As his extended family gathered around the table for dinner last Christmas, Ben Brock received one final present. It was a scrapbook, each page adorned with photos of him as a child and handwritten notes from his relatives. Then, on the last sheet, the names of his mother, sister, uncles and aunts appeared, with a dollar figure next to each.
Those numbers reflected the money they had pledged to send Ben, 16, almost as far from his home in Seattle as it was possible to go within the continental United States. At the end of that journey lay the dream he had nurtured since watching the movie “Drum Line” in sixth grade: to become part of the Marching 100, the renowned band at Florida A&M University.
So on a gauzy gray morning seven months later Ben and his snare drum strode onto the dewy grass of the band’s practice field on the Tallahassee campus. He had been awakened at 5 a.m. and the day’s last rehearsal would not end until 10 p.m. His feet screamed. His shoulders ached. Gnats swarmed around his face, daring him to break rhythm and lose composure.