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COLUMBIA CITY â€”The beat of the drums resounded in the band room as 16-year-old Whitko High School sophomore Jalen Gregory displayed his musical talent.
In Jalenâ€™s eyes, the drums produce a self-expressing beat, giving his audience the opportunity to peer deeper into his character and learn more about him through music.
â€śWhen I play the drums I want people to not just listen, but to feel it,â€ť said Jalen. â€śI want people to know who I am through my music.â€ť
The strength of will it took Gregory to master his drum kit is paled by the determination he has shown in battling medical challenges that began when he was just a toddler.
When he was two years old, he had a growth on his tongue, and the doctors believed it was cancerous. The cancer medicine Jalen took for his tongue affected his legs, and his ability to walk started diminishing.
Sixteen surgeries later, twelve on his tongue alone, Jalen said he is able to run and feels like he is getting back to normal.
Ever since Jalen was seven, playing the drums has helped him build his self-confidence, as he endeavors to continue learning the many complexities of the instrument.
â€śSometimes I would feel like I canâ€™t do a lot, but when I play the drums, people would tell me, man youâ€™re awesome, and I would say thank you,â€ť said Jalen.
Other than playing in the school band since he was in the sixth grade, Jalen is also involved in Jazz Band, an after school group he had to audition for.
â€śWe do different venues and stuff,â€ť said Jalen. â€śI think our directors are planning on going to retirement homes because they really like jazz music.â€ť
Outside the practice Jalen receives from school, he particularly enjoys playing Christian music for his praise team at New Life Christian Church and World Outreach in Warsaw.
Gregory said he believes playing the drums with his family and other participants at services held Wednesdays and Sundays is exactly what he is meant to do.
â€śI believe itâ€™s my calling,â€ť said Jalen. â€śWhen I play at church, I play with all I have and the Holy Spirit plays through me.â€ť