Photo by Ellie Thoma
Freshman Zeke Krause couldn’t stop breaking instruments.
He knocked the head off of a tambourine during a marching band competition. He broke a pair of drumsticks in two playing the snare drum in the Harry Potter half-time show. In an attempt to protect these delicate instruments from Krause’s game-time antics, band director Alex Toepfer decided to give him something that even his tenacious playing style couldn’t break — a cowbell.
So began the phenomenon of the boy in the front of the band section, always smiling and jamming out with his cowbell, known by the student section, Lancer Dancers and cheerleaders as the “Cowbell Boy.”
Krause’s love for music is why he jumps side-to-side banging his head along with the cowbell during Friday night varsity home football games and belts out the school song at 10 p.m. on the bus ride home when the rest of the band is exhausted. His goal is to make others share the excitement he has for the music, and according to freshman band member Max Bunte, he has done just that.
“[Zeke is] definitely one of the most energetic people I’ve ever met,” Bunte said. “He always hypes people up in the drumline and everyone in the band. I can always tell when the student section is getting all hype, looking at Zeke.”
Krause moves his cowbell up to his right shoulder, then left, his right hip, then left to the rhythm of the fight song blaring behind him, band members bob their instruments to the beat of the cowbell, people in the crowd smile at him and some of the cheerleaders from the sidelines yell, “Yeah Zeke!” Krause often gets high fives from band members, friends, Lancer Dancers, cheerleaders and people telling him, “I love your energy, that’s why I love going to games.”
Toepfer first recognized the energy that he describes as “nuclear” upon meeting the Académie Lafayette transfer at band camp over the summer. Toepfer placed Zeke in auxiliary percussion, the group of instruments that “add the flare” to the music. Krause brings with him an 11 year drumming career, starting on his tiny drum kit at four years old.
“He brings a lot of joy to what he does, and it’s infectious,” Mr. Toepfer said. “The whole band this year has had a lot better vibe. It’s been a lot more energetic, more enthusiastic, and that’s kind of what we want in a band.”
Krause wants everyone to share his excitement in and out of the band room — the excitement that has him walking down the hall with headphones in, dancing and grinning to “Madness” by Muse. So when Krause sees one of his bandmates standing around, he gets their spirits up the same way he gets the crowd into the music — by dancing until they start dancing, too. He walks up to them, humming one of the songs that are playing in his head all day, and starts swaying back and forth. If they join in, he makes it into a competition of who can get more into it.
“It’s really fun [being in band with Zeke],” Freshman Max Bunte said. “It’s always something new, something fun happening. [He makes] everyone happy and smile. He just has that charisma, you know?”
Senior Sid Choudhury, Zeke’s section leader, says that when the band sees Zeke being happy, they feel happy, too. During one of Sid’s pep talks to the band, Zeke shouts back to him, “I won’t mess up! I’m ready!”
Soon Zeke’s jumping up and down like he’s in a moshpit, and then Sid and the rest of the drumline join in — the noise level of their cheers causing assistant principal Britt Haney to remind them there was a game going on.
Krause doesn’t mind the attention, or possible judgment, that comes his way. People may be taking Snapchats of him pretending the cowbell is a guitar, or giving him weird looks while he whips his honey brown hair from side-to-side, but he never gets embarrassed — he’s just happy to be doing what he loves.
“[Playing music] makes me feel a lot more free, who I am,” Krause said. “I don’t really care what people think about me, in negative ways, but I do care in positive ways.”
At practice in the back of room 210 Krause remains as invested in the music as he would at the Shawnee Mission North district stadium. He keeps his eyes locked on the music of “Sleigh Ride” in front of him while he hits sleigh bells in his hands.
Whether he is crushing the cymbals together at the halftime show or banging the cowbell in the stands, Krause brings his enthusiasm to the Lancers.
“He makes us remember that it’s not all serious,” Toepfer said. “That you can have fun, and enjoy what you do, and not be afraid to dance a little bit, or to be more light or joyous.”