Here is a story I read in preparation for one of my classes last night. Wow! Our topic last night was learners with exceptionalities.
Billy Rueckert is 13 years old. And he likes to prove people wrong…Billy has cerebral palsy, and he was barely 10 when he peeked into the band room…and informed Miss Roggen he’d like to learn to play an instrument. Anything. He wasn’t picky. “
I remember him coming through that door with his walker,” says Tammy Roggen, the school’s band director since it opened 12 years ago. “And I’m thinking, ‘What instrument am I going to put him on?’ It was a challenge because he couldn’t hold anything.” And that’s how Billy came to play the tuba. He learned sitting down, elevated by pillows, the tuba held up with a special brace, using his three fingers that worked best. “His feet wouldn’t even touch the floor when he first started,” says Roggen.
“I was like, ‘How is he going to survive?’ But he just kept trying.”
Billy started in the sixth-grade band and moved up to concert band. By eighth grade, he’d moved on to symphonic band—the choicest band at the school. But this wasn’t enough for Billy. He told Miss Roggen he wanted to join (marching band)…Not one to discourage, she found a chair with special clamps and suited him up with a sousaphone…”We would carry it on the field and carry Bill out, and we had to put cushions on the chair…Then we put the sousaphone on, then we had to carry out the music stand.”
“You should have seen it,” says Billy’s mother. “It was like the Berverly Hillbillies. We all had something to carry.”
“He didn’t care,” says Roggen. “He was out there playing with the other kids.”
But Billy Rueckert was not done. This fall he tried out for All-State Band. “
It’s a bid deal, says Roggen. “I never made all-state.”
Billy got his tryout number, did his tape, submitted his music anonymously to the judges like everyone else. Nowhere on the audition paperwork did it mention that he can’t write or walk alone or kick a ball…Turns out billy Rueckert, age 13, is one of the best middle-school tuba players in Florida. In fact, he’s No. 8. “
It just blows my mind,” Roggen says. “It’s such an inspiration.”
…Think about him on the field, playing away, happy as can be, the other kids marching around him. Think of him wowing the crowd at All-State Band… Think of the effort it takes for him to dress for school, get to class, scratch an itch. Think of Billy Rueckert, and how he never gives up. (Minor, p.1)