Calob Byrd plays the symbols during the band’s halftime performance at a fall football game. Byrd said his favorite music to play right now is Christmas music. (Brenna McLoughlin)
Calob Byrd plays the symbols during the band’s halftime performance at a fall football game. Byrd said his favorite music to play right now is Christmas music.

Brenna McLoughlin

Same song, unique beat

December 10, 2021

Instilled in every member of the Rider Band is a love for music. True joy comes from daily practice in order to ensure a pristine performance under the Friday night lights. 

Just as the band provides for the kids, the favor is returned back. Each member brings something to the table, whether that be unmatchable skill or just overwhelming positivity. 

For one member, however, the opportunity to contribute to the Pride of the Raiders means so much more. Sophomore Calob Byrd has overcame tremendous obstacles to be a part of what he loves with those who believe in him. 

“They accept him,” said Calob’s mother, Christy Fox. “They are really welcoming and I think it really makes a big difference to him.”

GROWING UP

At two-and-a-half years old, while attending speech therapy, Calob was diagnosed with autism. He was placed in the Cunningham ECI Autism Program at 3. Though he was non-verbal as a child, he now speaks as well as plays musical instruments. 

Calob has been raised as a single child by Fox. Though he doesn’t have siblings, he has lots of cousins and loves to spend time with his family.

He loves everything Disney and can even do a few impressions. He loves animals and has a large collection of animal figures he will gladly tell you about.

Calob Byrd poses by a statue at a family vacation. (Contributed)

When asked about how it’s different raising a kid with autism, she tells people, “This is all we know, I don’t think it’s that different. You love them, teach them right from wrong and want them to be independent.”

Calob has been in band since seventh grade at McNiel Middle School. There were initial worries about how he’d be able to handle certain situations, but those have dissolved. 

“We used to have issues with transitions,” Fox said. “Like into big groups so we didn’t know if (being in band) was going to work or not.” 

A MEMBER OF THE BAND

Since joining the band his freshman year, he has grown monumentally not only skill-wise, but developed as a person as well.

“Starting out last year, he was very shy and kind of kept to himself,” section leader Megan Smith said. “But as he has grown and gotten used to us, he’s really gotten to where he is talking to us, working with us, asking questions and becoming comfortable with the group.”

During performances, there are certain adjustments made so Calob feels more confident when he plays. The most important are his sound-canceling headphones, so he can block out excessive noise around him and focus in on his instrument. 

He is given a little extra space to move around, as he is so thrilled about playing he will jump around out of excitement. Some of his music is adjusted slightly, specifically during the spirit line, to quarter notes. 

Most important is the support of his family, who travel to every away game just in case Calob needs a little extra moral support. As much as Calob appreciates his family coming, they wouldn’t miss it for the world. 

“I love it. It makes me so happy like his accomplishments,” Fox said. “And he started out, when he was 4 he started out non-verbal so he wasn’t talking, and now he can talk and play music and it’s a lot. He’s come a long way.” 

Being a percussionist is more than just banging a drum to a beat. There are a lot of technical abilities required to perform that Calob possesses.

There are about 10-20 different instruments associated with percussion. Calob plays the symbols and bass drum, which require playing by ear. 

Besides band, Byrd is also a member of the men’s choir. (Contributed)

He contemplates the best way to approach his instruments and with what technique. Calob is good about asking questions when help is needed, which is essential to become better at anything. 

“It’s easy to make a sound on the instrument, but it’s hard to make a good sound on the instrument,” assistant band director Thomas Borgman said. 

Byrd enjoys walking down the halls before the pep rallies, but he said his favorite band activity was electronica. 

“He did electronica last year and loved it,” Fox said. “That’s his absolute favorite part of band.” 

INSPIRATION TO ALL

Not only does Calob make an impact in a musical aspect, but he inspires those who interact with him on a daily basis. In just three semesters at Rider, evident achievement has been noticed. 

“Caleb has become much more independent,” band director Loy Studer said. “He’s always got a positive attitude, always on time, always takes care of his stuff. He is a good member and does what he is supposed to do and is very enthusiastic. We love that.” 

 In his section, Calob boosts everyone’s moods daily, bringing a light to the small group. 

“I think he always has such a great attitude,” Smith said. “He really just brings positivity to the group and has so much fun.”

Just as the band has made a crucial impact on his life, he makes a huge impression on the rest of the band as well.

“I really do think people value Calob and when they see him working really hard it makes them want to work that much harder,” Borgman said. “He does a fantastic job of staying with the group and being with the group and present in the moment, way better than some of our other students. 

“He is really good about being comfortable with the group, and I think people really start to pick up on that, and it helps build that positive progression we are making in the music. It keeps the atmosphere fun and light-hearted. We really benefit from having him here.”

 

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Olivia Davenport, Editor-in-Chief

If you pass the newspaper room and hear a mix of 70s rock, indie pop and Taylor Swift blaring, that's probably because Davenport is auxing . She loves...

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