A Different Drummer

“A Different Drummer,” New Era, Sept. 1998, 49

Everyday Heroes:

A Different Drummer

When Brad started taking Darryle to band practice, the words heart and beat took on new meaning.

On October of 1992, a new freshman without much enthusiasm for life arrived at Page (Arizona) High School. Darryle had spent the last several years in a boarding school for the handicapped. He was confined to a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy; he had no ability to speak, see, or walk; and he had limited use of his arms. When he first arrived, he was very scared, and nobody seemed to know how to help him.

As teachers we were becoming quite frustrated trying to find something that would capture his interest. Things changed when someone brought in a tape of Navajo drum music. That perked Darryle up. He loved this music, and we knew we had to capitalize on this.

It was arranged for Darryle to attend the band class, something he seemed to enjoy. I, too, was excited, but I knew I only had the personnel to take Darryle to the class once a week.

Enter Brad Ross. Brad was a quiet, shy sophomore with a great love for music. The next afternoon, about the time band began, Brad walked into my special education classroom. He was very quiet, and I could tell he was nervous. But that didn’t stop him. He marched up to me and asked if he could take Darryle to band with him.

I was stunned. I let Brad take Darryle, but I remember thinking that it wouldn’t last.

What followed was the most honest expression of heroism I have ever witnessed. For the next three years, Brad never missed a day. Each day he would come to my classroom and escort Darryle to band practice. Darryle became as much a part of the band as any other member. Every day, Brad would set Darryle up with different percussion instruments. With eager delight, Darryle would sense the music and gleefully join in the rhythms he felt. Under Brad’s patient tutoring, Darryle learned to play the snare drum, bass drum, tambourine, maracas, and the triangle. Even though Darryle’s rhythms did not always match the rest of the band’s, Darryle was totally involved.

Many changes had to be made to accommodate Darryle, but Brad always made them—never asking for help.

The things Brad did were thoughtful actions that required discipline and sacrifice. His heroic efforts affected the other students and touched the hearts of many teachers and parents. He had the bravery necessary to walk into a classroom full of special education students, make friends with someone who needed a friend, create a new program for a peer, and provide the selfless service necessary to see it through.

Brad recently completed an honorable mission in the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Mission.

Photography by Welden Andersen and courtesy of Lisa Prall