Major ankle injuries and surgeries could not shatter one student’s dreams to continue her marching career.
Halfway through my freshman year of high school, I ruptured two ligaments and a tendon in my ankle and had to undergo major reconstructive surgery. I spent the next eight months in an orthopedic boot only to require yet another surgical procedure. I was eventually boot-free and into a brace, just in time for the 2013 summer band camp.
I was in a slump, discouraged by the medical procedures, the pain, and the inconvenience of it all. My academic performance had suffered from the distraction, and I was lacking self-motivation.
A New Approach
About 20 minutes into his presentation, he asked us to raise our hands as high as we could, so I rolled my eyes and complied. He then asked us to raise our hands two inches higher, and I did.
“Why didn’t you do that the first time?” he asked everyone.
I still had more to give, but I didn’t, and that is exactly what I had been doing my freshman year—raising my hand but not as high as I could. This moment of realization changed my approach to everything. My grades became better, my marching was better, I was more positive, and I was focused.
The End of a Dream?
At the end of sophomore year, I earned the opportunity to serve as a drum major for the 2014 to 2015 season.
I spent my junior year marching and conducting, but I was experiencing pain and weakness while backward marching and rolling through my left foot. I dismissed the problems, assuming the ankle was just weaker from surgery and needed to continue to heal. I taped it and wore a brace for support to make it through each show.
When my ankle completely gave out in the summer of 2015 at drum major camp, I knew it was serious. I couldn’t walk. I was assisted off the field and rushed to the orthopedist.
He took one look at the X-ray and told me that there was too much damage. The reconstruction had failed. I was too young to have the ankle fused, and there wasn’t much that could be done. I would never march again.
I couldn’t believe what I had heard—“I will never march again?”
He went on to tell me that I should not even complete my senior year as head drum major. I clenched my teeth, and I felt the lump forming in my throat. I felt angry but couldn’t place the blame. Suddenly, the tears began rolling down my cheeks.
I wasn’t mad; I was heartbroken.
Investing myself in marching band was where I attributed so much of my personal growth, and I was told I had to let it go. My heart was all in on the band, my peers, and the dream of marching in a college band. I couldn’t give up that easily.
My mother and I agreed that if I was never going to march in college, I was at least going to complete my high school career. They fitted me with a new custom brace, and I began physical therapy three times a week with a new determination to strengthen my leg and the rest of me. It was hard, and it was painful, and I glared at my physical therapist while she glared at me, but I was able to climb up on the podium and complete the season.
A Chance to Rebuild
Just a few weeks later, a representative from the all-age Cincinnati Tradition Drum and Bugle Corps reached out to me to say that the program was rebuilding and growing for a new era. He told me they were looking for new drum majors and encouraged me to audition.
I registered, auditioned, and was contracted. There was still a dream, slightly altered, and it was coming true.
The corps director shared a new vision for the group, hoping to place top three at Drum Corps Associates (DCA) finals that year. The corps had been on an upward trend due to the dedication from a world-class administrative and educational staff. They were building a show that would reflect the corps’ new journey.
By the end of the 2016 season, we had won the corps’ first DCA World Championship in Class A. In 2017, we fielded a full Class A corps and took home a second DCA World Championship. This past season, Cincinnati Tradition moved up to Open Class, fielding its biggest corps yet.
Cincinnati Tradition has been through a journey of rebuilding, strengthening, and growth, against all odds, and that is why I love being here. The corps has adapted, endured, and overcome.
Through my opportunity to perform with the group, I have been able to apply much of the same—weight training to gain 20 pounds, working through the challenges, taping up for the show, and always trying to reach … two inches higher.