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Illness doesnt deter Georgia Southern drum major
Rebekah Daniel continues to lead band at Paulson
Web Southern Pride
Rebekah Daniel leads marching band practice at Georgia Southern University. It has been about a month since the Southern Pride Marching Band drum major discovered she was suffering from a severe case of scoliosis that could have ended her dreams of a career in music. - photo by Special to the Herald

    Standing up straight.
    It's something we're all supposed to do.
    Too often good posture gives way to work stress, relaxing or a small case of laziness.
    But when Georgia Southern takes to the field Saturday at Paulson Stadium against Presbyterian, Rebekah Daniel will be standing tall with pride ... and to her good health.
    It was about a month ago the Southern Pride Marching Band drum major discovered she was suffering from a severe case of scoliosis that could end her dreams of a career in music.
    Instead, the graduate of West Laurens High has taken the news as inspiration and used it as an opportunity to dedicate herself even more to the idea of one day becoming a conductor or music teacher.
    Even as a little girl, Daniel knew she loved music.
    "Every time I got in the car, my parents would turn on the radio and I would always sing along with it," Daniel said. "I was just real interested in getting new music and listening to it."
    Grade school passed by before Daniel took her first shot at joining the middle school band.
    "I remember the reason why I wanted to do it was because I wanted to march at the halftime show," Daniel said.
    But which instrument to play?
    Daniel loved them all (she even asked for a set of drums one Christmas), but band director Michael Dukes had a limited list of options.
    "He said they needed four trombone players," Daniel said. "So me and my friends said, 'Cool.' I like to say trombone chose me, I didn't choose it."
    The years at West Laurens cultivated Daniel's love for music so much that she decided to major in it when college came calling several years later.
    Music camp

    Following her first two years at Georgia Southern, Daniel got a rare opportunity to participate in the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts Summer Arts Camp.
    The camp, located in northern Michigan, is one of the most well known in the world. And it was something that Daniel, who found out about the chance in April, was all too excited about.
    But it was during the camp that Daniel first began paying attention to some occasional back pain that eventually got worse, and worse and worse.
    "I've always had random back pains," Daniel said. "But when I got into college and started playing more my back would get a little painful at times. (Trombone) being such an unbalanced instrument is what bothered it and made it worse.
    "And this summer when I was on stage crew at Interlochen; that didn't help."
    Daniel didn't make any more of the pain and continued to have a dream summer. Less than a month before the start of her junior year, Daniel found out she had secured a position as drum major.
    Scoliosis diagnosis

    Then, everything changed.
    Those pains began to cause numbness in her hands, forcing her parents' hand and sending Daniel to the doctor.
    The diagnosis was shocking.
    The unnatural curvature of Daniel's spine was pinching nerves that were responsible for the pain in her back and numbness in her hands.
    Initially doctors were afraid Daniel would never get to play an instrument again.
    The shock, somehow, began to dissipate.
    And Daniel settled into her new reality with a calm resolve that no diagnosis was going to keep her from continuing to pursue her dream of conducting. Or, for the time being, leading the Southern Pride out onto the field every Saturday in support of the No. 1 ranked Eagles as they continue pursuit of their best Southern Conference start since 2004.
    "It's awesome," Daniel said. "When we're marching, the drum majors march all the way from the RAC ampitheater, through the tailgaters, and into the stadium. It's an electrifying energy that hits you."
    So the little girl who started her musical dream in a car, and continued it in search of a good halftime show, is proud to say she leads one of the best halftime performance bands around.
    "All the fans who come to Paulson (Stadium) are so dedicated and so happy to be there," she added. "And they want to see what Southern Pride's going to do, what the football team's going to do. It's cool to know that it's going to be up to us to provide the musical experience that people are going to take away with them."

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