Brian Cupps

Junior Aim Achalapong plays synthesizer at the Edwardsville Tiger Ambush Classic Marching Band Festival. Achalapong learned to play piano in Thailand and decided to join the marching band for the year she was here. "In Thailand, if we don't know someone, we won't talk to them," Achalapong said. "Here, a lot of people I don’t know still talk to me. People are very friendly here and it makes me feel welcomed."

From playing piano in Thailand to marching in the band

October 26, 2018

While living with alumnus Luke Whitten’s family for her junior year, Thai exchange student Aim Achalapong has joined the marching band as a synthesizer player.

After encouragement from her dad to come to the United States, Aim decided to become an exchange student.

“A lot of people from my school have done it and I thought it sounded cool,” Aim said. “I wanted to learn more English and study in an American high school and be in a different environment.”

Because Aim has played piano and read music since first grade, she decided to give the band a try

“[Aim] has very much excelled at band and picked up the music very quickly,” Band Director Brad Wallace said. “My goal throughout is to challenge her with new music and additional percussion instruments such as snare drum, timpani and marimba.”

In addition to joining the marching band, Aim was excited to have the opportunity to choose her class schedule.

“In Thailand, they pick our schedule for us, we don’t get to choose,” Aim said. “It was exciting to get to choose my classes here. I am taking lots of fun classes like Culinary Arts, english, Ceramics, band and Adventure Pursuits. And, I get to meet new people every class because in Thailand we will have the same people in every class.

Aim has taken advantage of being a member of marching band to help adjust to the life of an American high school teenager.

“She really embraced marching band and seems to love it,” junior Weston McGuire said. “She is really outgoing during practice and has a group of friends that she hangs out with there.”

According to Aim, the community in St. Louis is a lot more talkative than in Thailand

In Thailand, if we don’t know someone we won’t talk to them,” Aim said. “Here, a lot of people I don’t know still talk to me. People are very friendly here and it makes me feel welcomed.”

Over 8,000 miles away from her hometown and family, Aim has learned to be more independent, along with learning about the American community.

“Being in America has taught me to be more responsible,” Aim said. “I have to go to the bus stop on time, pack my lunch every day and I also have a chore at my host family’s house.”

Alongside learning about American culture and becoming more responsible, Aim is grateful to have found a home in the marching band.

“I didn’t do anything like band in Thailand,” Aim said. “I have made a lot of friends and my favorite part [of going to competitions] is when we sing together and just have a lot of fun. My best moment in America was our marching band competition last week. It was our last one and everyone tried so hard. We cried at the end and we went to the finals. The whole thing was the best moment I have ever had in America.”

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