Aug 15, 2020
Viviana Reyes performs at the beginning of a Fresno State football game on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

Marching band student plays on while persevering

Viviana Reyes plays clarinet as a member of the Bulldog Marching Band (BMB) but does so without marching. 

Her dreams do not stop because of a wheelchair. 

She chose the clarinet back in junior high school as a way to connect and form friendships through music but also because the music is something that is a part of her.

“I remember being in family reunions and watching my uncles play [and] just being there as a family,” Reyes said. “[Music is] something I have always wanted to take on.” 

Her family plays various instruments, such as guitar, trumpet and drums. Reyes has played the guitar and would like to learn the piano. 

Reyes has participated in her high school marching and jazz band, but unfortunately had to stop her senior year due to challenging classes. 

Seven years since playing the clarinet, Reyes came to a realization that the clarinet is something that she loved playing and wanted to go back to it.  

She transferred from Bakersfield College to Fresno State for opportunities to join the deaf program but also to become a part of the BMB. 

Reyes is working on her communicative disorders major with an option in deaf studies. 

Her goal is to work with children and parents of deaf children to better inform them of deafness and deaf culture.

Reyes pursued her career in deaf studies because she wanted to communicate better with her cousin who is deaf. She plans on taking classes on interpreting American Sign Language to get more experience working with sign language. 

Reyes has a disability and the more she has learned about it, the more she has learned to face all obstacles without discouragement.

“When I was in grade school, I remember people coming up to me and ask me, ‘What’s wrong? Why are you in a wheelchair?’” Reyes said. “It did affect me and bugged me because I didn’t understand why people would always ask.” 

Reyes said she understands now that people are curious. But as long as they ask respectfully, it is fine. 

“I was raised in a family who would attend church. So I grew up with believing in God and knowing that he has everything under control,” Reyes said. “I always had this peace that even if something scary like surgery were to happen, I would be OK because God was with me. And I continue to believe that till this day.”

Her family is very close to her and being away from her hometown can become a challenge. But they are supportive of her, and she calls them everyday.

For Reyes, her parents are the biggest influence of who she has become. 

“I learn so much from my parents and seeing the way that they carry themselves and the way that

they take on anything that happens in life,” Reyes said. “My parents have definitely been my biggest support that I have had.” 

Kate Appleby, a member of the BMB, said that Reyes is a great person. She enjoyed seeing everyone in the BMB find possible ways to allow Reyes to be a part of all the fun activities with the group.  

“Knowing her has given me a different perspective. I now feel much more aware of obstacles that people in wheelchairs have to go through,” Appleby said. “I have found that getting to know other people and understanding what they have to go through is the best way to be a better person.”

Reyes has inspired her marching band colleagues in the way she views life with her disability. 

“Viv gave me a perspective I hadn’t gotten yet. Knowing her has made me a better person,”  Appleby said. “She’s also super relaxed about a lot of things and instilled an ‘everything will work out’ vibe in me.”

As the football season came to an end, Reyes began pledging for a sorority and has looked into playing wheelchair sports. 

“The way my parents have raised me is to always look on the positive side and always look for other opportunities instead of seeing the things that I can’t do — to look at the things that I can do or how different things can be done,” Reyes said.

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