USC trailblazer pushed past criticism as Trojan Marching Band’s first female drum major

Trojan Marching Band and USC song girls walking along Trousdale
India Anderson marches with Arthur C. Bartner, longtime band director. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Since donning the cardinal cape and gold breastplate, USC Thornton alumna India Anderson has performed with Beyoncé at the 2022 Oscars and now leads the brass band Blow.

When India Anderson first performed the USC Trojan Marching Band drum major routine on Aug. 31, 2019, she demonstrated that the kind of ferocity, strength and courage that Trojan fans associate with their mascot are also qualities possessed by women. Thousands of eyes followed Anderson as she marched across the 50-yard line of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in a cardinal cape, gold breastplate and leather sandals, a gametime ritual for any USC drum major. She then stabbed the field with her sword and raised her hands in triumph while letting out a battle cry, resulting in a roar of applause and cheers.

“I did my routine, and the stadium went kind of quiet. Then, I stabbed the field, and there was this huge eruption of sound,” said the 2021 graduate of the USC Thornton School of Music. “To complete the routine and stab the field — that was the moment everyone was waiting for.”

Becoming the first female drum major of the Trojan Marching Band was a fitting accomplishment for the physically active, leadership-minded college junior who regularly lifted weights and quickly rose through the Spirit of Troy’s ranks to become part of the tuba section’s leadership. Yet the experience wasn’t all positive.

Title IX trailblazer performance with Beyoncé at the 2022 Oscars

Today, as the bandleader and arranger for Blow, a brass band that has played throughout Southern California, Anderson utilizes her chops in both performance and directorship to make a name for herself as a professional musician. Her talent and contributions were recognized when she was asked to perform with Beyoncé at the 2022 Oscars, an experience that proved to her once and for all the power of female leadership.

“Beyoncé specifically requested a mostly female orchestra. That was the first time I played in an ensemble where the concertmaster and the principal trumpet player were women,” Anderson recalled. “Beyoncé had this huge air of authority wherever she went. She was like, ‘I’m a woman, I’m getting this done.’ There was no question about it. That gave me hope.

“Whenever a guy comes up to me after a show and says, ‘How does a female play the tuba? How do you carry that thing?’ I think, ‘It’s all worth it if I can have the majority of my experiences be like that Oscar performance.’ That’s the goal.”

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