“Find your dot,” said Lewis Central band teacher Andy Walters. He is referring to the 110 dots which represent each member of the Lewis Central marching band.
Austin Davis, an ISD junior who plays alto saxophone in the band, engrosses himself in circling his dot, A-8, in 18 different, complex drill sets. All the band members do. All memorize their upside-down series of drills. But only Davis has the challenge of using just his left ear to focus on the music.
“Most of the music I hear is from the instruments close to me,” says Davis, who, during this summer’s band camp, was positioned between other saxophones and flutes. “I have to concentrate hard and watch the other kids to be sure I hit the steps right,” he says. “I watch their fingers on the keys. They use their ears; I use my eyes.”
Davis began band right after fourth grade, just like his Missouri Valley classmates. He enrolled into Iowa School for the Deaf in the middle of his 8th grade year, and enrolled into the Lewis Central band camp at the end of 8th grade.
Marching band is tricky, but confidence has expanded during Davis’s second year. He marched during the home football games and in several of the marching band competitions held throughout Iowa. This will be his third year in large-group concert band as well.
An speaker on a stand over his left shoulder helps him understand the band director’s instructions. Davis’s eyes are usually on his Iowa School for the Deaf interpreter, who follows the energetic Walters throughout the room as he moves from in front of the band to a different wall to show a video, and to various areas within the classroom to work with different sections.
“Austin is such an open-minded student,” said Walters. “He has a great attitude, a strong work ethic and comes to me if there are issues.”
Although Davis is the first hard-of-hearing student Walters has taught, Walters said the learning process for both of them has been simple and they have developed efficient accommodations. Much of the accommodations rely on Davis’s interpreter. Walters also arranges for small group lessons to help Davis focus on the music just for saxophones.
Davis has his own approach to what works in a jam. “If my cochlear implant batteries die, I just march in place and don’t play,” he said. He prefers to hear the notes clearly rather than guess at them, he said.
Aside from band, Davis is on the basketball and football teams at Iowa School for the Deaf and serves on the student council.
This busy Bobcat advises his peers who may be interested in playing an instrument, “You can be in band. Ask people to help you, sign up for some lessons with the teacher. You’ll find a technique that works. Just start the training!”
Band works for Austin Davis.
He has found his “dot.”