Blind since age four, ECHS senior Austin Wegmann found his home in marching band

Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 2:34 PM EDT
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EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The Effingham County High School Marching Band is made up of roughly 200 members.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a student work as hard as he does,” says ECHS band director Will Alford.

As you watch them move and play it can be hard to tell one from another.

“Austin is a great guy. He’s really good at trumpet,” says a fellow band member.

But as they work to seamlessly blend together, it’s clear one of them is a bit of a standout.

“He is one of the hardest workers I know. He’s really nice to everyone. He makes an effort to be that way,” says ECHS band member Kendall.

They’re talking about Senior Austin Wegmann who loves music.

“In my opinion that’s the best universal language there is,” and Austin speaks it fluently.

“He’s been an incredible blessing to our program,” Alford says.

While he plays and moves with the best of them to get to where he is today was no easy feat.

“I’m the first blind kid that’s come through the county’s school system. So, I’ve had to pave the way over the years,” says Wegmann.

Austin has been blind since he was only four years old.

Although you might think that would hold him back, those who know him say it’s actually the opposite.

“He wants to make his visual impairment almost an advantage to him,” Alford said.

In doing so, inspiring those around him.

“He has to memorize every single piece of music he plays, and he memorizes it well before most of the other students have learned anything. His work ethic pushes the people in his section and the band as a whole to perfect their craft,” says Alford.

Memorizing music is one thing but marching without seeing is another.

“I had to learn exactly how to move my feet, how to move my legs, because it has to be exact, it can’t just be close because we compete,” Wegmann explains.

To do that, he gets a helping hand.

“The person you have to thank the most is my guide (Kendall). She gave up three years of playing just so she could march with me. If it wasn’t for her I couldn’t have done this,” says Wegmann.

But if you ask her, “it’s literally been the most fun I’ve had in marching band, working with him.”

So, although Austin can’t see, it seems he’s always had a clear vision of exactly where he could go.

“Out here everyone can see. Everyone can read music, look at feet and it’s not as hard for them. For me, I said, ‘whatever, I have to find a way to do it because I want to.’ If you really want to do something figure out a way, there is one. You just have to shuffle the cards you’re dealt and play them right.”