It was second lunch at Indian Hills Middle School and then-8th grader Siddharth Choudhury — more commonly known as Sid — was new to the district. Sitting alone at the rectangular lunch table, he reached for the pencils in his bag and began to tap nervously. He gripped the two pencils in each hand like drumsticks and naturally the pencils danced to the rhythm they created.. As the upbeat rhythm increased, Sid forgot that he was alone. All he could focus on was not losing the rhythm. A crowd of middle schoolers gathered to watch.
“Oh my god, this kid’s gotta beat!”
One voice stood out in the crowd: “You should join band.”
It wasn’t the first time Sid had thought about it. A love of music rain in his family – his dad played the tabla, a set of indian drums. But most students started in 5th grade. Besides, he couldn’t even read music.
Despite all the reasons why it seemed too late, Sid joined band the following semester.
Reading music was like trying to read a foreign language – one he hadn’t learned yet unlike Bengali and Hindi. The other students read sheets of music like they were pages of “Harry Potter,” but Sid saw shapes on a page of lines.
“I couldn’t read music at all 8th grade year,” Sid said. “It probably wasn’t until 10th grade that notes meant anything to me.”
His classmates had been playing since 11 years old, and while they had been learning key signatures and new tempos, Sid was learning the English language in a brand new country.
In 2010, Sid left Rajasthani, India, for a new life in Kansas City. He moved into a one bedroom apartment on the Plaza and began to adjust to the way Americans made jokes, and their phrases like “sup.” Just like learning Bengali and Hindi, he would have to pick up English – fast.
With only three months until the start of fifth grade, he used Cartoon Network as his English teacher. Three years later, he was still perfecting his English when he decided to take on another language: music. And he mastered it as soon as it came into his life.
The transition from being three years behind everyone else, to being the face of high school drumline would be no walk in the park. Many of his classmates had private teachers, which cost more money than Sid’s parents thought necessary. Sid quickly came to realize he would have to be his own teacher.
His best shot at catching up meant practicing every chance he got — between homework assignments and dinner. This wouldn’t have been a problem if his parents hadn’t rid of his rental xylophone and snare drum — percussion was too loud to their liking. So his pens became his mallets and his knees were the drums.
Sid transformed from the quiet percussion kid in the back of band class to the leader of chants like “Icelandic East.” Performing in front of 2000 fans every Friday eventually dissipated his stage fright. In his three short years on drumline when he wasn’t performing he was practicing fifteen to 16 clamorous jam-packed hours per week. He attended drumline camp in the summer which consisted of 5-8 hours per day of marching in 90 degree weather. Each ear ringing rehearsal left his limbs aching.
“[He’s] a really good role model for the new members,” band member and senior Becker Truster said. “Basically exactly what you look for in a band leader — practices at every chance he has, knows what he’s doing and can get things done.”
Last year’s rendition of “Black Skinhead” by Kanye West went down in drumline history, according to yell leader senior Brian Christian. After seeing the project Sid and his team worked for four weeks, fans sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation for the next performance. Seminars where he could have been studying for AP English tests, he sacrificed for power rehearsals — and couldn’t have been happier doing so.
“People would come up to me at school, telling me how awesome [Black Skinhead] was,” Sid said.
Weeks of intense sectionals went into the five minute performance, and, according to Sid, and seeing a chillingly amped student section was rewarding. Feeling this energy is something Sid says he will miss most after graduation.
When summer comes Sid will pack away his tenor drums, leaving them for the next percussionist. He’ll return his band locker padlock, and say goodbye to early morning practices on the football field. However, next year at college he’ll still have his pens and desktops to crush out a surprise performance, even if it isn’t for the Lancer student section or a crowd at all.