Maya McBrayer: Outstanding Member of 2023

Annually, Mandarins corps members choose one of their own to receive the Outstanding Member award. This award is given in memory of Joe Fong, our 1976 recipient. That year, the Mandarins repertoire included music from The Wiz, and these lyrics are engraved on a perpetual trophy displayed at the Mandarins Event Center: “If you believe within your heart, you’ll know that no one can change the path that you must go.”

This year, the award was presented to Maya McBrayer, one of our Drum Majors, who began her Mandarins journey in 2022. In 2021, Maya told a college friend (who’d marched as a Field Assistant with another corps) that she was interested in trying out for DCI as a Drum Major. The friend had auditioned previously for Mandarins and had nothing but great things to say about the staff and the audition process. Long story short, Maya did her first-ever audition for the Mandarins and was contracted in December 2021!

Maya said, “Upon learning that I was the recipient for the award, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I continue to do drum corps not just for the music and the shows, but for the people I get to meet. Because of them, I have become the truest version of myself. After such a rewarding season for the corps, receiving this award reminded me how loved I am in this organization and how lucky I am to be with such amazing, hardworking people, members, and staff, throughout the summer. I try my hardest to be the best person I can for those around me because they deserve nothing less. Mandarins invested in 18 year old me, so I am forever invested in the Mandarins.”

Maya shared that her most memorable Mandarins moment happened in December 2021, at audition camp. “The Drum Major auditionees had spent a good deal of the weekend with brass, and we were wrapping up the last visual block. Before coming to Mandarins, I had always heard, “Go somewhere that feels like home.” I thought it was impossible to know that just from a weekend camp, but it clicked in that last block. We were told that we were all Mandarins, whether our journeys continued with this corps or not, and that we would always be welcomed back. It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to spend the summer with these people. I had been welcomed with open arms from the moment I stepped off of the plane in Sacramento, and from that weekend, I knew Mandarins would be a home I could come back to whether I was contracted or not.”

During their Mandarins experience, corps members learn values of respect, excellence, personal responsibility, and service to others – values which are carried through school, careers, and back to the community – with a true sense of purpose. Maya adds, “Mandarins has undoubtedly taught me to be more confident in myself and my decisions. As a Drum Major, sometimes decisions need to be made on the spot. There’s no time to dwell on thoughts. You make your decision and keep going. As a future music educator, I know this will help me in my classroom no matter what age group I’m teaching.”

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