Like many students starting high school, Riley Taborda wanted to try something new. His choice this fall ultimately sprang from an old interest—video games.
Video games led him to marching band?
“I was drawn to this style of music because it’s upbeat,” explains Riley, 15. “And the music and coordination of moves were a lot like the music and quadrants in the video games I play.”
Marching band was new for Riley, as was percussion. He began playing cello in fourth grade, then took up trumpet and, most recently, tuba. Trumpet and tuba weren’t feasible in marching band, because Riley uses crutches to walk as a result of cerebral palsy. Instead, he stood in place to play the tam-tam (a type of gong), triangle, tambourine and suspended cymbal.
The marching band practiced five days a week before school and Monday nights. “The biggest challenges for me were getting up for early morning practices, learning how to stop and start the percussion instruments—and learning how not to drop the mallets while I’m playing,” Riley says. He rides a golf cart to his place on the field but stands throughout performances and competitions. “Just like the rest of the band,” he notes. “I want people to treat me the same as anyone else. I tell them that CP doesn’t stand for cerebral palsy. It stands for Cool Person’s Disease.”
Riley says he enjoys having the band create patterns behind him—but his favorite parts of marching band have involved camaraderie as much as music. “Band camp at the beginning of summer is one of the most fun things,” he says. “So are the bus rides to different competitions—and, of course, the people.” The band did well in competition this year, winning the Wildcat Classic in Omaha, Neb., placing third in New Brighton, Minn., and coming in second in Marshall, Minn.
Although the marching band’s season ended in October, Riley continues to play in the school band. He played tuba at a recent concert and will perform trumpet in jazz band and at pep fests. Cello is on hold for now because it conflicted with other classes. “There’s not enough time to do it all,” he says. “But I want to start up on it again next year.”
Outside of music, Riley participates in Boy Scouts and is a member of Special Olympics teams in softball, basketball, and track and field. He goes to physical therapy regularly to help strengthen his balance and endurance. He’s also undergone multiple orthopedic surgeries, muscle-lengthening procedures, and selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery at Gillette.
“All the surgeries have helped me walk better,” he says. “I hope that pretty soon I won’t need to use my crutches anymore.”