Band Blockhead Tradition Carries On

By Caelyn Swendner, Yearbooker

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  • Jacqueline Sharp 23’ paints the names onto the drum majors’ blockheads. She was chosen to paint the names because she had the neatest writing skills.

  • Parents and students arranged the blockheads in the Patterson yard after being completed. The blockheads were then ready to be taken to the school for the ceremony where they were gifted to the new students.

  • Angelina Chor ’23 works diligently on the blockheads. The process takes a whole day to complete because of the amount of new students this year.

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Every weekend of July and August leading up to the first day of school, band members gathered at junior Julianna Patterson’s house to prime, paint, and DecoPodge their blockhead creations. Blockheads are small wooden figures painted to look like marching band members. It is a Westwood Band tradition that brings the students together and welcomes new band students.

“The blockheads are always really important to breaking the ice and making the freshman feel like they are a part of the band,” Rowan Swendner ‘22 said. 

The event, in which underclassmen are accepted into the community, was organized by band director Mr. Winters. 

I think the blockhead ceremony is extremely important to all of our students. The alumni all understand the meaning and can’t wait to share that experience with the new members,” Winters said.

Usually after the blockheads are painted, a ceremony is held where the underclassmen are gifted their blockheads by their band “bigs.” “Bigs” are sophomores and juniors who are assigned freshmen to mentor. The ceremony did not happen last year, so the students were really excited to begin the tradition again. 

As much as we wanted to have it last year, it was really disappointing knowing that there would be one class of students without the traditional ceremony because of [COVID-19],” Mr. Winters said. “The returning members still did their best and got blockheads to all the new members last year, hand-delivering them to their buddies.”

For the ceremony, all the “bigs” get into an assembly line to create a red carpet for the freshmen to run through while giving them high-fives as they go. At the end of the assembly line, the “little” is given their blockhead and takes a picture with their “big.” 

“Getting a blockhead was really cool because it felt like an initiation and made the band feel more like a home and a family,” Josh Shippen ‘22 said.

For Color Guard, it’s more of a complex process. Before band camp starts, “squad leaders” or section leaders are assigned a group of upper and underclassmen to coach throughout the marching season. The process of giving freshmen their blockheads is also more difficult. Most squad leaders have two or more freshmen in their squad and this can also make the bonding process more complicated. 

“Having the same moment with two littles can get less genuine with the second one, so it feels like you’re kind of cheating them a little,”  Julianna Patterson ‘23 said. 

The band’s show this year is called Human Again, inspired by the movie and stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. It’s a new tone for the band, who don’t usually play dark, angry numbers. Patterson is the soloist in the show, playing the rose in the glass case, as shown in the movie. The whole band is excited to see the progression of the show this semester.

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