When the Altoona Area Junior High School varsity marching band steps out, Taylor Carini of Altoona is right in line playing his trumpet - maybe even one of his favorite songs, the theme song from the film "Rocky,'' "Gonna Fly Now.''
There wouldn't be anything unusual about the 14-year-old trumpeter except for the boy who follows closely at his elbow. The boy following him is his brother, Jordan, a fifth-grader. He wouldn't usually be in the marching band, but he's there to help his big brother march in formation.
Taylor, an eighth-grader, needs someone to guide him around the field because he's been visually impaired since birth, said his father, Todd Carini.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Taylor Carini, 14, plays his trumpet with the Altoona Area Junior High?School marching band, while his brother, Jordan, 10, helps him march during pre-game festivities on Oct. 25.
Jordan holds Taylor's elbow and marches with him.
Kent Martin, who directs the AAJHS varsity band, said it was challenging to include Taylor in the drill, the band's movements on the field. But they've worked it out by having Jordan, who also plays the trumpet, be Taylor's guide on the field for all pregame and halftime performances.
"We have issued his brother a band uniform so he blends with other members, and it has worked out quite well,'' Martin said.
Todd Carini said Taylor was born missing his right eye and his left eye never developed fully. He wears prosthetics in both eyes. He reads Braille and learned to like music from his mother, Joy, who plays the piano.
When Taylor was in the fifth grade, elementary teachers suggested he take up the trumpet because he could play the instrument with one hand and read the Braille music with the other hand.
"We were excited when he started the trumpet because we thought it was something that he could do,'' Todd Carini said.
Taylor was eager to try, and he went on to join the elementary jazz group. He also sings with the school chorus and was a member of both the junior varsity marching band and the junior varsity jazz band last year.
Taylor said he really likes playing the trumpet, whether it's in the marching band or playing in the jazz group. One of his favorite jazz band songs is the theme song of TV's "Hawaii Five-O.''
"I just like the sound of the trumpet; I'm not really sure why,'' he said. "It just has a nice sound that I like.''
Taylor said he appreciates how Jordan helps him march around the field. He said Jordan and his other brother, 9-year-old Andrew, also help him out in a lot of other ways, such as by getting things for him at night. The boys have one sister, Ashley, who's 6.
Todd Carini said that like most children, the siblings have their arguments, but they are all very close. When Taylor wanted to march in the band and they were trying to figure out how, Jordan was right there to help.
"He volunteered for it,'' Todd Carini said.
The other students in the band are equally supportive of Taylor, Carini said.
"They just flock over him. They really love him,'' he said.
Martin agreed, saying that the other students in the band have been "extremely helpful."
"It has been a positive learning experience for all involved,'' Martin said.
Taylor isn't the first physically challenged student in the band, Martin said. The band has also had a silk corps member who was hearing impaired.
"In that case, we had a person show the routine count in sign language,'' Martin said.
But overcoming the little obstacles such as having someone sign to the silk corps member or having Jordan march along with Taylor are just tiny speed bumps and easily managed.
The end result is well worth it, Martin said.
"The best reward is seeing one person help another for no reason other than their help is needed,'' he said. "Perhaps, we could all be a little better at that.''