These brothers don’t need sight to make sound

Connor Howell playing the cymbals

Cailey Wright

Connor and Cole Howell are twin brothers who seem like any other accomplished college students.

They are heavily involved in their majors and love performing in the Sound of the South marching band. They excel so well in what they do it could be easy to forget that these talented young men are visually impaired.

Their visual impairment is only a small hurdle on the road to success. The brothers can do anything that anyone else can do, just with accommodations.

“I have had a little bit of experience with braille music in high school, but pretty much for now I go by ear,” Connor said. “I have my section leaders send me recordings of the songs so I can practice some ahead of time.”

Conner and Cole are natives of Enterprise, Alabama. Both are in their senior year at Troy. Conner is majoring in broadcast journalism, while Cole is a rehab and disabilities studies major. They both intended to join the concert band or POPulus, but they thought it would be exciting to be a part of the 350 students who pump up the Trojans on Saturdays.

Connor listens for the rhythm when learning his parts for cymbals. From there, he finds the crashes and listens to how they sound.

However, Cole learns his music differently because he plays a different instrument.

“I have become keen to distinguish the different notes, and essentially it’s all about just learning the patterns,” Cole said. 

Cole also pays close attention to the key signatures, which affect the note’s sound. One thing that helps both Cole and Conner learn the music is repetition.

“Once you can play it in your mind, it is easy to incorporate it into the instrument,” Cole said.

The brothers agree that the band program has done a fantastic job accommodating their needs for an amazing musical experience. Cole explained that the biggest obstacle is one that every new member of the band faces.

“Honestly, I think the learning curve is the biggest challenge,” Cole said. “But I figured anything new is challenging.

“Just because it was challenging that, didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to get up and do it.”

Cole urges anyone who is scared to try something new to do it anyway.

“Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new,” Cole said.  “All you got to do is speak up and tell the band staff what you need and they are accepting and willing to help you.

“Never be afraid to step out there, face a challenge and try something different.”

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