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Austin Gipson of Liberty High School in Brentwood had an appointment in San Jose to join the military and ended up missing out on a band practice so the director would not allow him to partake in the Veterans Day ceremonies on Monday at Veterans Park. She said there are no exceptions to missing practice and being allowed to perform. (Courtesy of the Gipson Family)

BRENTWOOD -- If Austin Gipson hadn't already learned the meaning of irony in English class, life experience recently taught him.

The 17-year-old drum captain of Brentwood's Liberty High School Marching Band was informed by the band's director that he couldn't participate in a Veterans Day parade because he hadn't attended practice.

The reason for his absence?

Gipson was tied up all day in San Jose enlisting in the military.

"I was swearing the same oath as all of the other vets that we were honoring that day (with the parade)," he said. "I was getting sworn into the Navy and therefore I couldn't march."

Gipson says he told teacher Carey Hurst of the scheduling conflict two days before rehearsal after learning over the weekend that the swearing-in ceremony would be the same day.

But Hurst's policy -- which she spells out in a contract that both students and their parents sign at the beginning of the school year -- is that band members must notify her two weeks in advance if they'll miss a session.

As in football, the complex formations that marching bands' routines entail require that everyone be there, Hurst explained.

"If your quarterback doesn't show up, that's a problem," she said. "We need to practice with whom we perform."

When a student can't make it, Hurst said she needs time to reconfigure the routine.

Gipson says it didn't occur to him to ask his recruiter if he could reschedule because, even though he had alerted Hurst, he still planned to try to make it back in time for practice.


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As it turned out, however, the lengthy enlistment process coupled with rush-hour traffic made it impossible.

Even before this incident Gipson says he was becoming disenchanted with changes that he thinks have diminished his role keeping other drummers on time and in step, so he's decided to quit at the end of the semester next month.

"I'm fed up. I'm done with it," he said. "It's not fun to me anymore."

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.

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