KCSOS student who is blind selected for Honor Music Band, will perform in annual music festival on Saturday, Feb. 27
The first time Leslie Jaramillo approached Jim Young about joining the school band, the long-time Beardsley Jr. High music teacher was a bit skeptical.
Leslie is blind.
“I have worked with other visually exceptional kids but usually their growth is slow and they eventually give up,” Young said. “I think I expected Leslie to have the same experience.”
Leslie has far exceeded her teacher’s expectations.
“Not only did she continue, she excelled,” Young said. “She is a pretty amazing kid.”
Leslie’s music education started like many kids her age. She picked up a flutophone for the first time in the fourth grade and learned a few notes. But unlike most of her peers, she fell in love with the way it sounded and the way music made her feel.
“I thought, maybe this will be my talent,” Leslie said.
That proved to be true.
Fast forward four years and the now 8th grader has been playing the saxophone for two years and has risen through the ranks from seventh chair to first in Beardsley’s advance band.
She was recently selected to perform in the Honor Music Festival, an annual free concert featuring the best middle school and junior high musicians and singers in Kern County. Students had to prove themselves in demanding auditions and maintain perfect attendance in three weeks of intense rehearsals. The concert begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Rabobank Theater.
“Leslie has an impressive work ethic,” Young said. “Even when things are hard, she keeps working and doesn’t give up.”
She takes her instrument home every day and, based on her progress, comes to practice daily before and after school.
Leslie must play mostly from memorization. But, teachers in her KCSOS-run visually impaired classroom developed a method of brailing music notation. Although it is not an exact process, it gives Leslie a way to review and study her music apart from lessons.
“I believe this has contributed to her success,” Young said.
Young said Leslie’s ability to retain the music she memorizes is quite impressive. She is currently working on three pieces for Beardsley’s festival, in addition to another five pieces that she will perform during the Honor Music Festival.
Leslie is also part of Beardsley’s marching band, which has four undefeated competition seasons to its credit. Young explained that he was concerned at first because training Leslie to stay in step with her peers was a situation he had never dealt with before.
But with plenty of practice and help from the students in her section, Leslie was quick to pick it up.
Leslie’s classroom teacher Estella Brewer says that music has helped give her much more confidence and her grades have improved as a result.
“She is much more motivated to stay on task,” Brewer said. “The last thing she wants to do is let her music teacher down.”