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AAMU Head Drum Major Jeremy Bellot: ‘To Be On That Stage is Something Big’

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Alabama A&M Head Drum Major Jeremy Bellot at Louis Crews Stadium in Huntsville, AL. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)
By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times

As the head drum major for Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU) and its Marching Maroon and White Show Band of the South, Jeremy Bellot is the face of the marching band.

“It’s about leadership,” said Carlton J. Wright, director of the AAMU band. “You have to have the right person who can motivate and get things done with other students.”

For AAMU, that man is Bellot, a senior music education major, who is aware of the work that goes into being a leader. The precision of a marching band requires each musician and member of the marching band and color guard to know their roles, but the head drum major must know it all.

Bellot said he welcomes the challenge.

“You’re having to be basically like a regular student and an extension of the band director,” he said. “It is a lot of work, having to know all the songs, all the tempos, everything on the spot. … It’s all worth it if you control it and have a good head on you.”

Bellot and the Marching Maroon and White Show Band of the South will take the field on Saturday, October 28, at Birmingham’s Legion Field for the Magic City Classic, the largest historically Black college and university (HBCU) football game in the nation, which matches the AAMU Bulldogs against the Alabama State University (ASU) Hornets.

At 5-foot-5, Bellot will stand tall in Legion Field as he has throughout his journey as head drum major. He knows the excitement surrounding the Magic City Classic.

“It’s really an exciting, very electrifying stadium,” Bellot said. “To see all the people that come to support both bands and how big it is consistently throughout the years, it makes it feel special to be there, it makes you want to be on top of your game. … To be on that stage is something big.”

AAMU has traditionally had a special routine for marching into Legion Field. Beyond that, the preparation this week is special because of the unique showcase.

“We want to make sure we’re on top of our game,” the head drum major said. “That’s a big, big game, and we would hate for us to not be the best that we can.”

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Musical Family

Growing up in St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bellot went from playing trumpet to baritone to trombone. He grew up in a musical family: his parents and aunts were singers, and his brother played percussion.

Bellot, 23, was introduced to musical instruments in the fourth or fifth grade, when the band director at his school invited students to “buzz” through a mouthpiece of a trumpet. Bellot succeeded.

“After that, I got a passion for playing a brass instrument,” he said. “I played that up till the ninth or 10th grade, when I was switched to baritone. I also learned trombone in jazz band in my 11th grade year. I just stuck to it after that.”

Bellot honed his skills by watching brass performances on YouTube and television.

“I saw the trumpet [and other] brass, like tuba, trombone,” he recalled. “That’s really what got me hooked, I guess basically seeing it all the time.”

The senior is marching in the footsteps of his brother Daniel Watt, who was head drum major at AAMU during the 2014–2015 marching season.

Bellot had been content to just be in the band during the 2021 season, as he was the trombone section leader. That was the season his Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., line brother became a drum major, which whet his appetite to assume the title.

“That led me to wanting to do it,” Bellot said. “I was basically like, the one to step up to continue it on because nobody else [in his graduating class] wanted to. I felt like I was capable of being a great leader for the band.”

He added, “I just love my university. I love the band. I feel like I wouldn’t mind risking it all, me being off my horn, for the best of the band.”

AAMU often has multiple drum majors, and this season is no exception with five. Bellot is joined by juniors Za’Coreya Howard, Jamari Thomas, and Alexander Betts, and sophomore Ja’Michael Bridget.

Leadership

Band director Wright said the criteria to be head drum major goes well beyond an ability to dance.

“All of the student commands come through the drum majors,” Wright said. “They are in the top leadership position as far as students are concerned. They carry out the orders of the director or assistant directors and make sure all the section leaders are accountable for what they are doing.”

Drum majors also play a role in determining what the fans see. They provide input to the band director.

“When we create a field show or drill, being creative combined with showmanship makes something look good and presentable to the audience and adds to what the band is doing, as well.”

Beyond his college career, Bellot wants to be a band director, but he’s not particular about the level of band he directs.

“Wherever God blesses me to be,” he said. “If I can get experience at any field, I’ll be happy with it.”

The AAMU head drum major said he wants to be a teacher, so he can change lives. “I relocated to Atlanta, [Georgia], due to [Hurricane Irma], which shut down our [St. Thomas] school system in 2017,” Bellot said. “I feel like if I could [overcome the hurricane and become part of a collegiate band], I could help somebody else to do the same. I love people. I love food. I love music. I love God because He made [the good favor that’s befallen me] happen for me.”

Typical Day

Bellot generally rises before 9 a.m., to “get my mind right,” he said, by listening to motivational speeches and praying before classes.

“Basically, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I have a 10 a.m. [class],” he said. “Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a 9:30 [a.m. class], so I get up around 8. I have no classes at [noon], so that’s when I eat my lunch.”

After lunch, Bellot prepares for either his 2 p.m. classes or band practice.

“I take time to do my studies or make sure I’m good with all my homework before I go to practice,” he said. “I have some work study, as well. I go help out with the [band] directors to see if there’s anything I can help with. After that, I basically have my 2 o’clock, which is either piano or my trombone lessons.

“I try my best to keep [my schedule] under control,” Bellot said. “I’m in the last stretch. I’m trying to graduate.”

The 82nd Magic City Classic between Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University and Alabama State University will take place on Saturday, October 28, at Birmingham’s Legion Field. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. Central Time.