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Student-athlete of the Week: Cole Toothaker

Series: Student-Athlete of the Week | Story 13

October 9, 2019 | View PDF

Jocelyn Rowley

Senior Cole Toothaker during the halftime performance of the Cougar marching band at the Niwot football game on Oct. 5.

It's been a whirlwind fall for second-year drum major Cole Toothaker and the Cougar marching band, but a scary moment over the summer almost had the talented musician and natural leader watching it all from the sidelines.

"I was on a rafting trip in Idaho, and I did a backflip on the beach-I have a gymnastics background and do flips a lot," he recalled. "But I landed on an incline, and put my hands down to break my fall, and ended up breaking both of my wrists, which was a little inconvenient."

That may be putting it mildly, but luckily for Toothaker and the Niwot band, the injury wasn't debilitating. One steel plate and eight screws later, the senior was back to full strength, ready to lead the Cougar marching band into the busiest part of the school year. In September alone, Toothaker led Niwot musicians as they performed at two home football games, Longmont's Labor Day parade, the Niwot homecoming parade, and the Greeley Invitational Marching Band Festival, where they received a score of "excellent." Then, on Oct. 2, the band turned in what Toothaker called "the best performance we've ever done," at the St. Vrain Valley Schools district wide band night.

"It was so much fun," he said. "I had at least three parents come up to me-and they've had kids in band for the last six or seven years-and said that it's the best the band has ever sounded. I'm really proud of them; they put in so much hard work. And to be the figurehead of the band is really something."

For the most part, Toothaker relishes his role at the helm, but he acknowledged that it's not all glamorous. Being drum major involves "countless hours" of preparation and grueling rehearsals, often in less than ideal conditions. He also has to enforce high standards for himself and his bandmates.

"It's hard because you're in a position where everybody's watching you and sees everything that you do," he said. "I try to set the example for everyone, and it's hard, but it's also one of the rewarding things."

He said it's also rewarding to see those "countless hours" of rehearsal pay off in a performance like the one at SVVSD band night.

"It's also good when we see the fruits of our labor out here... Putting in the work, and then seeing all of it come together, that's definitely my favorite part."

For Niwot band director Wade Hendricks, Toothaker's leadership ability is only eclipsed by his musical talent.

"Cole is an amazingly balanced, level-headed, musician-leader-athlete," he wrote in an email. "His cool, calm, and collected demeanor has made him an incredibly effective drum major for the marching band the last two years. On top of all of that, he is the best French Horn player in Colorado and will have a chance to prove his ranking in the country in November when he takes part in the All-National Honor Ensemble in Orlando, Florida."

Toothaker switched to the brass instrument from percussion in seventh grade, "and never looked back." He doesn't get much time to play during marching band season, which he said is another drawback of being drum major.

"I loved the sound of the horn when I first heard it. I think it's great because you can play a lot of soft, lyrical stuff and big, bombastic Star Wars-like moments. In my opinion the French Horn is the best, because it's the best of both worlds."

In the classroom, Toothaker is taking a mix of AP and IB courses, and his current favorite is IB English with Mrs. Roberts. He is also enjoying AP computer science with Mrs. Ewing, and, much to his surprise, calculus with Ms. Schlagel. Toothaker also trains with Niwot's cross country and track teams, and is active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Before devoting himself to music, Toothaker competed in gymnastics and was also a competitive jump-roper, which led to a spot in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade when he was a 6th grader.

Unsurprisingly, Toothaker's plans beyond high school center around music and performing. He hopes to spend his undergraduate years at an elite conservatory, such as Juilliard or The Colburn School, and eventually earn a doctorate and go on to a career playing with a top orchestra and teaching music at the college level.


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