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Two-of-a-kind Olathe students earn national band honors

Carolyn Culp (left) and Marisha Madhira have been awarded places in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Marching Band. Culp plays the mellophone and Madhira plays the clarinet in the Olathe North Screamin’ Eagle Marching Band.
Carolyn Culp (left) and Marisha Madhira have been awarded places in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Marching Band. Culp plays the mellophone and Madhira plays the clarinet in the Olathe North Screamin’ Eagle Marching Band. Special to the Star

You’d think the aligned Olathe teenage stars must have joined in a childhood pact years ago.

We’ll choose the same high school and the same honors program. We’ll both pursue biochemistry and plan to study pre-med in college.

And, to top it off, as seniors at Olathe North High School, we will both audition and win slots — Kansas’ two slots — on an elite national all-star marching band.

Carolyn Culp and Marisha Madhira forever.

They laughed at the idea. While the two scholar musicians have bonded like long-conspiring friends, their common goals came together as much by chance as the circumstances that led them to the instruments they now play so well.

They were in different elementary schools in the fifth grade — the year many school districts introduce children to band.

Culp, who comes from a musical family, thought she might like the French horn.

Madhira, whose parents at most maybe sang a little along the way, had a broken hand at the time her school was divvying up instruments. The clarinet was the only one she could manage.

They didn’t dwell over it much because neither imagined band as a lasting proposition.

That obviously changed, considering that an auditorium full of schoolmates were standing and cheering Wednesday morning and a uniformed U.S. Army officer was crowning their induction into the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Marching Band while onlooking family members gushed.

“These are very driven kids,” said Olathe North band director Justin Love.

Even as they arrived as freshmen, they had left their elementary school musical shyness far behind.

“You could tell they had the desire to push themselves musically,” Love said.

Madhira kept on the clarinet and Culp on the French horn and its marching band variation, the mellophone.

Olathe North had considered itself already on a good streak, having gotten one performer from the school into the All-American Bowl band each of the past three years.

Both Culp and Madhira, during middle school and early high school years, were inspired and turned on the focus that would deliver their school two All-American honorees this time around.

Madhira remembered a band festival day when middle school players performed with the high school concert band. The top high school performers astonished her. She talked with a few afterward and marveled at their devotion.

“The notes weren’t just ink on a page,” Madhira said. “It’s emotional. You can put your life into music.”

Culp remembered when she was a freshman hearing the music of one of the first Olathe North students to win a spot on the national band.

She craved the same kind of sound. She chased after her emotions in music, lifting her passion.

“I’m always challenging myself,” she said. When all the work pays off in music, “I feel a euphoria,” she said. It’s a feeling that “I’ve got this.”

Getting into the national band was not easy. They had to practice and record themselves in an audition video, marching prescribed steps while playing assigned music, send other musical highlights and give a personal testament to their leadership and ambition.

The 125-member band will perform Jan. 3 at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl football game between the nation’s top high school athletes at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, they both play for community youth symphonies, take private lessons and join the rest of their bandmates at Olathe North every morning at 7.

As with the musicians who inspired them, Madhira said, “You’ve got to love what you do.”

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.

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