October 13, 2015 11:15AM
Stephanie Robinson was born with a cyst on her brain that affects the motor skills on the right side of her body. But don’t make the mistake of thinking of this energetic Pittsburg State freshman music major as someone with a disability.
“I think of it as an opportunity,” Robinson said, flashing a contagious broad smile, “because I get to venture out and do something new, something that I really like.”
In her first semester as a Gorilla, Robinson, from Uniontown, Kan., has tackled the challenges that freshmen face with all of the optimism and determination that people who know her have come to expect. That includes securing a spot in the Pride of the Plains Marching Band.
Robinson said she has loved music since she began singing in the choir in first grade.
“Once I picked up a French horn in sixth grade, I fell in love with it and I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Robinson said.
Robinson played French horn, using only her left hand, through high school and marched with the Uniontown High School Band. For years, she had her sights set on being a member of the Pride of the Plains Marching Band. That she has come this far isn’t a surprise to Doug Whitten, director of the Pride of the Plains.
“I’ve known Stephanie a long time,” Whitten said. “I knew her, actually, before she started playing horn. I’ve seen her be told, ‘No, you really can’t play the French horn,’ and her become really quite solid at it. I’ve seen people say, ‘No, you can’t be in marching band,’ and her make it work. She is a very strong-willed young lady.”
Whitten said that although he could draw up halftime routines that would be less challenging for Robinson, “she absolutely refuses any accommodation.”
Whitten and Robinson both laugh about one of Whitten’s efforts to make life in the Pride of the Plains easier for Robinson.
“I spent about three weeks engineering a harness to carry the horn for her, just to help her out physically,” Whitten said. (Because Robinson is unable to hold the horn with her right hand, she must both hold it and depress the valves with her left hand.) “It ended up not working because her body movement caused (the horn) to bounce around too much.”
“It didn’t quite work out,” Robinson said with a chuckle, “but the thought was there and that’s what counts.”
“It’s been really inspiring having Dr. Whitten as a professor,” Robinson said, “because he cares for all of his students. He has helped me figure out ways to stay on the field and feel involved when sometimes it’s a little harder.”
Robinson has big plans for her future. At PSU, she sings in the choir and plays in the wind ensemble and hopes to earn a spot in the orchestra. Eventually, she dreams of earning a doctorate in music and would like to teach.
Whitten said he’s betting on Robinson to achieve her ambitious dreams.
“I think she’s going to get there because of her will,” Whitten said. “She’s a strong young lady.”
Robinson said being a Gorilla is all about opportunities.
“It’s an opportunity one, to show people that anything is possible,” Robinson said. “No matter what happens, there are always possibilities. And it gives me the opportunity to overcome things that I never really thought I could.”