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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Cherokee Student Leads Pride Of Oklahoma Marching Band
by Christina Good Voice- Cherokee Phoenix Senior Reporter
credits: All photos by Christina Good Voice- Cherokee Phoenix
NORMAN, Okla. – Matt Sumner has fine-tuned his time management and people skills, and his "strutting" skills aren't bad either.

Sumner, 24, is the drum major of the University of Oklahoma's Pride of Oklahoma marching band and its "corporate identity." Dressed in his tall white hat and red and white uniform, he performs his signature strut down Owen Field as he leads the 300 Pride members onto the field to the tune of "Oklahoma."

The Bixby resident established himself in the more-than-a-century-old band as a trombone player his freshman year and steadily added volunteer activities to his resume' during his college career.

"This is my first year (as drum major) and I've been in the Pride for five years now," he said. "It's been a crazy experience going all the way from being a freshman and playing trombone to my senior year now of playing the role as the drum major."

To say Sumner stays busy during college football season is an understatement. Along with a full load of classes, the Cherokee Nation citizen and OU senior rehearses with the band five days a week.

But his hectic schedule didn't just materialize with the arrival of football season.

"A lot of it's summer preparation," Sumner said. "Working to get physically in shape and to get mentally engaged and make sure you know when that first game happens you're going to be able to go out here and do it without a problem. There can't be any sense of doubt."

He has tried out for the drum major role every year he's been at OU, and his tenacity paid off in his senior year.

Director of the Pride of Oklahoma Brian Britt said it takes a special individual to be drum major.

"The drum major is our living breathing corporate identity," said Britt, who's been the director for 10 years. "Our logo has the drum major identity. They have to be the unquestioned leader."

He said Sumner established great relationships during the years with people from different areas of the band.

"Over the last couple of years he volunteered to drum major a lot of pep band events, and he was always available and willing to help and go the extra mile and leading those types of things," Britt said.

By volunteering and creating relationships, Sumner built a rapport with the Pride members as he worked on his physical and musical skills, Britt said.

"I think it was really all three of those things melded into one that worked out in his favor," he said. "We really appreciate all the hard work that Matt has put into the job. He's brought a lot of enthusiasm, and I know the students really respect him, and he's been an excellent representative for our organization."

Sumner said he's worked hard to build his leg strength to be able to strut on the field.

"Each year it's gotten better. It takes a lot of leg strength, and you've got to be a little flexible in the back but a lot of it's about the legs," he said.

As he's leaned back strutting down the field with more than 80,000 people watching, Sumner said things flash though his mind.

"When I do a performance it's like a blur, a dream," he said. "(I think,) ‘do your best. You can do this.'"

The only thing Sumner really grapples with is time.

"I love every single moment we have here, and it seems like it just goes so fast. It's just an incredible experience. That's been the most challenging thing."

He added that nothing he's done really compares to his drum major experience.

"It's such an incredible thing to be able to meet so many great people. I get to be exposed to 300 of OU's talented and brightest individuals every single day, and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

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