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Smashing the glass ceiling: Annika Kline

Mary Ralston

Mary Ralston

Adler Bowman, Kirkwood High School

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Annika Kline, sophomore, has always been a little off-beat. About 30 percent (10/33) of percussionist in the KHS band are female, but Kline is the only girl that played snare drum during the 2017 Pioneer Pride Marching Band season.

Kline has been playing percussion since fifth grade, and she said that she is not surprised that she is outnumbered eight to one in her section. This is Kline’s first season on the snare drumline, and said she finds her new section to be more competitive and strenuous than the bass drum or mallet sections.

Jeff Melsha, KHS band director, has recruited young percussionists for the last six years. He said he tries to account for gender stereotypes that are often associated with different instruments like the snare drum.

“When I see a girl that demonstrates interest in percussion and some potential to be skilled in that area, I try to push her a little bit more because there’s nothing about music that should be gender-based,” Melsha said. “The opportunity to break down stereotypes and put people in places where they want to be is really exciting.”

Kline said her transition into the KHS marching band was a stressful one. During summer drumline camp, the sections would often split off into groups, leaving Kline alone with eight other boys who, for the most part, were already friends.

For the first month she struggled to keep up and received harsh criticism from her peers and instructors. Kline said every time she made a mistake, she began to feel that her placement in the snare drum section was a mistake. As the season continued, she started to open up to the boys, whom she realized were only offering her constructive criticism to help her fine-tune her skills. Kline said that now, at the end of the 2017 season, drumline is her favorite extracurricular activity and she values the boys’ humor and supportive attitudes towards her.

“Regardless of gender, we’re all just people,” Kline said. “I’ve noticed that we all kind of share one percussion personality. One giant mess of a personality. We’re always all over the place and we really get each other.”

Throughout her first four years in band, Kline played mallets and more melodic types of percussion instruments. She said ever since she sampled a snare drum part in eighth grade, she knew it was her forte.

While she was talented enough to be selected for the snare drum section, Kline still said she has a lot of skills left to develop. Andrew Edmonds, KSD percussion director and Kline’s personal instructor, said that Kline has greatly progressed during the last year and believes that she will continue to improve.

“One of her strengths is that she’s open to anything,” Edmonds said. “Just the other day I gave her a very difficult piece which isn’t like [anything] she’s played before, but I know she’s going to learn it well.”

Kline said she began the season constantly worrying about the competitive nature of drumline, but is now more confident in her abilities and is more focused on striving to achieve her personal best. She plans to remain in the snare drum section for her next two seasons and leave her legacy as a door-opener for other young female percussionists.

“I remember when I was about to start high school, I would look at the snare drum section and see that they were all boys and think that I couldn’t do that,” Kline said. “I’m not the best by any means and I still have a long way to go, but I hope some girl out there sees me and realizes that she’s allowed to do anything.”

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