From binary to the Big House: Drum major Blake Brdak

Meet CS undergrad Blake Brdak, the 58th University of Michigan Marching Band drum major.
Close-up photo of Blake Brdak in drum major uniform in Michigan stadium

As football season approaches, CSE is thrilled to share that one of its own, computer science major Blake Brdak, has been selected as the 58th drum major of the University of Michigan Marching Band.

“It’s an honor to be selected for this role,” said Blake. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for the Michigan Marching Band and give back to this institution.”

When Blake first joined the MMB as a trumpet player his freshman year in 2020, he was immediately struck by the powerful sense of community he found, even in the face of pandemic restrictions. As drum major, he looks forward to further cultivating this community spirit by welcoming new members of the 400-person band and building on the relationships that make the MMB so strong.

“I’ve found my closest friends through the marching band,” said Blake. “I’ve met people I never would have otherwise and have had so many incredible experiences. I’m really looking forward to getting to know all of the new members and being back with my marching band family. It’s a real joy to be on the field with this amazing and talented group of people.”

This close-knit community was a big part of Blake’s decision to audition for the drum major role. He was also inspired by the leadership and enthusiasm of previous drum majors, including last season’s drum major and recent Michigan Engineering graduate Rachel Zhang.

“The marching band has been an integral part of my college experience,” said Blake. “The biggest motivator for me in deciding to audition was the ability to give back to the band program. I saw the types of leaders that previous drum majors were and I knew I wanted to serve in a similar role.”

Blake Brdak does high-step march across the block M on Michigan Stadium field.

The drum major audition process is not for the faint of heart. Although Blake has previous experience as drum major of his high school marching band, the role comes with some additional responsibilities at the university level.

Off the field, the drum major serves as a guide and mentor for MMB members, teaching them the basics of marching as well as supporting and engaging with the wider community. On game days, Blake will lead the band and will perform impressive physical feats, such as baton twirling and the famous backbend, which often require months of training. 

“It took several months of stretching and practicing to master the backbend,” said Blake. “And falling. Lots of falling.” 

Blake Brdak in drum major uniform does famous backbend on Michigan Stadium football field.

When he’s not rehearsing with the band, Blake can often be found on North Campus, where he is a senior in the College of Engineering majoring in computer science. While music has been a part of Blake’s life for a long time, computer science is a newer venture for him.

“I came into Michigan Engineering undecided, but I thought I might go into electrical engineering or mechanical engineering,” said Blake. “Then I took Engineering 101 at the beginning of my time at U-M, and I found that I really enjoyed coding. With coding, I liked the relatively rapid process from ideation to outcome; you can see the results of your work very quickly.”

While engineering and music might seem like strange bedfellows at first, to Blake, the combination makes perfect sense.

“It’s no coincidence that there are a lot of people at U-M who are musicians,” he said. “Music is a fantastic tool to engage students and teach them skills that are really helpful in engineering and in the academic world more broadly.”

Blake was able to put these very skills into practice in the real world this summer as an intern at a tech consulting firm in Chicago that specializes in digital transformation, and he looks forward to finishing his final year in the computer science program.

“I have really enjoyed the computer science program,” he said. “There are so many resources and different opportunities to take advantage of. I have had a great experience with the College of Engineering and CSE.”

Blake eagerly awaits his return to Ann Arbor for the beginning of marching band rehearsals in mid-August and his first performance as drum major in the Big House. You will be able to see the results of all of his and the band’s hard work and training at the first U-M home game on September 2.