Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 2, 2014

Blind trumpet player from Solon marches on

Oct 31, 2012

SOLON (AP) — A blind 14-year-old trumpet player from eastern Iowa is marching with his high school band thanks to some help from his bandmates.

Jalen Howsare’s eyes were removed when he was 18-months-old, The Gazette reported Monday. Nonetheless, he performed with the Solon High School marching band for the first time in a competition in September.

“You need good bandmates to help you get through it,” Jalen said. “I worked on [marching] more and more until I finally had some idea of where I was supposed to go.”

Jalen’s bandmates figure out where he’s supposed to go and guide him during each song. Whoever is closest puts a hand on the freshman’s shoulder and leads him to the next spot.

“People see how hard he works and there are no excuses,” said senior Lauren Benzing. “If he can do it, they can do it. I think that motivates people to work hard themselves.”

Jalen’s parents noticed his eyes were glassy and overly reflective when he was a baby. Doctors determined he had tumors behind his eyes and in the surrounding fluid — an illness called bilateral retinoblastoma.

He now has prosthetic eyes and is cancer free.

The teen has a teacher for Braille and a mobility coach who helps him learn to get around the school and ride the bus. He’s one of a handful of blind students at Solon but the only one in the band.

Band director Desmond Cervantez says Jalen is “fearless,” and that having him taking part is what the band is all about.

“We really are just a service organization that happens to play music,” he said.

For Jalen, marching with the band is about living life without limits. He plans to go to college to study computer programming and continue to play music.

“Nothing is impossible if you want it enough,” he said.

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