Julie Siberts was set on becoming OU’s first female drum major the moment she learned she was accepted. Nearly three years later, Siberts finally did it and is drumming up change.
NORMAN — As Julie Siberts read the letter offering her admission to Oklahoma nearly three years ago, she turned to her mom, Laurel, with a wide grin on her face.
“I’m going to be the drum major of the Pride,” she announced.
The fact that the marching band had never had a female drum major — not once in more than 100 years — didn’t faze the determined redhead.
She was going to be the person to lead the band across Owen Field, the one to throw back her feather-capped head and parade proudly from the 50-yard line to the end zone, swinging her scepter-shaped mace to the rhythm of the state song. She was sure of it. “Julie’s a person that if she says she’s going to do something, you’re not surprised when she does it,” Laurel said. “Because if she puts her mind to it, she’s going to do it.”
Still, as she and the rest of her family gathered to hear Julie deliver the news over speakerphone in early February, tears of joy flowed freely as her daughter told them she had fulfilled her prediction.
Julie Siberts would be the first female drum major of the Oklahoma Pride.
“I hope that maybe this will encourage more girls to go out for the position,” the junior told The Oklahoman. “I don’t think anybody would ever say, ‘I can’t go out for it, I’m a girl.’ But I’m hoping people will see me in this position and think, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
It’s not that the Pride discouraged women from filling the drum major role in the past, or even that women didn’t audition.
Brian Britt, the director of the Pride, estimates half a dozen women have been drum major finalists in the last 16 years.
“I think if you look at the era since Title IX, as girls have become more athletic … it’s made a difference in their fitness level,” Britt said. “The strut is tremendously physical, and you have to have ability to have flexibility and the strength to do it.”
If ever there was a perfect candidate to finally crack the Pride’s glass ceiling, it’s Julie Siberts.
A fourth-generation Oklahoma music major, Julie comes from a family that traces its musical Sooner roots back to her great-grandparents’ organ and piano majors.
Laurel, a Lawton native, not only was in the color guard, but her husband, Mike, was a member of the drumline.
The two met playing in the Pride at the Cotton Bowl, and a year later, Mike got down on one knee after OU lost to Texas and proposed to Laurel in front of the entire band.
Even after the couple moved outside of Washington, D.C., so Mike could join Pershing’s Own, a United States Army Band, as a Master Sergeant percussionist, their older daughter, Melanie, went back to her parents’ roots and enrolled at OU, quickly joining the Pride.
Like her mom, she became a member of the color guard.
But it wasn’t until Julie arrived in Norman to audition for a spot in the selective music program and talked with Britt that she made up her mind to continue the family tradition.
After just a year of playing trumpet with the Pride, Julie embarked on her mission to become the drum major.
She began preparing months before the audition, bundling up to work on the all-important strut on Pride Field on brisk November and December evenings.
Not wanting to practice in front of an audience, Julie only went out to the fields on Tuesday nights when the color guard was practicing, positioning herself as far away from them as possible.
Only Melanie recognized her out there, watching her sister strut the same 10 yards over and over as she perfected the kick and the extreme back arch.
After color guard practice, Melanie would walk over to her sister and help her with the movements that felt so foreign and unnatural.
After making it through a preliminary round, Julie began the final audition process during the band’s preparation for the Sugar Bowl alongside two other finalists, another woman, and a man.
Along with doing the strut, complete with the kicks, Julie had to conduct a halftime show from the previous year and go through an interview — all in front of the 300-person band and staff.
As soon as Julie finished the interview, Britt and the rest of the band knew.
Julie was the best candidate for the job.
“Julie was the first one that everyone felt like, ‘Man, she’s got it,’” Britt said. “The voting reflected that. I was excited to see that it went down that way. It felt just a like natural thing. It wasn’t like, ‘We need to have a woman drum major.’
“Instead, it was, ‘Here’s the best one. She’s a woman. Awesome.’”
The day after Julie’s selection, Britt drove his daughter Avery to her fifth grade class.
She’s more than six years away from heading to college, but Avery already is thinking about her future dreams — dreams that seem even more possible thanks to Julie.
“Hey Daddy,” she said that morning, “you know how I said I want to be in the Pride in college?
“Now, I can be the drum major.”
Junior music education major Julie Siberts is the first woman to be elected to as the Pride of Oklahoma’s drum major in its 113-year history.