Baritone band member breaks barriers at Columbia High School

It’s common for kids with disabilities to feel frustrated or alone. However, Ja’Kolby Averette is marching to the beat of his own drum or his own baritone.
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 7:36 PM CDT
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COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) - It’s common for kids with disabilities to feel frustrated or alone. However, Ja’Kolby Averette is marching to the beat of his own drum or his own baritone.

Averette is a Columbia High School marching band member, showing how “different” only translates to exceptionally unique.

“I like it because I actually get to march,” he said.

Doctors diagnosed Averette with cerebral palsy, or CP, as a child. Now, at age 14, he’s taken on many roles despite his disability, becoming a member of the high school band and manager of the football team.

Cerebral palsy affects movement, balance and muscle tone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1 in 345 children in the United States have CP.

“At first, I was going to quit band, and they said hold on because they were making me an instrument at the time, and I didn’t know about it,” said Averette.

Band Director Leslie Fortenberry met Averette in the summer of his 5th-grade year. She said she enjoyed watching him grow and made some calls to Wes Lee, a Pine Belt music shop owner, to start working on a revamped instrument for Averette to be able to march.

“We were talking about what can we do for Ja’Kolby, to find him an adequate horn,” said Fortenberry. “And we just started walking around the (shop), and we saw Wes Lee. We walked over to him, saying, ‘What can you do to make a left-handed baritone?’ because that’s not something that’s common.

“It took him a week or two to figure out exactly what he wanted to do. Then he came and got two of our baritones, combined them together and created what (Averette’s) marching with now.”

Tyronica James, Averette’s mother, said she feels amazed that others made accommodations for her son.

“When I first saw it, I just cried because it really touched me,” she said. “(Averette) was amazed, and I said, ‘You can’t quit. They did all of this for you. You cannot quit.’

“I always motivate him. With his limitations, I always try to encourage him to keep going. It’s times where we go through things alone, and I look at him, and he’s like my motivator because he never gives up.”

Averette said he refuses to let his disability define who he is as a person, persevering through challenges in hopes of being an inspiration to others. e wants to start his own YouTube channel to showcase to others that anything is possible

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