SWD graduate becomes first female drum major at FAMU

Before Cori Renee Bostic was born, she was already part of the Florida A&M University (FAMU) “Marching 100” band family.

Her mother, Lenise, was pregnant with Cori in 1997 as she marched with the “Marching 100” at events, football games and on the practice field, known as the “Patch”.

“They call Cori a ‘Patch baby,’” Bostic said. “She was the baby on the Patch.”

Twenty-one years later, the Patch baby made history becoming the first woman drum major at FAMU. Band officials announced Aug. 1 that Bostic, 20, will be one of the new drum majors for the band, making university and band history.

Bostic, a 2016 graduate of Southwest DeKalb High School, is a broadcast journalism major at FAMU. She plays piccolo and oboe, is a member of the symphonic band and played basketball for the university. She also hosts her own campus radio show called “Start Your Day with Cori Renee.” She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band sorority.

Lenise Bostic said she and her family found out about the news in a text message her daughter sent in a family group chat. She is still surprised that her daughter became the first female drum major at her alma mater.

“But I know Cori and I know when she puts her mind to something she’s very methodical about getting and reaching her goals,” Bostic said. “It’s really gratifying because I’ve witnessed some great women try out.”

Bostic said her daughter, who is the oldest of eight children, told her when she was at Southwest DeKalb that she wanted to be a drum major at FAMU.

“She asked her papi [Cory Bostic] [if] she [could] be [a] drum major, and papi was like, ‘Sure, you can do whatever you want to do,’ as he’s told all of our daughters,” Bostic said. “We have seven girls and we put no limits on them. [They] can do anything [they] want.”

Southwest DeKalb band director James Seda, who is also an alum of FAMU and was in the band with Bostic’s parents, said he was proud to see his former student make history.

“I remember when Cori was born and to see her grow into the fine young lady she became in high school and in college, I’m glad I had a part in that as being someone who trained her musically,” Seda said. “It was an incredible community effort.”

Seda also credits Southwest DeKalb girls’ basketball coach Kathy Walton for helping her get to this point. Bostic was the starting center for the 2016 state championship team at Southwest DeKalb.

“We saw her gain her confidence at Southwest DeKalb High School. A big part of the confidence Cori gained came when she was on the basketball team,” Seda said. “From not really knowing anything about the sport to winning the state championship and being the starting center, that’s really when we started to see the confidence come out of Cori that she really didn’t have before. We owe a lot of that to coach Walton.”

Bostic played basketball for one year at FAMU before leaving the team to focus on band full time. Her mother said it was difficult for Bostic to participate in band and play basketball.

“It was a juggling act in high school, so when she got to FAMU she tried [both] her freshman year,” she said. “She played basketball and did band, but it was too much. The basketball coach told her she wanted [Cori] full time and Cori was like I can’t do it, I love band.

“She chose band and stayed with the band because she knew her goals, she knew what she wanted to be, and she fell in love with it,” Lenise Bostic added. “She has always been in love with band, but at FAMU [band] just captured her heart like it did mine when I was there, and her papi’s when he was there.”

This is the second time Cori Bostic tried out for drum major at FAMU. She tried out last year and wasn’t selected but was given feedback on what she needed to do to improve her chances, including improving her upper body strength.

“[Cori] was like, ‘I’m a basketball player. I know how to work out, so I’ll just work out,’” her mom said. “When she came home that summer she was sad for a week, and then we went right up the street to the gym and she started working out, lifting weights and she got stronger and stronger. She went back out and tried out again.”

Ivan Wilborn, who was head drum major at FAMU from 1983-84, said Cori Bostic’s athleticism is what gave her the advantage over other women who auditioned for a drum major spot in the past.

“The drum major position is a hard position. It’s hard on the upper body,” Wilborn said. “The difference between Cori and the [other women who tried out] is she’s [6-foot-1] and that helps her. She’s athletic. She has the arm strength to deal with the baton.

“The baton is really massive and big and there are things that you have to do with it,” Wilborn added. “Of course, our upper body strength is a little different than the women, but I think she possess that because of her athletic prowess.”

Although Cori Bostic has received congratulations and support from current and former band members, Wilborn said there are some who are against the decision.

“Some of us old-schoolers are fighting it, but I think if she’s worthy then she deserves the chance,” he said. “She’s proven that she’s worthy, so we have to give her the chance. She has to live up to it. She’s going to do it, she’s going to be an excellent performer. We just have to get on the bandwagon and support her and make sure that we’re together in this and [support her].”

Lenise Bostic said she knows there are those who doubt her daughter’s abilities to be drum major, but knows she has a good support system at FAMU and at home.

“She has a good nucleus of people who keep her grounded and she has her siblings who keep her grounded. She just has a lot of people who support her,” Lenise Bostic said. “A lot of former drum majors are helping her and preparing her for what’s about to come. Her drum major squad [is] working really hard together and working really well together. She’s leaning on her squad.”

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