Marching On: Student Who is Deaf Shines on the Woodson Drumline

By Office of Communication and Community Relations
October 26, 2022

Under the Friday night lights at Woodson High School, the excitement mounts as the Cavalier football team prepares to take the field. In the stands, the Woodson marching band is outfitted in their blue and white uniforms, ready to hype up the crowd for the big game. But for one member of the marching band, there’s an additional piece of equipment needed to perform: a cochlear implant. Michael Gouin, a junior at Woodson HS, is completely deaf, but you wouldn’t know as you listen to him play his snare drum. 

“I’ve been playing for about four years,” said Michael. “Other instruments have different sounds and it’s very hard for me to hear. The drum only has one sound. It’s louder than other instruments, so it works well for me.”

Two drumsticks in hand and a cochlear implant tucked behind his right ear, Michael is on beat with the rest of the drumline. He keeps an eye on an erasable white board at the front of the group with written instructions. During his second year in the marching band, Michael has found a system that works, but not without challenges. 

“Last year I was in the pit. We didn't move around,” explains Michael. “Now I’m on the drumline and it’s very difficult compared to the pit because we have to move around and look at the drum major at the same time. It’s very challenging, but that’s why I like it.”

The Woodson drumline marches to the football field.

The pit, or a stationary group of percussionists, was Michael’s assignment during his first year in marching band. But he wanted to go one step further for his junior year and tried out for the drumline.

“It’s been a real growing experience for me as a teacher,” said Woodson Band Director Aaron Morgan. “I went from being a little skeptical to seeing that it’s 100% fine. It’s been great seeing him fulfill his dream of marching with a snare drum. It’s cool to see him get so excited and work really hard at it.”

Last year, Michael requested the assistance of an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for football games, but now that he’s more familiar with the process, he no longer requires an interpreter for game performances. The interpreters do attend band practice to help Michael learn new music or choreography. 

“I love when students get involved in extracurricular activities,” said Woodson ASL interpreter Alice Maggio. “It gets them involved with a new group of students and it’s a great opportunity for everyone. We also travel with them to competitions so that’s always very exciting.”

Michael and one of the Woodson interpreters, Alice Maggio.
Michael Gouin and Alice Maggio, an ASL interpreter at Woodson HS. 

Michael hopes to continue drumming in a college marching band, and eventually hopes to join the Baltimore Marching Ravens, the largest musical organization associated with the National Football League (NFL). He hopes younger generations of deaf or hearing-impaired students will follow his lead and pursue their dreams. 

“Being deaf doesn’t mean you can't do it,” said Michael. “You can do anything you want no matter what your disability. You are still a normal person. You’re the same as anyone else. We’re all the same.”

UPDATE: After hearing his story, the Baltimore Marching Ravens recognized Michael's hard work and musical accomplishments with a gift at the December 12th concert. 

Michael received a gift from the Baltimore Marching Ravens.

Learn more about FCPS Services for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. 

Learn more about the W.T. Woodson Band.

Michael plays on the drumline for Woodson HS.