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Jets band helps dream come true for James Clemens student

MADISON – While the Jets earned another great win last week at Madison City Stadium, a dream came true for one James Clemens special needs student.

Elijah Roll, a 10th grader at the school, has always had a passion for music and secretly longed to be included in the Jets Marching Band. Last week he got his chance. Poised behind a cymbal with a pair of mallets in hand, Elijah had the time of his life performing as an honorary band member during the halftime show.

“It was amazing!” Elijah exclaimed as he came off the field following the performance. “I had fun!”

“I just found out a few weeks ago that he has always wanted to be in the marching band,” said his teacher Melanie Collier. “I had no idea. So, I went and asked the band director (Keith Anderson) if it was possible for Elijah to play with the band. His response was ‘absolutely.”

Collier took Elijah to get fitted for a uniform and ready to take the field as a member of the percussion section. The next home game was last Thursday’s match-up between the Jets and Austin.

Decked out in his uniform at the game, Elijah found a tremendous amount of support and help from fellow band members. “They were so great and friendly. They really included him as one of their own,” Collier said.

In fact, during the halftime performance Elijah received an encouraging high-five from a fellow percussionist. One of the other band members stuck by Elijah’s side and helped him to know where to go before and during the halftime show. His name is also Elijah. “These kids have been fantastic. I am blown away,” Collier said.

Elijah played the cymbals, keeping great rhythm, through the band’s “To Rule the Night” halftime show, featuring Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, Van Morrison’s “Moondance”, Debussy’s “Clair De Lune”, Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain”, and Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse from Dark Side of the Moon”.

“We worked it out for Elijah to join us and it’s been great,” Anderson said. “Anytime we can give a student an opportunity to enjoy something like this and have this kind of experience we will do whatever we can to make it work.”

“You did an awesome job,” Anderson encouragingly said to Elijah as he came off the field, and he wasn’t just saying it. Through the entire show, Elijah played on beat and performed cymbal rolls in just the right spots — as if he had been part of the band for weeks.

As a keepsake from his time as an honorary band members, Anderson is letting Elijah keep the gloves he wore as part of the uniform, and a marching band hat with plume.

The greatest reward from Elijah’s performance came through the excitement in his eyes, his smiling face, and his enthusiasm for finally realizing a dream come true. “I’m not a crier, but watching that really brought tears to my eyes. It was amazing,” Collier said.

Elijah says very few words, but has a favorite phrase he says a lot, “uh huh”. When asked time and time again if he was having fun, if he was excited and loved being out there, Elijah’s face would light up and he would say, “uh huh!”

“I am just so proud of him,” Collier added. “He is such a good kid and never gets into trouble. He is always very respectful. He is fantastic.”

“I loved seeing him so excited,” Anderson said. “To see him out there enjoying it and to see our students immediately welcome him into the group, and Elijah having a good time with them – I cannot describe that feeling. It was great.”

“Thank you,” Elijah told Anderson right after the show. Thank you for making the night one this young man will always cherish – and one that those who know Elijah and got to know him through this special experience will cherish as well.

Elijah is the son of John and Sandra Roll, who was in the stands cheering for him. He also has three siblings, two brothers and one sister. Besides music, he also loves basketball and has been playing for a special needs basketball team.

When asked if he was worn out from the night’s activities, Elijah said with a huge smile on his face, “No. I’m too excited.” It was a great night.

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