Jarvis D. Rittman has made history as the first person from Gadsden County to be selected as drum major for The Marching 100 at Florida A&M University.
“It feels very surreal. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a young child,” Rittman said.
This was Rittman’s second time auditioning for the position; when Rittman was not selected as the band’s drum major last year his mentor, Nick Fryson, told him it was not his time – but to continue working towards his goal.
“That kept me motivated to be here now,” Rittman said.
Fryson said he is grateful that people are celebrating Rittman now, and hopes that he will remember this moment.
“We ain’t in the courtroom or doing a drive-by funeral. We’re supporting him and giving him his flowers while he can smell them,” Fryson said.
Rittman has been playing several instruments since he was in elementary school. After leaving Gadsden Elementary Magnet School, Rittman joined the band at Augusta Raa Middle School.
Timotheus Harper was Rittman’s band director for his senior year at Godby High School.
Harper, who is an alum of the Marching 100, says he wishes he had the opportunity to teach Rittman earlier.
“He always stuck out as one of the better musicians,” said Harper, adding that Rittman would get upset with other band kids his age, because they were not as dedicated to the band. “Jarvis is very serious about his craft,” Harper said.
Rittman becoming drum major made Gadsden County native Geoffrey Brown ecstatic.
Brown joined the Marching 100, playing the trumpet, in the Fall of 1980. Both men are members of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, and Brown says the similarities make the celebration even more special.
“Many of my friends are former drum majors and to see him go the extra step to become the head of one of the greatest bands in the country I was elated,” Brown said.
Rittman also has a talent for dancing.
He’s a member of Strikers Dance Troupe founded by Shepiro Hardemon. For Hardemon who is a Marching 100 Alumnus, it was no surprise that a Striker made drum major.
“It’s almost like it’s tradition to us,” Hardemon said. “I expect them to excel to the drum major capacity.”
Hardemon adds that through his interactions with Rittman, he has learned that the Gadsden drummer is incredibly humble.
“He takes constructive criticism and he makes the necessary adjustments and corrections,” said Hardemon.
Even after achieving the title of drum major and making history in Gadsden County, Rittman chose to display humility.
“I don’t like to put too much focus on it because I don’t want to get too conceited,” Rittman said. “It’s there to help push me; to motivate me to be the best version of myself.”
Rittman attributes his achievements to his village of supporters.
Although he did the leg work to achieve the title of drum major, he believes he would not be the person he is today if it was not for people like his family, advisers, mentors and professors; thinking of the help reminds him that although he has certain positions, he is not above anyone else.
“Yes you do have more authority and more responsibility but you’re not above people,” Rittman adds.
Rittman says he is at a loss for words when it comes to the amount of support he has been receiving since being selected as drum major.
“You know that people are in your corner and you know that people love you,” said Rittman. “But for you to see it and feel it for me it just feels so good to the point I’m speechless.”
Rittman is the son of Jarvis Rittman and Benita Griffin, and a senior scholar majoring in health sciences at Florida A&M University.
He plans to focus on dental hygiene and will attend dental school upon graduation.
Breanna Rittman – firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Breanna Rittman