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Drumming his way to a college degree

A desire to receive higher education becomes a reality for Raemon Wilson
  • Raemon Wilson.

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: May 29, 2013

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With doctors, accountants and successful business owners in his family, Raemon Wilson knew one thing and it was that he wanted to be just as successful or even better, than his family members. To do that he knew he needed to obtain higher education and was looking forward to attending college after graduating Government High School — but reality set in. He was accepted into a number of schools, but he simply could not afford the tuition. Press fast forward on the story of his life by three years, and Raemon is proud that he has completed his freshman year at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) and is an honor roll student to boot.

“When I came to NEO, in the fall of 2012 that was a big thing for me. I was so thankful I was actually in college,” said Raemon who is at home for summer break. He said he had many days during his first year where he just sat and thought about actually being in college. Especially after he said he had literally given up after sitting at home for two years after graduating high school and trying to figure out how he would be able to pay for a college if accepted.

It all changed in January 2011. He got a call from Freeport from the mother of his cousin who attended NEO and told him the school was in need of people for their band and music program. Raemon immediately made an audition video and emailed it. The scholarship the band director offered the 20-year-old was a near full scholarship, and he jumped at the opportunity.

Raemon posted a perfect 4.00 Grade Point Average (GPA) after his first semester. He fell off in his second semester to a 3.46 GPA. He chalks the fall-off to the fact that he took 19 credits in his second semester versus 16 hours in his first semester.

The one thing he does know is that he has to work as hard as he can during his junior college years and use the two years as a stepping stone to get into better colleges. He has plans to get a doctorate degree. He wants to use his degree to teach eventually. But long term he wants to open a percussion school at home, exposing people to all sides of percussion from marching band to concert band, stage band, native stuff and African as well as Latin music.

The son of Leon Wilson Sr. and Ramona Wilson says he definitely would not have been able to attend college, had it not been for his scholarship.

“When I graduated high school it was very important for me to go off to school, especially as I had an older brother who graduated with honors from Shaw University [in North Carolina] and he was an inspiration and that’s what I wanted,” he said. “But I was out of high school for two years. I was seriously getting disappointed. As the last of four children, and all of my siblings are successful, all but one has a college degree and she’s still very successful at her job and has a very good position, I wanted to do just as well as they did and better.”

For Raemon, a general music major, he said it wasn’t hard to get himself back into the frame of mind to study.

“I just had that desire to go off to school and to do whatever it took, so it wasn’t a struggle for me to get back into the school mode because I know what I’m there for, and that this is a one-time chance for me and I know I can’t mess it up. On top of that I have a lot of people in my family, especially on my mother’s sides who have degrees and are doctors, accountants, have degrees in computer science and own their own businesses and are very successful — and all of that ran through my mind.”

With an aunt, principal Helen Johnson in Andros, whom he said cracks the educational whip with her children, her nieces and nephews, he said he knows that he has to do well.

“Education is proof to show what you have done with your life. It’s mental certification,” said Raemon.

He admits that he was not as focused on education in high school, just barely making the honor roll. He says he knew he could do better than he did, but said he has grown up and realizes the importance of an education.

He’s also a young man who says music meant everything to him in high school, and that he could always be found in the band room. It’s his drum-playing skills that are now paying for his education. He said college is tough, but that he’s embracing the challenges, including his struggles with math and English.

He has been made the vice-band president with which comes responsibilities to back up the president — ensuring the band members gets everything in order; that everybody gets in their music; that they are practicing their music and in line during practice.

“We make sure that the disciplinary part of the practice isn’t so much a burden on the band director and he can spend more time directing rather than disciplining,” said Raemon.

He also says the music has given him more discipline.

“The theory isn’t something you have to learn just to get an A [grade] in class, it’s something you have to know because you have to teach it. Through music I learned to pay more attention in class for me.”

He’s had to be disciplined to do as well as he did in his first year, because there were many days during that first year that he said he found himself in the band room practicing sometimes until 3-4 a.m. and having to get to a 9 a.m. class for a subject like math that was tough on him, and also complete his homework.

His main instrument is the drum set, but during his first year at NEO he said he played the multi tenor; Lat percussion, conga drums and bongos. He also played auxiliary percussion and African drums like the rope-tuned skin-covered goblet drum known as the Djembe and the Doumbek.

Raemon said for as long as he could remember he’s always had an interest in music having grown up around it and his interest has always been the drums. He played in the Church of God of Prophecy marching band from age seven to age 12. He started to learn to play the piano, but lost interest. He also played with the Bahamas All-Star Band from 2010-2012.

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