Oñate band student’s viral halftime performance is a lesson in love and inclusion


LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) — It’s the viral story that you can’t help but smile about. A pair of Oñate High School brothers – including one who is intellectually disabled — surprising their mom during the halftime band performance on Friday.

On Sunday, Las Cruces mom Carissa Breleay Bonacci posted the video of her two sons, Isaac and Aidan, playing percussion during the home opener halftime show at Oñate HS.

According to Brealey-Bonacci, her middle son, Isaac, is severely intellectually disabled and rarely gets to participate in the same activities as his siblings. Her older son, Aidan, convinced her to let Isaac join Oñate’s Royal Knight Regiment Band with him so he could share the experience with his little brother.

She was initially reluctant to allow Isaac to participate because she knew he could not play an instrument and knew he would need constant supervision.

“But marching band is Aidan’s family-away-from-home, and I was touched at how much he wanted to share that with his little brother,” Brealey Bonacci said in the post. “I caved, and I’ve been blindly sending the two of them off to band camp and rehearsals for the last six weeks.”

She figured Isaac was helping the band with water bottles or setting up equipment, but she got the surprise of a lifetime when she arrived at Oñate on Friday night.

“He PLAYED. He played percussion just like his big brother. He stood front and center in the percussion pit and totally jammed on a drum pad. The pad muted his playing, which was pretty off-beat and completely out of sync with the rest of the band, but he had the time of his life. I bawled,” she wrote.

Brealey Bonacci went on to say that the band director thanked her for allowing Isaac to be a part of the marching band and Aiden tells her constantly how much everyone loves having Isaac in band.

“I don’t think I really got it until last night. I’m so used to Isaac being treated like a burden (with varying degrees of patience and tolerance), even by relatives,” Breleay Bonacci said. “Seeing him be so thoroughly appreciated for who he is (and not judged for what he isn’t) is something I never expected outside our family. I just had to share. I couldn’t be prouder of both my boys.” 

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