Blindness not stopping marching band student


Even though you'll find Will Walsh on the sidelines, the teen isn't letting his disability keep him from performing right alongside all the other kids.

The Foster High School marching band placed first last week at a competition in Edna, Texas. Among them is 15-year-old Walsh. He plays timpani on the sidelines with the rest of the percussion pit. Unlike his classmates, though, Walsh can't see.

"It's one place that I can really fit in," he told us.

Walsh was visually impaired at birth, and in just the last three years has taken up the drums.

"It was just a matter of proving to people that, 'Hey, I can be as good as anybody else. There's no difference,'" he said.

Walso plays by feel and memory. Band director Jimmie Exline says Walsh absorbs the music a little at a time, listening and remembering the rhythms he hears.

"He has an amazing memory, so we can do a large passage in a very short amount of time," Exline said.

As you often hear, those who have certain senses reduced make up for it with others that are heightened. Exline says Will has perfect pitch, the ability to replicate any particular note exactly from memory. It's an important skill on a timpani.

"He's very gifted and it's a very unique situation," Exline said.

The timpani is his passion, and Walsh says he's had to play loud enough to silence those who thought a boy without sight couldn't play music.

"You are really and truly capable of doing anything if you put your mind to it," he said.

Walsh hopes others who see his story will embrace that lesson. He and the band play again this weekend in El Campo at the UIL Region 13 Marching Contest.

When it comes to his future career, he has a couple options in mind. Walsh says he's thinking about getting into music, maybe becoming a DJ. But no matter what he does, he a success in a lot of people's minds already.

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