Orangefield's Josh Ferguson is part of the high school band percussion section that adds the beats and rhythms to the Friday night football games. He plays bass drum, xylophone, bells, cymbals and snares. His enthusiasm is obvious. He marches in step, moves to the rhythms and sings the words to the school fight song.

Josh has Down syndrome and is in his second year performing with the Bobcat Band at Orangefield High School. Band director Lonnie Ferrell said he welcomed Josh despite his handicap. 'He started three years ago and did beginning band at the junior high,' Ferrell said. 'When he moved over to the high school, he became part of the high school band.'

Josh has performed at contests, including one at McNeese University in Lake Charles. Ferrell recalls that after the band marched at McNeese, a woman came up to him in the parking lot. She was shedding tears. 'I just want to thank you for allowing that child to be in the band,' she told the band director. The woman has a Down syndrome child.

Ferrell said that apparently in this part of the country, allowing a special needs student to be a part of the band is rare. The band director said he first saw Down syndrome students performing at schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and he was impressed. When Josh's parents, Scott and Gay Ferguson, approached him about Josh being in the band, he was enthusiastic.

Beginning band students first have to choose an instrument. Band directors help steer them toward an appropriate instrument. For instance, the students will blow on mouthpieces of different instruments to show if they have an aptitude for a brass or a reed instrument. Ferrell said Josh was a match for the percussion section. During the halftime shows, the percussion section is in ‘the pit’ area playing as the rest of the band marches and plays. Josh wears the full black and orange uniform and is animated as he plays.

Ferrell said he treats Josh like any other students and the other students have accepted him. They even help watch out for Josh. ‘He’s a joy,’ the band director said. The band isn’t the only music program for Ferrell. He is also the Orangefield choir director. There, too, he has an open policy for performers. Four life skills students are in his choir, he said.

Josh' parents, Scott and Gay Ferguson, are obviously proud to watch Josh perform, but also say how much they appreciate Orangefield High and Mr. Ferrell for accepting him for who he is.

-Margaret Toal, KOGT-