Oak Forest teen steps up in a (drum) major way
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent January 11, 2013 2:46PM
Josh Wall, Oak Forest High School's Bands drum major, poses at the school in Oak Forest, IL on Friday September 28, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 15, 2013 6:01AM
Josh Wall once was a shy, retiring type of student at Oak Forest High School. He liked playing the saxophone for the band and stayed in the background.
Until a teacher saw his potential, that is.
He isn’t in the background anymore.
Wall, a senior, is in his second year as a drum major. He was shocked last year when he was selected for the position, which would put him front and center, conducting the band.
“The drum major is the leader of the band, right under the director, and has the ability to influence the behavior of others,” said Wall, who was hesitant to take on the job.
“There were seniors who were more musically talented than myself and I wasn’t sure I wanted the responsibility,” he said. “I was always a shy student and not very outgoing. I wasn’t 100 percent sure of myself. I didn’t want to do it. It was forced upon me and I realized I’d do it because I was asked to do it. I believe it is my duty to serve the people.”
Wall, now 18, was in for a surprise.
“I found the seniors respected and trusted my order,” he said. “Now I enjoy being drum major more than playing the sax. People think leaders get all arrogant and cocky, but I understand where I am with everyone.”
Last summer, he attended the Smith Wallbridge Drum Major Camp.
“They gave us a quote — ‘Success breeds success’ — which means I can take an individual who is not performing to his best ability and put him in with ones who are performing to the max of their ability to inspire him to do better. That’s where it starts,” Wall said.
His role model is the late Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs.
“He basically came up with a theory that innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower,” Wall said. “That helped me ... turn around the band program because of a lack of students, but we’re getting more now. From Jobs, I just learned that in order to create something genuinely new you have to start over with the basics from ground zero. Ground zero for me is individual leadership. You trust yourself, then others trust you, and that’s were innovation starts.”
Wall is more outgoing than he was before leadership was thrust upon him. He covers politics for the school newspaper, and he is a Bengal tutor. He plays soccer and works at the park district doing inside maintenance, averaging about 20 hours a week.
“My mom was always involved in the park district. I’ve been there many times and practically grew up there,” he said.
In college, he’d like to pursue a degree in medicine or physical therapy.
“It has always been my passion,” said Wall, who was diagnosed with spondylolysis, a defect of the vertebra in the spinal column, while in middle school.
He went to orthopedic surgeons, a chiropractor and, ultimately, a physical therapist.
“My physical therapist completely turned my life around. I realized that I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” Wall said. “I have a better appreciation for how important physical wellness and overall well-being are.”
He also would like to enroll in the Air Force Reserve Officer’s Training Corps at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He plans to enlist for 20 years after graduation, during which time he would work in medicine.
To that end, he attended a 10-day National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine at UIC over the summer, at the recommendation of his guidance counselor, Jane Ambrose.
“It was an invaluable experience. I got to meet people through a bunch of different perspectives,” he said of the event, which featured five doctors on stage fielding questions from 400 students. “They’d give their success stories and answered questions. The fantastic part was you got five different perspectives for how to go about things.”
There were even presentations by organ donors and recipients.
“Now I want to be an organ donor,” said Wall, the son of Sharon and Dave Wall, of Oak Forest.
Keeping him motivated is his goal to be the best version of himself.
“Ask any of my coaches, directors or teachers and they will say I get very frustrated with myself if I don’t complete a task to perfection,” he said. “That is what motivates me the most.”