John C. Moon, presently Musickmaster at Colonial Williamsburg, was formerly Drum Major of the 1st Batt. Scots Guards, Senior Drum Major of the Brigade of Guards, Senior Drum Major of the British Army and Drummer to the Royal Household.
It can be truthfully said, whilst mixing metaphors, that a Drum Major is jack of all trades and master of all he surveys, and yet it was probably the neglect and carelessness of drummer that encouraged Commanders to institute the office of Drum Major.
Chronologically, the earliest evidence appears to be that given by Farmer in his “History of Military Music in England” which states: “These officers first appeared in the reign of Edward VI, 1547-1553 when Benedict Browne was Sergeant Trumpeter and Robert Bruer was Master Drummer”. According to Sir John Smithe, “Master Drummer” became Drum Major in 1591.
Grose’s Military Antiques tells us that “besides a Drum Major to each Regiment, there is now (1786), and has been for some time, a Drum Major General to the Army...” He appears to have enjoyed great powers as no one could be recognized as a drummer without license from him.
To this cornucopia of talents can be added the responsibilities of drumming, drill, discipline and welfare of his Pipers and Drummers, the music and training of the drum section and the awe-inspiring task of acting as buffer between his Pipe Major and the rest of the world, en masse. On parade, his turn-out, drill and bearing must be immaculate. His knowledge of all aspects of Band work must exceed that of his charges and his confidence in himself and his trade must be flaunted in almost theatrical style to produce the required effect... competence and dignity.
Reprinted from Delaware Scottish Games Program, June 2, 1973
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