Student's natural talent could lead to music career

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Although Jake Elliott has only been in the Cassville High School marching band for a couple of years, his percussion skills will most likely win him a scholarship to play in the Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) marching band next year.

"Right now I'm just trying to focus on getting out of high school and into college," said Elliott. "I plan to go to MSSU and major in music education with an emphasis in percussion."

Elliott began playing music over six years ago when he joined the Cassville Middle School band. Although he was an extremely talented percussionist, he dropped out of band for a few years.

"The year before last I was in the band room messing around with the instruments and Mr. Lyons came up behind me and said, 'Get in band,'" said Elliott. "So, I thought okay, I guess I will."

Elliott joined the Cassville High School marching band and learned to play every percussion instrument available.

"I can play any percussion instrument you can think of," said Elliott. "The mallet instruments are my favorites though.

"I've always been good at playing percussion instruments," said Elliott. "I have also had the chance to take private lessons with the percussion director at MSSU."

Although Elliott is thankful for his natural talent and enjoys learning from his teachers, he believes his experience in auditioning for district band honors and college scholarships have been the most valuable.

"After you audition, you get a sheet that tells you the mistakes you made and what you need to work on," said Elliott. "I take those judges' comments to heart and work on the things that they suggest until I get them."

Elliott's hard work will pay off this weekend when he travels to Columbia to audition for the All-State band with several other CHS students.

"The most rewarding aspect of band is some of the things that the teacher and others say," said Elliott. "Once, when we didn't have school, I took home an instrument and practiced for six hours straight. I just lost track of time. That's how I am about music.

"When I came back to school, I had a really difficult part of the music memorized and Mr. Lyons was speechless," said Elliott. "It was great."

Besides developing his percussion skills, Elliott strives to become a well-rounded musician by enrolling in an assortment of music classes.

This year, Elliott is enrolled in band, chorale, music appreciation and jazz band. He also serves as a student instructor and band aide at Cassville Middle School.

"I have a lot of respect for teachers because they have to deal with kids who don't really care that much," said Elliott. "If I were to teach later on, I hope I could help them develop a love for music and band."

Although Elliott will graduate this spring, he plans to lend a hand as a student teacher at Cassville's band camp this summer. He is also a member of the Youth Praise Band at First Baptist Church in Cassville.

"Jake is a very smart kid," said Rhonda Cooper, Elliott's mother. "He's not real outgoing, but he loves music and he can play every percussion instrument set in front of him.

"He's never been in trouble. I've never had to worry about him," said Cooper. "Everybody knows him, and everybody talks to him. He's a real likeable kid and has a great future."

When Elliott was born, he was diagnosed with obstructive uropathy, which involves a urine blockage that, over time, injures the kidneys.

Throughout his life, Elliott has had around 15 surgeries, but his kidneys have been progressively damaged.

Elliott's creatinine count has raised over two points in the last five months and now stands at seven, which is only five points away from a count that signifies a full kidney shut down, said Cooper.

On Jan. 3, Elliott was placed on a transplant organ list, and on Jan. 31, Cooper received a call that a kidney was available.

"When they went in to do the surgery, they found that he didn't have a blood vessel large enough to attach the kidney to," said Cooper. "So the kidney went to someone else."

The surgeon in charge of the transplant operation decided he was not qualified to complete the transplant of both a kidney and a blood vessel, so Elliott must now receive the transplant at the Fairview Medical Center at the University of Minnesota.

"They won't put him back on the transplant list, because we are too far away from the medical center," said Cooper. "So I have to find a living donor to take with me."

Cooper began her search for a donor by contacting Elliott's father, who lives in Texas. When members of Elliott's paternal family were tested, physicians found them to have blood type A.

"All of my family is blood type B," said Cooper. "Jake is blood type O. I asked his physician how that can be.

"They directed me to a website that explained that parents with blood types A and B can have children with type O if they have recessive O genes in their family," said Cooper. "Jake's father's mother and my mother were both type O."

Individuals interested in being tested as a possible kidney donor can call Kathy Garvey at 1-800-328-5465 to schedule a test locally.

"The test will be conducted at no charge to the possible donor," said Cooper. "All of the donor's medical expenses associated with the surgery will be covered.

"The donor will be 100 percent well within six weeks of the surgery," said Cooper. "It takes the donor a little bit longer to recover, because they go into the surgery feeling well and come out feeling bad. Jake, on the other hand, doesn't know what it is like to feel healthy so he'll come out feeling better than he has in his whole life."

Individuals interested in donating funds that will help pay expenses associated with the transplant operation or future treatments can donate to Elliott's account, which has been established at Bank of America in Cassville.

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