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I Am Lander 150: From sports to music, Ethan Richardson marches to his own tune

Ethan Richardson Rose Parade
Lander University freshman Ethan Richardson, of Greenwood, right, is shown with members of the Salvation Army Band, who performed at the 133rd Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Contributed Photo


“Dream. Believe. Achieve.”

This theme for the 133rd Rose Parade might well describe the life of Ethan Richardson, a Lander University freshman whose musical talent secured a spot for him with the national Salvation Army Band and ultimately to the parade, held Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif.

Richardson, 18, plays the euphonium, a medium-sized brass instrument known for its sweet sound and solid contributions to concert bands. He was one of only two people chosen from the Carolinas to play in the national Salvation Army Band, which had the 28th spot in the parade – just behind the float for the Rose Queen and her court -- and included 180 people from ages 13 to 70. The Salvation Army band members practiced only once for the parade because each received the music in advance and was expected to learn it and be ready to go.

“It was a very cool experience,” said Richardson about the Rose Parade, which started in 1890, and along with the Rose Bowl Game, is now considered “America’s New Year Celebration.”

The parade is known for its high-tech floats, adorned with roses and other flowers, too, as well as natural materials, such as seeds, bark, and leaves.

For Richardson and his band colleagues, New Year’s Day began with a 3 a.m. breakfast PST and was followed by a bus trip to the parade site, with marching beginning about 8 a.m. along the 5.5-mile parade route.

“We were able to see some of the floats in advance of the parade,” said Richardson. “The time passed quickly as we marched, and we were cheered by people all along the parade route. The people were very encouraging.”

During his trip, Richardson had the opportunity to visit Hollywood, Disneyland, and Santa Monica and visit with the other members of the band. He returned to Greenwood on Jan. 2.

He has studied music for more than a decade under the tutelage of Sam Mhasvi, a Lander University alumnus who taught music to Salvation Army Band members in Greenwood.

Mhasvi said Richardson’s mother, Shay Richardson, a long-time volunteer with the organization, asked Mhasvi to be a mentor for her son who had a growing interest in music.

“Honestly, I look at him as a younger brother,” said Mhasvi, who now works with the Salvation Army’s Atlanta office. “Ethan is an amazing young man. He is just a stand-out kid all-around. No matter what he wants to do, he wants to get it done.”

Over the years, Mhasvi has helped Richardson attend summer music conservatory programs. He also was a leader of a trip for young Salvation Army musicians, including Richardson, to Italy and Greece.

Richardson said he was first drawn to the music of hymns, and although his musical repertoire has expanded beyond his church, he finds that playing in the Salvation Army Band “is my way of connecting with God.”

He is continuing his musical studies at Lander with a double major in Computer Information Systems and Music, while studying to also play the trombone. But Richardson is hardly a math-music nerd. He came to Lander after playing on three sports teams at Greenwood High School – football, wrestling, and soccer – and was dubbed “Beethoven” by his teammates.

At Lander, Richardson juggles a heavy academic schedule while playing for the University’s rugby team. He chose the sport at Lander even though he was recruited to play football at other colleges.

Chris Liner, head football coach at Greenwood High School, lauded Richardson’s skill as an outside linebacker. “However, he has many strengths, but there is one that always stood out to me the most: He is one of the most selfless, positive individuals I've ever known.”

Liner said that Richardson “has a burning desire to be successful and to help others maximize their potential along the journey.”

Off the field, Liner said that Richardson “sees the best in everyone. He possesses a beautiful naive innocence. Life doesn't present him obstacles -- only challenges that will ultimately make him a better man.”

Maj. Jason Hughes, of the Salvation Army in Greenwood, described Richardson as “an academic jock” who could excel at any sport. “Every season in high school, he played something,” Smith said.

Yet, Richardson’s athletic pursuits never overshadowed his passion for music and his commitment to continuously improve as a musician. “His faithfulness to whatever he pursues produces the exceptional phenomenalism around him,” Hughes said.

Through all of the success, Hughes was quick to point out that Richardson remains very modest and unassuming. “He is very humble in how he relates to people. At the same time, he is very confident about what he can do,” he said.

The demands in all that he has undertaken “keep me grounded,” said Richardson, “but I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing without God. I am very blessed, and God has blessed people in my life to help me.”

Richardson, who earned a scholarship from the Dr. Douglas and Mrs. Jean Mufuka Scholars Program at Lander, said he is proud that he has landed at Lander at a time when the University is observing the150th anniversary of its 1872 founding.

“Being a part of Lander’s learning history is important for me,” said Richardson, who earned Dean’s List honors in his first semester on campus. “I have multiple friends I call family who have graduated from Lander, and have had successful careers from the education received at the University. Their careers range from doctors, accountants, and even musicians. I believe Lander’s rich academic history has proven its worth and will continue to do so for years to come.”

Those who know Richardson believe he will be part of that “rich academic history,” too.

“He could be a physicist, doctor, musician, or a teacher,” said Hughes. “Whatever he sets his mind to do, he can do it.”

Liner agreed. “I honestly don't believe there is anything that Ethan couldn't accomplish. He is about as bright of a star as you'll find.”

The 133rd Rose Parade theme, which focused on the ability of education to open doors and change lives, is serving Richardson well already.