And The Band Plays On — Blind student performs in Marching band

Imagine hearing the roar of the crowd as the whistle blows, signaling halftime of the football game. Imagine standing in formation and marching out onto the field to the beat of the drum line. Imagine being in the middle of the field, preparing to play in the band, but not being able to see any of it.

Born with detached retinas, Brandon Werner, Kalamazoo sophomore, has been blind all his life. He was drawn to music from an early age and that has evolved into him marching in the Albion College British Eighth marching band.

For Werner, the experience on the field is more about the instruments than the marching.

“To me, it’s kind of interesting because, depending on where you are on the field, you get to hear different instruments. So it’s like…for visual people it’s about the pictures, but for me it’s more about all the different perspectives of the field you can hear as you march around,” Werner said.

Though Braille music exists, Werner uses a different method to learn the music.

“I have a private lesson instructor who will record the music for me, and then I just listen to it and learn it by ear,” Werner said.

Due to Werner’s disability, he needed a partner on the field to lead him through the marches. This year it fell to Michael Albani, Roseville junior. Albani and Werner stand shoulder to shoulder and march through all the steps together. Though Werner plays the mellophone, which is similar to a saxophone, there are no saxophonists near Werner’s height that he could play next to. So the job went to Albani, who plays the trumpet because they were friends beforehand.

There are aspects for marching band that are difficult for Werner.

“Problems-wise Brandon is really good at marching but there are times in our show where we have to do ‘visuals’ basically where we not only march, but have to stand in place, kind of have to move with our bodies and everything because it is a standstill tune,” Albani said. “And would say that’s a problem just because, I have to like try to demonstrate with Brandon’s body the way that he has got to move so we all look in the same way.”

Despite a few problems on the field, Werner is always a positive influence said Kala Mapes, Wixom senior.

“He’s definitely helped a lot of people in band become more personable. It’s especially cool that he’s really sociable and easy to get along with,” Mapes said.

About Claire Van Raaphorst 33 Articles
Claire is a senior from Rochester, MI. She is a double major in English and Communication Studies and a minor in Art History.

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