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Senior drum major Olivia Bakaturski looks over Tiger Band members in the stands at the Franklin Regional away game on Oct. 18. (Bonnijean Cooney Adams photo, special to Tube City Almanac)
McKeesport Area High School Tiger Band senior Olivia Bakaturski has come a long way musically since she first considered learning to play clarinet back in in fifth grade.
“I originally wanted to do percussion,” she said with a little laugh following a recent halftime show she directed as drum major.
Bakaturski and her band mates found success this season with the group’s industrial-themed “A Day in the Mill,” performed at football games and competitions. The Tiger Band was named Tournament of Bands Chapter 8, Group 2-0 Champions on Oct. 25.
McKeesport Area High School Marching Band was honored during a medal ceremony prior to the Oct. 25 football game on Senior Recognition Night. During the Tournament of Bands Chapter 8 Championships, the band finished first in Class 2-0 on Oct. 19, with a score of 84.6. (Photo courtesy MAHS Tiger Band, via Facebook.)
Olivia said she first considered trying out for drum major at the end of her freshman year, when she saw how many talented seniors were leaving and that the band would need new leadership.
But the whole selection process is quite challenging, and she said she wondered if she would be qualified when the time came.
As a junior, Olivia was clarinet section leader and had a solo in last year’s show, band director Drew DeCarlo said.
He explained there is a rigorous process that culminates in the selection of a senior drum major and junior assistant drum major.
“I put up a signup sheet in May,” he said. “There’s a big, long application, including an essay.”
Three or four people from outside the district come in each year to judge the applicants.
“I don’t even see the final list,” DeCarlo said. “That’s what we’ve always done. Applicants have to answer interview questions from the judges, then demonstrate commands.”
Olivia’s mother, Melissa Cooper, said she is especially proud of her daughter’s accomplishments because she is on the autism spectrum, sees things differently, and has to focus and work harder to reach her goals.
“Any challenges that have come to her, she has met them and overcome them,” Cooper said. “We’ve had the most amazing support system with Olivia’s teachers throughout the years. We never allow her to think of failure.
“The teachers she has had have gone above and beyond. Their teamwork and foundation they built for her have been amazing,” she said.
DeCarlo said he’s known Olivia since she was in fourth grade.
“She’s having a great senior year,” he said. “She’s standing taller, calling commands with more authority, building her self-confidence.”
“The process was challenging, and I know not everyone agrees with the selection,” Olivia said. “It’s a big, big responsibility every week during the season.”
Olivia’s talents extend to performances in her high school musicals, community theater, and Civil War re-enactments.
She is a member of the National Honor Society and National Technological Honor Society at the high school.
Olivia explained National Technological Honor Society is for those who study culinary arts, cosmetology and other offerings outside pure academics in programs offered through McKeesport Area School District.
She said she hopes to attend culinary arts school, but still is considering her options, after high school, probably focusing on baking.
“I would always cook with my mom, aunt, and grandmother, but I especially liked baking,” Olivia said. “I started to look at colleges my sophomore year, but don’t want to be swimming in debt. I’m trying to see what is the best fit for me.”
Bonnijean Cooney Adams is a contributing writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published October 29, 2019.