Medina student used challenge to push himself, classmates

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Cameron Morgan earns a full ride to UR

Photos by Tom Rivers – Cameron Morgan was born without a left arm. He didn’t let that prevent him from playing percussion in the marching band and serving as the group’s drum major this year.

MEDINA – About a year ago the announcement was made at the Medina Marching Band’s annual banquet: Cameron Morgan would serve as drum major in 2013-14.

Morgan was a percussionist in the band, playing the marimba. He pulled that off despite only having one arm. And now he would be drum major, setting the pace for the band in parades and competitions.

Morgan, 17, didn’t miss a beat in the role. He was named best drum major of all the schools at the Gorham Pageant of Bands.

Jeff Evoy, the Medina Central School superintendent, recalled Morgan’s speech to the band about a year ago, after he was named drum major. Evoy said it was one of the best addresses he has ever heard, a call to take pride in the marching band, the school and the community.

“It was all about having high expectations for success,” Evoy recalled.

The Medina Marching Band had won the previous four state championships. But Morgan said the group of 130 musicians could do better. The band extended its streak to five straight state championships this school year.

“The band program is truly an incredible thing,” Morgan said during an interview this week. “Every band member is invaluable. There is no bench in the band program. There is no one waiting to replace you. You are a crucial part of something much bigger.”

Cameron Morgan leads the band last September during a rainstorm at Vets Park.

Morgan will graduate tonight ranked fifth in his class. He has a full ride at the University of Rochester where he will be a renaissance and global scholar. He wants to try out for the Eastman School of Music to play marimba. He developed a technique where he can hold three mallets at once in his right hand.

“The U of R provides a wealth of opportunities outside the classroom as well as inside,” he said.

Morgan plans to be involved in the Model United Nations, the Debate Team and student government. He said he may pursue a career as a lawyer, in public policy or another role in the government.

He was born on the Fourth of July in 1996, missing his left arm. Morgan doesn’t bemoan that fate.

“It’s forced me to work harder,” he said. “I don’t consider it a disability. It’s all I have ever known.”

“I’ve learned that people are different and there’s nothing strange or awkward about that.” – Cameron Morgan

He gets some stares at the band competitions, and he knows some people are curious. He tried youth sports, but never liked it much and not because he was missing an arm.

“I’m a little too laid back,” he said. “When I played soccer, I wasn’t too aggressive.”

He felt at home with the marching band, joining as a seventh grader. It can be overwhelming that first year, meeting the demands of the program, learning the music and marching formations.

Photo by Sue Cook – Cameron Morgan, right, plays the Baker in a combined Lyndonville-Medina musical production of “Into the Woods.” He was joined on stage in March by the Witch (Heather Mufford) and the Baker’s wife (Rebekah Hoffee).

“The band program sets a high bar for excellence,” Morgan said. “The band program shows kids that their potential is limitless if they set their minds to it. It’s very demanding but it’s invaluable and absolutely worth the effort and stress. Through my experiences with band and music, it made me realize I have as much potential as anyone else.”

Morgan’s birth defect likely made him more sensitive to others, he said. If he sees someone in a wheelchair, he looks them in the eyes and doesn’t fixate on the chair.

“I’ve learned that people are different and there’s nothing strange or awkward about that,” he said.

Evoy said Morgan has been a role model in the school.

“Cameron is a true leader,” the school superintendent said. “He’s a caring young man. I’m extremely proud of him and we expect great things from him.”

Morgan said he would like to reach out to children and others with disabilities to show them they can still achieve – with lots of hard work.

“Much more than the circumstances is your perception of the circumstances,” Morgan said. “I feel I’ve been very fortunate.”

Click above to see a video of Cameron Morgan playing the marimba.