Monday, November 24, 2008

Visually impaired musician plays by...memory!

Camon Tackett’s friends know that he doesn’t like them because they’re wearing the coolest designer fashions or sporting the latest hairstyle. That’s because Camon Tackett’s friends know that the 14-year old eighth grader is blind.What Camon Tackett’s friends also know is that Camon is one great musician.Even though he’s only in the eighth grade at Madison Middle School, Camon began playing the trumpet in the Scott High school band this summer.And not just any band – the marching band.

For Camon, who uses a cane for mobility and reads and writes using Braille, playing the trumpet is not quite the challenge that many might assume.That’s because Camon has almost perfect pitch, according to Scott High School Band Director Gene Mills.“We don’t have music sheets in Braille, so he learns the music by ear and then memorizes it,” Mills said.When Mills learned that one of his young musicians was unable to see, he gave Camon the option of either participating with the marching band on the field or sitting on the sidelines.

Camon chose what most young men his age would – to experience the camaraderie of his fellow musicians on the field.“When he made his decision, I then spent many restless nights that summer trying to figure out what to do. How was I going to do this? I called around and asked other band directors I knew,” Mills said.The advice he received included a few opinions that it would be better to have Camon “sit out” from field shows.This led Mills to doing something usually reserved for his students – Mills did a bit of research.

And what he discovered online was a possible solution to his conundrum.He found a school in the eastern United States that had a blind student participating in their marching band.“I came across this school’s web site, I think it was somewhere in Connecticut, and the students of the school – not the school itself – but these students who were so proud of their fellow band member, posted the story online,” Mills recalled.Camon has his own story which begins right here in Boone County, and he is not shy or awkward in sharing it with others.

Camon says he was born blind and with many medical complications and has learned how to navigate through the school using a cane.Camon took this reporter on a walk through the halls of his school, lightly moving the cane back and forth along the floor while stopping at times to run his hands along the wall to get his bearings.“We’re almost there,” he said, as he leads us to the water fountain.When you get a chance to sit down to speak with Camon, it is evident that this young man truly enjoys music.“I also play the piano and the autoharp,” he says, sharing that he often plays the piano in church.

“I play by ear because I can hear it. My dad taught me. I was about 3-years old when I started,” he said.“I also like to sing songs by the Eagles,” Camon shares, smiling as he says, “Me and Mr. Miller, we both like to sing the Eagles.”With the 70s in their respective place, it is the music of Kenney Chesney and Brad Paisley who has captured this young musician’s ears.“I got to go see Kenney Chesney and went backstage,” the 14-year says enthusiastically.Adventure seems to be Camon’s middle name, as he shares stories about his many trips. One memorable trip was to Space Camp in Alabama.“The best part was riding the simulator. There was no gravity at all. I went to space camp for a week and that was a lot of work. It was 7 to 3, 3 to 11, 11 to 7,” Camon says, quoting one of his favorite singers.

Like most eighth graders, when asked what he wants to do when he grows up, he said he wasn’t sure, adding at the last moment, “I know I’m not working in the coal mines.”Humor is not lost on this 14-year old young man who has overcome many challenges in his young life.Camon’s daily routine consists of core subjects, such as Social Studies, Math, Keyboarding, Reading and Writing.Unlike other eighth graders, Camon learns a few of these subjects using a Braille machine that he calls, “the brailler.”“I read with my fingers, like this,” Camon says, as he gently runs the tips of his fingers over raised dots on a piece of paper.

He also marches a bit differently than the other students.“The director discovered a technique where the student who is blind touches raised elbows with fellow band members as they perform,” teacher Rebecca Grubbs stated.“I march with my elbows up and its a little bit hard but I can still hold them up,” he said.The next time you are at a Scott High school sporting event and the band is performing for you during their half time show, take a moment and try to spot Camon.

Odds are you may not be able to find him.“The director discovered a technique where the student who is blind touches raised elbows with fellow band members as they perform,” teacher Rebecca Grubbs stated. “After Camon dons his uniform and hat, it is almost impossible to distinguish him from other band members on the field.”

Contact Joanie Newman at or 304-369-1165.


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