Emiliano Saldana likes to say music is life, and the drums are his passion.
“I feel like I’m empowered when I have my sticks in my hand,” Emiliano said.
Kids who have cerebral palsy aren’t supposed to be able to play drums in the band, but don’t tell Emiliano, he doesn’t care about preconceptions.
Every step is an effort for someone who uses crutches. Emiliano, however, is navigating high school as well as anyone. He’s a sophomore at Nova High School in Davie, he has a near-perfect GPA, and he plays in the concert and marching bands.
“For him to take it in stride like he does and never complain, if I say hey, I need you to do this, he just does it, it’s pretty amazing to see,” said band director Joshua Bishop. “He’s here every single time, no questions asked, he’s an amazing kid.”
“Every day I have worked hard to like, persevere in my studies and my every-day life,” Emiliano said.
His friends will tell you everyone likes the kid with the crutches, they all see how hard he works to fit in and to succeed in every class.
“They’re inspired by him to do better and to be better,” said Christian Casais, a fellow band member.
“He won’t take his disability as an excuse to say he can’t do something,” added bandmate Amanda Machado.
Emiliano was born premature and doctors told his parents he wouldn’t live long.
“But he’s still here and doing amazing things in our program,” said bandmate Madilyn Bishop. “There’s not a lot of representation for people who struggle in the same way he does and for him to be succeeding the way he is, is really phenomenal.”
Emiliano pictures himself as a doctor, nurse, or therapist one day because his disability, he says, inspires him to help others.
“Maybe God made me this way for a reason, I work hard every day and maybe I’ll be able to change the world for the better,” Emiliano said.
Percussion is all about timing, and for Emiliano or any student with cerebral palsy, time is a precious commodity.
“For example,” Emiliano points out, “what might take the average kid ten minutes takes me 30 minutes and sometimes it’s tough.”
But when the going gets tough, which has been Emiliano’s whole life, he gets going.
“Don’t make excuses, just live, in the present moment, you know, just live,” said Emiliano.