Feel the beat

Deaf student participates in color guard


Alina Nguyen

Freshman Brandon Harris practices over the summer, putting in hours of work.

By Mandy Huynh, Rider High School

During football season, the sound of loud drums tapping in time can be heard from the practice field across the neighborhood. The loud boom of the metronome is overpowering when approaching the turf. 

However, there is one person on the field who can’t hear the ticking behind them. Freshman Brandon Harris is deaf, but despite this hardship, he marches and spins his flags to the beat of the group. 

When learning marching or guard work, it’s important to be in time with everyone else. Each foot needs to be on the right number of the beat, the flags need to be caught by a specific count and everyone needs to be in sync. 

Hence, Rider color guard directors Nicole Pasley and Jessica Studer had some concerns about Harris keeping up. Their worries were soothed once he got his hands on a flag. 

Paying attention, reading lips and watching other people around him are some of the ways Harris keeps the tempo. His disability makes it difficult for him to start together with the group, along with many other things.  

“It’s harder to keep count or see the band director when my back is turned,” he said. “I try to follow the person in front of me to keep up. I have interpreters, but the field is so big that it’s tough to see them sometimes.”

He’s extremely shy but has a great personality; he’s always happy and if you can get him to talk to you he’s just the happiest person,”

— Nicole Pasley

This isn’t the only challenge Harris faces. The directors and other guard members have to be mindful in communicating with him. A difficulty is finding a way to explain directions to the interpreter so they can sign it easily. He’s also the only boy in the program this year. Despite his differences, the relationship between Harris and the team is strong. 

 “We’ve had boys before, but since he can’t communicate like the rest of us, it creates more of a bond rather than a separation because we have to get close to him to understand how to talk,” senior color guard captain Lilly Studer said. 

It’s easy to see his close relationship with the team due to his friendly personality.

“He’s extremely shy but has a great personality; he’s always happy, and if you can get him to talk to you he’s just the happiest person,” Pasley said.  

Something that really impressed the directors about Harris’ personality was his outlook. 

“He never gives up, he’s hard working and he has one of the most positive attitudes of all time every day,” Jessica Studer said. “I’ve never seen Brandon have a bad day. He’s a 100 percent all the time, he’s always got a big smile on his face; I love that about him.” 

There’s been a lot of different students in the program, but Harris stands out due to his dedication and perseverance. He found a place for himself in the band and color guard. 

“Yes, I am deaf and a boy, but I don’t feel any different than the rest of the team,” he said. 

This story was originally published on The Rider Chronicle on December 16, 2019.