Banded Together

Photo by Cecilia Uvalle

By: Miavane Jackson

The sun has set and halftime has begun, when the stadium lights come up, you hear the humming of the crowd, and the spotlight is on you; but for one member of the marching band, the lights never turn on


Sophomore trumpet player Nick Oliver was born blind. Nick is an active member of the band and with the help of his bandmates Alex and Israel, they make it work. 


Nick has always had a passion for music. Growing up, music had a significant impact on his life. When he made it to high school, he joined the school’s band. During his freshman year at Cy-Fair High School, Nick was in the school’s stationary band, which allowed him to remain in the bleachers among the crowd. Although he loved standing alongside his bandmates in the stands, Nick wanted more. He wanted to march. 


“When Nick joined Cy-Fair as a freshman last year, he was eager to join the marching band which he did,” Nick’s mom Sandra Oliver said. “Unfortunately, the marching choreography was already set, and the movements were too difficult for Nick to learn while playing the trumpet.”


             It has been a dream of his to march on the field during halftime of an exciting football game, soaking in the praise and applause of his fellow classmates, but there was one thing holding him back. Nick has been blind his entire life. Growing up visually impaired Nick had to overcome adversities of all kinds, while at the same time, being a normal kid. 


Despite having to face many challenges, Nick made the best of what he had and found ways to relax and express himself. He used music as an outlet and along with playing the trumpet he also learned how to play the piano and got involved in percussion. 


His Mom said that he has been determined since the day he was born.  He has two sighted older brothers, and Nick has always been driven and determined to do all the same things his brothers do. He skis, kneeboards, climbs and swims, so wanting to push himself and overcome new obstacles is typical for Nick.


“Nick discussed his eagerness to be in the marching band,” Mrs. Oliver said. “Mr. Nelson remained committed to ensuring that the choreography for this year would be developed with Nick top of mind, which he did.”


      With help from his band director, the idea came to life. Nelson went to work making changes to the choreography and even spoke to the school’s special education program. The collaboration helped Nick get all of his music translated to braille.


  “When I met Nick and was thinking of his future role in the marching band, I remembered a prop I used back in 2010 with the Cy-Fair Band’s production of “Bound”, Nelson said.  “We used stretchy colored fabric to attach the band members during the big finish of the show and immediately thought something similar could be adapted for Nick.”


      With that idea in mind, the band team came up with the idea of using belts to tether Nick to two other trumpet players.  Senior trumpet player Alex Willman and junior trumpet player Israel Vazquez were very eager to help. The three bandmates have been in the same class and knew each other but were not necessarily close. 


“It’s something I’ve never done before, I really wanted to do something different for my senior year,” Alex said.


      Alex has been a member of the Cy-Fair band since his freshman year, when the band director asked who wanted to volunteer he didn’t hesitate to step up. The same goes for Israel, Israel has also been in the band since his freshman year and was excited to help out a fellow trumpet player. 


“ The whole experience is amazing, helping someone out is really cool,” Israel said. “I didn’t know Alex was also going to be helping, too, it was a pleasant surprise.”


     Once the decision was made to have the three boys tethered, the choreography had to be switched around in order to keep them next to one another during the performance. When speaking to the guys we learned that much to our surprise getting used to the belts didn’t take much practice. 


“Outside of our regular band practice, we maybe took an extra twenty minutes to go over the formations a few more times,” Alex said. 


Being physically tied together gave the guys no choice but to create a special bond. 


“We’ve gotten to know each other better throughout this whole thing,” Alex said. “ Marching alongside Alex and Nick is fun, they make it really fun,” said Israel. 


Along with creating memories the guys have faced a few challenges as well. With Nick being visually impaired, it’s Alex’s job to verbally explain everything to Nick.


“I didn’t think it would be this difficult to explain everything we do in words,” Alex said. 


The boys have also discussed how difficult it was to get used to attaching the belts quickly when performing during practice.


“It was hard to get the hook on the belt while we were moving,” Israel said. 


    Although there are still a few kinks left to figure out, the entire band team is confident this will work out great. Mr. Nelson explained that he never doubted the boys; from the very beginning, he knew this would work.


“Somehow I knew it would work from the beginning,” Nelson said.  “Nick had such a great attitude and the rest of the trumpet section has been very supportive and encouraging.” 


    Although this has been a dream of his for a long time Nick was still unsure of how it would turn out. 


“I knew I wanted to march but I wasn’t completely sure about it,” Nick said. “I’m much more confident now. We’re getting better every day and what we think is perfect now can change over time.”