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All About Accessories: Getting on Top of Podiums

Having the right marching band podium can make rehearsals and performances much easier for conductors and field members alike. Get tips about selecting the right podium from a former drum major, now an instructor, who has climbed to the top hundreds of times.

By Stephanie Lee
Posted August 24, 2010

Selecting the right drum major podium can be a mundane yet very important task with safety concerns, ease of transport and setup, and size as interrelated factors. As you have many other pressing issues on your plate leading into the heat of marching season, you need to pick the right podium to fit your program's needs quickly. The following suggestions are meant to make your quest for the perfect podium quick and painless, so you can get back to what you love—the marching arts!

Stephanie Lee was drum major of Santa Clara Vanguard for two years and received the Jim Jones Leadership Award from DCI. Safety and Stability

Safety first!!

Standing up to 6 feet high off the ground can be intimidating and scary, but having a safe and sturdy podium will give you greater peace of mind. The most durable and sturdy podiums to date are generally made of aluminum or a similar metallic material. By selecting a podium of great durability, you will have not only a safer podium but also one that will last longer.

To ensure stability, all podiums more than 5 feet tall should include some type of safety bar, which students and instructors may hold on to when stepping onto the platform of the podium from the ladder. Whoever assembles your podium should always make sure that this safety bar is securely attached to the podium if it is removed during transport or storage. Additionally, taller podiums (4 to 6 feet) that have smaller platforms and are more "ladder-like" often include stabilizing bars at the base.

Ease of transport/Setup

Setting up your podium should not be a chore! It should be a relatively quick, simple process. After all, the less time that drum major(s) spend setting up the podium and hauling it around, the more time they can spend on the important thing—practicing conducting, helping band members and being a proactive member of the leadership team. While the size of your podium will likely determine the model that you choose, you should be aware that there are three basic styles of podiums, which are all set up in a different manner.

1. Large Platform with Side Ladder (5 to 6 feet tall): Most schools and drum corps use this style as their front or center podium. It is relatively easy to set up; you simply pull out the legs while the podium rests on its side, and then lift it up into position. The only challenge to consider with this style of podium is transporting it to rehearsals or performances. This podium usually comes with wheels on only one side of the podium, requiring the drum major or band parent to lift the podium from the other side and roll the entire podium on two wheels (very heavy!). Now while you can use this as a great upper body workout, you should know that there is an easier way. Some manufacturers offer transport packages with wheels that can be bolted or mounted directly to the podium. Having wheels on both sides of the podium allows you to simply roll the entire podium without doing any heavy lifting.

2. Medium Platform With Front Ladder (2 to 4 feet tall): Most schools or drum corps will use this style as their side or back podiums. These are also relatively easy to set up, and because they usually weigh much less than the previous style, they are also relatively easy to transport without any modifications. Setup of this model is as simple as separating the legs away from the ladder, folding out the platform, and locking the brace that secures the platform into place. To transport, you simply tear down the podium (reverse of assembly) and roll the podium while holding the front of the platform. One tip on transporting this podium: Push the podium; do not pull it behind you. Pushing requires much less energy!

3. Small Platform With Front Ladder (5 to 6 feet tall): The third and final style, which can be used either as a center or backfield podium, has easy setup and easy transport. This podium model provides you with the convenience of the second model, but the height of the first model. It is set up and transported in the same manner as the second style of podium; however, it does not provide the large platform of the first model. That is, quite possibly, its only disadvantage.

Needs of Your Ensemble

It is true after all. Size does indeed matter. When selecting the proper podium, you need to consider, first and foremost, the needs of your ensemble. Are you a smaller program that does not need to have your conductor up quite as high or do you have a large ensemble that will be playing to both the front and backfield using multiple drum majors?

In general, smaller ensembles will need podiums that are not quite as tall because visibility of the drum major will be much easier. Your most appropriate podium might be the 4-foot model, the second style of podium described above.

However, large ensembles with two or three conductors will require multiple podiums that will likely vary in size. The large platform with side ladder is indeed most schools' choice when it comes to selecting a center podium. If you have more than one student that will be conducting from the center podium (i.e. different drum majors for different movements or sections in the show), using this model as your center podium will be safer and infinitely easier for conductors to switch on and off of the center podium quickly.

For side and back podiums, the second and third styles, as well as just an ordinary stepladder, may do the trick! It all depends on your own personal preference as well as your budgetary allowance.


As far as the look of your podium is concerned, there are really only two options for the color of your podium: black or silver. Choose a silver podium to bring focus and attention to the equipment and drum major. Use a black podium if you want to minimize the attention on the equipment and keep most of the attention on the performers on the field.

The podium will also have different maintenance requirements based on the color. While black podiums provide a professional and "classic" appearance, they will require touchup paint frequently (easily done with flat black spray paint). Aluminum or silver podiums will require no touchup, yet they will eventually tarnish and begin to lose that "like-new" appearance.

Either way, you will at some point have to make an effort to keep your podium looking great. After all, my favorite drum major saying remains: "Clean podium, clean show!"

About the Author: Stephanie Lee is currently an assistant band director at Canyon Ridge Middle School in Austin, Texas. She served as drum major for the Green Brigade Marching Band at the University of North Texas for three seasons and drum major of the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps for two seasons. In 2009, She was the first female head drum major in the 42-year history of the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps. She received the 2009 Jim Jones Leadership Award, given to one World Class and one Open Class drum major each season by Drum Corps International.

DSI Director's Showcase International About the Sponsor: DSI (Director's Showcase International) is the premiere wholesaler of marching band accessories and accessories for guard including wooden & plastic rifles, footwear, flags, poles, guard outfits, and other accessories. DSI brands include Elite Rifles & Sabres, Starlite Dance Boots, MTX & Viper Marching Shoes, Command Center Podiums, and Ever-Dri Performance Gloves. To see the complete line of DSI products please visit

Text by Stephanie Lee. Image courtesy of the author.

Copyright 2010 All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.

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