Leadership on and off the playing field has earned Maya Sharp respect from her peers.

That respect, has translated into accolades at two different band festivals this fall, as Sharp, the 2017-18 drum major for the Jay High School Band, earned the outstanding drum major for Class 4A at the Okmulgee competition and second place overall at last weekend's contest in Beggs.

Not bad for a high school junior who at one time doubted she would succeed as the drum major.

"I was always interested in being the drum major," Sharp said. "I decided to take a leap of faith and try out. And it worked out."

Sharp said she was absolutely shocked when her name was called a few weeks ago during the Okmulgee band competition. Saturday's win in Beggs cemented her newest goal as drum major.

"It's motivated me to work harder, and to keep improving," Sharp said.

"Mr. [Aaron] Thomas calls me his second in command," Sharp said with a laugh. "I'm not just up there waving my arms. I do a lot of things behind the scenes. I get to know the [band students]. I feel like a mentor.

"I didn't just want to do what was expected. I wanted to inspire people and share the love of music with others."

For Sharp, the role of drum major gives her an opportunity to help others. 

"I like for people to feel important and that band is a safe place," Sharp said. "Music has really helped me through my life and a lot of issues. It changes people's lives."

She jokes that her fellow students often call her the "band mom" because of her nurturing nature.

"I like it," Sharp said. "I walked back to the group last Saturday and was just looking at them. Someone asked me what I was doing, and I said 'I'm just looking at you guys, I love my band babies.'

"It's taught me patience and how to be self disciplined in all areas of music, not just performing. I think it's going to help me a lot in my future career."

As the drum major, Sharp said, she believes she's been given an empowering platform.

"When I first get up on the [ladder], I get this sense of control. Then I think, 'ok, let's do this, let's rock it,'" Sharp said. "I am responsible, but it's up to [the band] to watch me, and do what they are supposed to do."

Sharp is the third female drum major in recent history. She follows the path charted by Christina Taylor and Kelly Martin.

Both Taylor and Martin are close friends of Sharp's. In fact it was Martin who encouraged her to try out for the role.

Sharp said she learned a great deal from watching both Taylor and Martin serve as drum major.

"I've learned from their mistakes and put my own flair to it," Sharp said, adding she would like to serve in the position a second year, if she earns the honor at next year's tryouts.

Sharp knows respect of her fellow students is key to her success.

"I feel like people respect me and listen to me, as I try to help them," Sharp said. "Being the drum major has helped me become a more confident person. 

"It really has changed my life. I feel like anything is possible now."

Inspiring teachers

Both Aaron Thomas, director of the JHS instrumental program, and Tonya Henry-Ruddick, the director of JHS's choral program, see great things in Sharp's future.

"Maya is a uniquely talented young lady," Thomas said. "Even though her first love is vocal music, she approaches her band music with the same seriousness.

"As our drum major, I know that she is always working hard to represent the band and to become a better student director. I feel very lucky to have her as my student."

Thomas said Sharp has grown comfortable in her leadership role.

"She put together a series of stretches for the marching band that they do before every marching rehearsal," Thomas said. "She's so well liked and respected by the rest of the band that they don't question her, they follow."

Henry-Ruddick agrees.

"She's a very mature musician, instinctively," Henry-Ruddick said. "When she sings, I am amazed at the tone of her voice for a girl who was born with a cleft palate.

"She has overcome so much to be where she is. She has done some wonderful things in band, but of course, I count the choir things - all-district, all-state and all-national honor choirs.

"I’m positive she will go on to do great things as a musician in college and beyond."

More about Sharp

Sharp is the daughter of Randy and Natalee Sharp and sister of Meghan Sharp.

She serves as the junior class president, drum major for the Jay High School Band, drama club reporter and is the history club reporter.

She is also an All-State Honor Choir member for the past three years, All District Choir member for the past three years, and National Honor Choir member, as well as a member of the jazz choir.

Her non-musical activities include in student council, History Day, FOMC (Native American club), the Jay First Assembly of God Worship team and a student leader at the church, as well as a member of Mercy for Animals and PETA.

She plans to pursue a double major in music and contemporary music performance at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

"Music is my life," Sharp said. "I don't know if I want to perform or teach, but I love performing.

"Everything I do is for God. I do everything in God's glory and let him guide me. I believe music is my calling."

Sharp eventually would like to obtain her doctorate, so she can be known as "Dr. Maya."

"Dr. Maya, I think it sounds cool," Sharp said. "It makes me sound like a powerful woman."