manuel said. “Marching through Disney with the band is a memory of a lifetime. There is nothing like it.”

At the start of her junior year, Manuel became drum major for the first time. She was named drum major again for the second time this year. She enjoys being the students leader of the Betsy Band.

“It is a lot of hard work,” Manuel said. “When I am up there on the podium, it is the most glamorous seven minutes. As drum major, you work hard but it is not something everyone sees. A lot of it is behind the scenes and extra hours. When you are up there, you are in the spot light doing what you have practiced and trained to do.”

As drum major, Manuel’s job is to lead the band through performances. To get ready for that, she spends “countless hours” reviewing the music after school and on her own at home. She is usually the first one to band practices and the last one to go home.

“There is a lot I do behind the scenes,” she said. “It is worth it.”

Being drum major means Manuel works many hours with Elliott to prepare for shows and performances.

“I love every minute I get to spend with Mr. Elliott,” Manuel said. “I can never thank him enough for all the help he has given me and Mr. (Chris) Lockhart at T.A. Dugger. I started with him.”

Elliott described Manuel as a “top drawer” student.

“She is a superb student, a fabulous instrumentalist and a wonderful student leader,” Elliott said. “She has earned the respect of her fellow students and the staff.”

Manuel is now preparing for the next phase in her life as a college student at Western Carolina University. She looks forward to being a part of the Pride of the Mountains band and pursuing her degree in music education.

“I want to be a music teacher or an assistant band director,” Manuel said. “There are a lot of different ways I can go. Being an assistant band director is probably best for me, and then eventually move up to a band director.”

Manuel played her last concert with the EHS band on Thursday night. In addition to the band, she is also Senior Class President, on the Executive Board of the Student Government Association, is vice-president of the Health Occupations of America and is a member of the National Honor Society.

“I am definitely sad to be leaving,” Manuel said. “It is bittersweet. I am excited about the opportunity to be at Western Carolina. They have a great music program.”

She is the daughter of Vicky and Michael Manuel and has a younger brother Ryan. She is active in the youth department at Stoney Creek Church of Christ.